Erling Haaland is "destined to be one of the best players in the world" ahead of an anticipated move to Manchester City, says Leeds United manager Jesse Marsch.

A move to the Premier League champions for the Borussia Dortmund striker at the end of the season will reportedly be confirmed this week, ending a prolonged saga of speculation over his future.

Marsch has first-hand experience of working with Haaland, having previously coached the Norway international – who was coincidentally born in Leeds – during their time together at Salzburg.

Speaking ahead of the Whites' clash with Chelsea on Wednesday, the American coach predicted bigger things are to come from Haaland and joked that he should have gone to Elland Road instead.

"Erling Haaland is destined to be one of the best players in the world," Marsch told his pre-match media conference. "It's his quality, but it is also his talent.

"I wish he was coming back home to Leeds... but I understand the decision for him to go to Man City.

"It will be interesting. He's an explosive player in transition and Man City often play a lot in possession. He can play any style of play.

"Certainly, I believe it makes Man City – one of, if not the best team in the world – even better. So credit to them for getting that done.

"I always wish the best for Erling, he's an incredible human being."

Marsch also commented on the tough run his own side now faces to survive in the Premier League, with Leeds' destiny effectively out of their own hands.

Everton are a point ahead with a game in hand while Burnley are level on points, albeit with a vastly superior goal difference, and need only to match the results of their rivals to survive.

"We knew coming into these three matches with City, Arsenal and Chelsea that it was going to be very, very difficult to pick up points," Marsch added.

"So it's proved to be that, just like we knew it was, and we still have so much to play for. So our focus is really on controlling every moment and being prepared for every moment.

"Credit to Burnley and Everton. In a difficult moment they've also fought for their lives and done whatever's possible to claw their way back into this situation, and we'll do the same."

Manchester City's reportedly imminent capture of Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland will "set new levels", according to Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Pep Guardiola's City and Klopp's Reds have emerged as the dominant forces in the Premier League since the 2018-19 season, when they finished on 98 and 97 points respectively in an enthralling battle for top spot, with each team winning one league title apiece since City's triumph that year.

Their rivalry has been stepped up again this season, with City currently three points clear at the top of the league with just three games remaining.

Meanwhile, Liverpool remain in the hunt for a remarkable quadruple after winning the EFL Cup, reaching the Champions League final, and eliminating City in the FA Cup's last four to reach the showpiece.

However, City look set to bolster their ranks with the incredible signing of Haaland, who has scored 21 goals and provided seven assists in just 23 Bundesliga appearances this season, averaging a goal every 86.9 minutes.

With reports suggesting City could announce the signing of the Norway international before the end of this season, Klopp says Haaland's arrival could push City to new heights.

"I signed a new contract knowing City will not stop developing, so it's not about City to define if we can be happy or not, it's about us and what we can make of it," Klopp told Sky Sports.

"You have so many opportunities and so many different ways to win a football game, we have to find just one.

"It's possible, and you can do that, we can face City in two or three cup competitions, in the Champions League or whatever, in five or six finals a year maybe, all the rest we play against the other teams.

"Yes, if Erling Haaland goes there it will not weaken them, definitely not. I think it's been spoken about enough, this transfer. I know at the moment there's a lot of talk, and people talk about money.

"But this transfer will set new levels, let me say it like this."

Despite often playing without a recognised striker, Guardiola's team have netted more goals (89) than any other Premier League side this season (Liverpool are second with 87), and the 21-year-old forward will undoubtedly be thrilled by the prospect of featuring in a City team that has created 112 big chances in 35 league outings this term.

Since Haaland arrived in Germany from RB Salzburg at the start of 2020, only Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski (122) and Paris Saint-Germain's Kylian Mbappe (89) have scored more than his 85 goals in all competitions, among players in Europe's top five leagues.

Xavi believes Barcelona's financial issues will have been the overriding factor if Manchester City win the race to sign Erling Haaland.

Widespread reports claim City will announce the signing of Haaland this week, with the defending Premier League champions ready to activate his €75million release clause.

Barca and Real Madrid are said to be seriously interested in the Borussia Dortmund striker, who has scored 28 goals in 29 games in all competitions this season.

