If the transfer window brings anxiety and heart palpitations to fans, it also brings the opportunity to fantasize about absolutely ungettable targets and how they might improve the team. Reality in football is all too often a cruel mistress, and apparently we've come to the point where fan speculation becomes so thorough that it takes on a life of its own and gets picked up by tabloids that are equally starved for transfer news.
Take, for instance, Metro's sudden revelation that Liverpool are super interested in opening talks with Bayern Munich so we can get our hot little hands on their hot little winger, Xherdan Shaqiri. In an amazing piece with no quotes nor any sources — not even a perfunctory "as told by someone close to the club," the nerve! — Brendan Rodgers is revealed to be willing to pay upwards of £20 million for the player Bayern only paid £10 million for last summer.
I don't want to give ourselves too much credit here for jumpstarting this rumour: despite the excessive amount of informal fawning over Shaqiri our little community here has done, it doesn't take a degree in rocket science to arrive at the idea that Shaqiri might be surplus to requirements in Bavaria. It's certainly a crowded midfield: Bayern have spent a combined €62 million this summer to bring Wunderkinds Mario Götze and Thiago Alcantara into the fold, plus they already have Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Toni Kroos, and Thomas Müller. This without even considering their out-and-out striker options, their defensive midfielders who can play a more advanced role, and any youth players who might hope in vain to break through into the first team.1
That Shaqiri would be seeking to leave Munich based on depth concerns after a single season is a bit confusing. Bayern's midfield depth was a known quantity when Shaqiri agreed to transfer from FC Basel. In addition to their slate of regular season games, in three of the past four seasons Bayern have made it all the way to the finals in both the Champions League and the DFB Pokal. Winning a historic treble in 2013-14 only puts the club under more pressure to continue performing at this level and expectations are high on new manager Pep Guardiola to usher in a new reign of dominance in Europe.
This is a club that needs a huge amount of quality depth in order to maintain their success across three major competitions, and Shaqiri is a part of that long-term plan. This is a player who is still only twenty-one years-old but managed 39 appearances in Bayern's 54 competitive matches last season. This is also a player who has shown no signs at being discontent with many of those appearances coming from the bench, suggesting he's quite willing to wait his turn for playing time. This is a player who has never talked to Uruguayan radio!
There's just no compelling reason on Bayern's end to let Shaqiri go, save for as part of a makeweight deal to get Luis Suarez to swap Liverpool red for Bayern red. Suarez's connections to Bayern seem tenuous at best: His agent's brother is their new manager! They've just shipped Mario Gomez off to Fiorentina and need a new striker! Suarez wants Champions League football and Bayern just won ALL the Champions League football! Real Madrid aren't bidding and Bayern are the only team who can afford him! FC Hollywood doesn't care about challenging personalities because Franck Ribery and prostitutes, and because Arjen Robben in general! Etc.
There are a variety of tactical arguments to be made both for and against the likelihood of Suarez joining Bayern, especially given that Guardiola already seems to be experimenting a great deal with the set up of his team on the pitch, but since the whole Suarez-to-Bayern idea began to gain traction it's been his challenging personality that makes this whole idea just a bad fit for Bayern. The Bavarians can do drama just as well as the next big club, but when it comes to behaviour on the pitch it's hard to see die Roten tolerating the kinds of things Suarez gets up to. In spite of the club's depth, Bayern don't want nor need the headache of having an unpredictable player who serves lengthy bans nearly every season.
The final piece of the puzzle is money, of which Bayern have lots but like to spend wisely. After somewhat reluctantly spending €40 million (£34.5m) on Javi Martinez last summer, Bayern brass said they were unlikely to shell out that kind of cash on a single player for the next few years. The €37 million (£32m) spent on Mario Götze certainly comes close to that amount, but between Götze and the €25 million (£21.5m) for Alcantara, it's hard to see Bayern spending another €46 million (£40m) to match Liverpool's minimum starting bid for Suarez just to bring in another striker when they're already getting Robert Lewandowski on a free in 2014.
As someone who is both a Liverpool fan and a Bayern fan, Suarez to Bayern and/or Shaqiri to Liverpool would result in a net effect of zero angst had by me. In either case, players are moving in the direction of a team I support and that's better than them moving to a direct rival or a team I otherwise loathe. But so little about either of these rumours makes any actual sense that they send me into weird fits of despair over the quality of tabloid journalism these days; it's like they're not even trying to come up with plausible rumours anymore.
With Real Madrid cooling their non-interest in Suarez, Bayern increasingly looks like the only possible destination for Suarez, which in turn opens up the potential for a move for Shaqiri. I will happily take all of the above back and be delighted in my wrongness if either of these things happen, but my money is now on Suarez staying on Merseyside and Shaqiri spending another lovely Oktoberfest in Munich.
1For those who are interested, Bavarian Football Works has a very detailed post breaking down the potential playing minutes for each of the attacking midfielders and strikers at Bayern now that Alcantara has joined the mix.