But Barca are still operating under the financial constraints that led to Lionel Messi's departure before the start of the campaign.

And it is those restrictions, according to Xavi, that are seemingly set to take Haaland to the Etihad Stadium rather than Camp Nou.

Xavi told a media conference ahead of Barca's LaLiga clash with Celta Vigo on Tuesday: "It's not official, when it is, you ask me again...

"If I rule him out for us? I'm not going to lie to you, with our economic situation it's very difficult."

Asked if Haaland is choosing money over a project, Xavi replied: "I wouldn't say that. I'm not going to disrespect other club's sporting projects.

"City have a lot of titles and compete at a top level. If what you say happens, it would've been because of our financial issues."

While Xavi did not go into detail about the club's plans for the transfer window, he conceded the squad needs to be strengthened with Barca 12 points behind newly-crowned champions Madrid.

"This year is not positive and we have to reinforce ourselves," said Xavi. 

"All who come will be welcome. People have to leave. The situation is not easy, it is one of the most difficult in the history of the club. But we have to strengthen ourselves. There is evidence and everyone has seen it.

"We have made a football diagnosis. Then there is the economic. We are very clear about what we want for next year and we will try to do everything that can be done."

One player Xavi is keen to keep on the books is winger Ousmane Dembele, whose contract expires at the end of June.

Dembele has recorded 11 assists in LaLiga this season, tied for the most in the division alongside Karim Benzema, and he has been linked with a host of top clubs.

"The club already knows my idea," Xavi added on Dembele. 

"I would like him to stay. He has helped us and, if he stays and renews, he will help us. He has already done so this season."

Raphinha has been a bright spark for Leeds United as they have battled relegation from the Premier League this season.

Following the weekend's results, the Whites are in huge danger of going down after they dropped into the bottom three. As is the case in football, the vultures will circle in that eventuality.

The Brazil international has long been on the list of targets for Barcelona and the winger looks likely to move on at the end of the season, when Leeds could find themselves back in the Championship.

 

TOP STORY – LEEDS RELEGATION TO SPEED UP RAFINHA'S BARCELONA MOVE

Leeds United's potential relegation from the Premier League could help force Raphinha's move to Barcelona, according to Mundo Deportivo.

Even if Ousmane Dembele signs a new contract, the Catalan giants are keen to land another winger.

While Dembele's future has reportedly depended on Barcelona's qualification for the Champions League, the desire to sign Raphinha has been clear regardless. 

Leeds' relegation would reportedly allow the the 25-year-old to leave for €25million (£21.4m), though there is no clause in his contract that establishes an exact price.

ROUND-UP

- Arsenal's bid to sign Lautaro Martinez could be scuppered with Inter Milan not looking to sell the 24-year-old, per the Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Manchester City's deal with Borussia Dortmund for Erling Haaland could be finalised and announced next week, the Sun is reporting.

- Liverpool are ahead of Real Madrid and Chelsea in the race to sign Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni , according to Marca.

- Bayern Munich are preparing to begin talks with RB Leipzig over midfielder Konrad Laimer , Fabrizio Romano reports.

Erling Haaland looks set to announce his exit from Borussia Dortmund within days as the club prepare to lose their star striker. 

Dortmund's Sebastian Kehl, who will step up from his player licensing role to become sporting director at the season's end, said on Sunday that the club were braced for the 21-year-old to move on. 

Manchester City are reported front-runners for the signature of the Norway international, who joined Dortmund in late December 2019 after catching the eye at Salzburg. 

Kehl told German broadcaster Sport1: "I think we will have clarity next week. I wouldn't be surprised if he moves on in the end." 

Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona have also been heavily linked with Haaland, but the prospect of a move to LaLiga has seemed to cool in recent months. 

Haaland's father, Alf-Inge, had a playing stint at City and the Dortmund striker was born in Leeds, so a move to England may hold particular appeal. 

Pep Guardiola, the City manager, has repeatedly declined to discuss the prospect of bringing in Haaland. 

However, with Champions League trophy success again proving elusive for City this season, acquiring a striker of Haaland's pedigree looks imperative for Guardiola. 

Dortmund are expected to sign Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg as Haaland's replacement, with Kehl also expecting movement in that direction in the coming week. 

Haaland has scored 28 goals in 29 games across all competitions for Dortmund this season, proving prolific despite his campaign being disrupted by injuries. He scored 41 times in 41 matches last term, his first full season in Germany. 

Borussia Dortmund are "on the right track" to secure the prized signing of Salzburg striker Karim Adeyemi, according to Sebastian Kehl.

Kehl, who will move from a player licensing role at Dortmund to become sporting director next season, expressed optimism that the Bundesliga giants will acquire a talent who has also been linked to Manchester United.

It may be that Adeyemi directly replaces Erling Haaland, who looks set to leave Dortmund after two and a half highly successful years with the club.

Haaland is another Salzburg old boy who has flourished in the German Bundesliga since leaving behind its Austrian equivalent, with Manchester City emerging as favourites to sign up the Norway striker in a big-money deal.

Adeyemi is 20 years old and already a full Germany international with three caps and a three-time Austrian Bundesliga winner, so his signing would be a coup for Dortmund.

Kehl told Sky Sport: "The gut feeling got better over the week. We're on the right track."

Recent reports in England have claimed United made a move for Adeyemi but were rebuffed by the player, who was said to prefer a return to his homeland rather than a Premier League switch.

A technically gifted and rapid forward, Adeyemi has long been considered one of Germany's most promising young players, having cost Salzburg a reported €3million when he was 16 and joined from Unterhaching. Adeyemi had left Bayern Munich's youth ranks six years earlier.

This season, he is the leading scorer in Austria's top flight, with 17 goals in 26 games, while he also netted three times and had one assist in eight Champions League games – a European campaign that ended with a last-16 defeat to Bayern.

While Haaland's departure would undoubtedly harm Dortmund, the potential arrival of Adeyemi continues what looks to be a strong transfer window for BVB, who have already reached agreements with centre-backs Niklas Sule and Nico Schlotterbeck.

Borussia Dortmund have confirmed they have reached an agreement to sign Germany international centre-back Nico Schlotterbeck from fellow Bundesliga side Freiburg.

The 22-year-old has featured 53 times for Freiburg in all competitions, including 35 outings this campaign, and will remain with the club until the end of the 2021-22 season.

Schlotterbeck, who had a spell on loan with Union Berlin last season, has signed a long-term deal with Dortmund that runs through until July 2027.

He is the second new defensive addition for BVB ahead of the transfer window officially opening, with Niklas Sule also set to join from rivals Bayern Munich.

Dortmund confirmed the imminent arrival of Schlotterbeck, who has featured twice for Germany at senior level, on their official website on Monday.

"After consultation with all parties involved, I have today decided to announce my move to Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2022," Schlotterbeck said. 

"In doing so, I want to provide clarity for SC Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund and myself personally.

"It is important for me to be able to fully concentrate on the remaining three games in the season run-in with SC Freiburg, which we hope will be successful. 

"After that, I'm looking forward to the new responsibilities with Borussia Dortmund."

Freiburg occupy the final Champions League qualification spot in the Bundesliga with two games to go and also face RB Leipzig in the DFB-Pokal final on May 21.

Jurgen Klopp is staying on at Liverpool for an extra two years after signing a new contract that keeps him at Anfield until June 2026.

Rumours had started to circulate suggesting the German and his coaching staff agreed fresh terms, and the club made it official on Thursday.

The announcement came as Liverpool chase an unprecedented quadruple. Having already won the EFL Cup this season, they are into the FA Cup final, sit just one point behind leaders Manchester City in the Premier League and hold a 2-0 lead over Villarreal ahead of the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Injury-ravaged Liverpool finished 2020-21 third in the Premier League, 17 points behind Pep Guardiola's City, but Klopp has proven that to be a minor blip with the Reds back in devastating form this term.

Following confirmation of his new contract, Stats Perform looks back at some of the best and most notable victories from Klopp's five and a half years at the helm…

Liverpool 4-3 Borussia Dortmund, April 2016

Klopp surely felt he had a point to prove when going up against his former club in the Europa League quarter-finals, though it all looked to be going horribly wrong. After drawing 1-1 in the first leg, the Reds then trailed by two goals twice at Anfield and found themselves needing at least three goals in the final 25 minutes – somehow, they managed it. Philippe Coutinho, Mamadou Sakho and Dejan Lovren all struck, with Liverpool incredibly netting with all four of their shots on target in the game.

Liverpool 4-3 Manchester City, January 2018

Although Liverpool still trailed leaders City by 15 points in the Premier League after this victory, in hindsight, there is a degree of this win being a watershed moment for Klopp's Liverpool. City were unbeaten in the league at this point, yet for much of the game Liverpool looked every inch their equal. While two late goals from City ensured a tense finish, the Reds were well worth the three points in what went down as a modern classic.

Liverpool 4-0 Barcelona, May 2019

The Reds seemed to have little hope here. Lionel Messi inspired a 3-0 dismantling of Liverpool in Camp Nou in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final clash, seemingly putting one foot in the final. But Klopp's side were in sensational form for the return at Anfield, with Divock Origi providing some early hope with a seventh-minute opener. Georginio Wijnaldum then laid on a second-half brace to restore parity, before Origi completed the turnaround 11 minutes from time. It was the first time since 1986 that a team wiped out a three-goal first-leg deficit to win a Champions League/European Cup semi-final.

Tottenham 0-2 Liverpool, June 2019

It may not have been a classic as a spectacle, but Liverpool fans – and Klopp – won't have cared. After falling at the final hurdle the year before, the Reds were European champions for a sixth time in 2019 as they beat Tottenham 2-0 in Madrid, with Mohamed Salah and Origi getting the goals.

Liverpool 2-0 Manchester United, January 2020

The 2019-20 title triumph was Liverpool's first league championship in 30 years – in that time, their bitter rivals United had won it 13 times to become the most successful club in the English top flight. While Klopp's side were already well clear at the Premier League summit when the ailing United came to Anfield in January 2020, there was a sense that their procession began with this 2-0 victory that left them 16 points clear at the top with a game in hand.

Manchester United 0-5 Liverpool, October 2021

Liverpool heaped the misery on United and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer again in October. Paul Pogba's sending off certainly helped the visitors, but even before then the gulf was clear. This was the Red Devils' biggest losing margin to their fierce rivals since 1895 (Liverpool won 7-1 at Anfield), and worst ever at home. Mohamed Salah led the way with a hat-trick, in the process becoming the highest-scoring African player in Premier League history. The Reds went on to hammer United again six months later, winning 4-0 on Merseyside.

The dominance of Bayern Munich is not just down to financial muscle, but more the lack of consistency from their Bundesliga competition.

That is according to former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos, who played 130 times for the Bundesliga giants before swapping Bavaria for Real Madrid in 2014.

Bayern became the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions after a 3-1 victory over Klassiker rivals Borussia Dortmund last Saturday.

Julian Nagelsmann's side had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020, before cruising to their record-setting triumph with three games to spare.

Many cited Bayern's financial power as an issue in the German top flight, such as being able to prise Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014.

Indeed, Lewandowski helped power Bayern to the title with 33 Bundesliga goals so far this term, netting once every 81 minutes on average.

However, Kroos does not believe that it is just the disparity in transfer activity that has aided Bayern's dominance, but also the lack of constant pressure from title contenders Dortmund and RB Leipzig.

"The competition has to be more constant. Teams like Dortmund or Leipzig are quite capable of keeping up in certain phases," said Kroos in the Simply Mal Luppen podcast.

"But they are not as consistent. It's not just about money."

While Kroos was quick to question the competition provided by Dortmund and Leipzig, the 32-year-old could take nothing away from another fantastic season for Nagelsmann's men.

"It's an exceptional performance, especially mentally," said the midfielder. "It's no surprise that they are the best team in Germany in terms of quality.

"But wanting to do it year after year and giving the championship title meaning is something special."

 

Thomas Muller was also integral to the success of Bayern once again, with his 17 assists in 30 top-flight games this season unmatched by any player in Europe's top five leagues.

The evergreen Muller also surpassed former team-mate David Alaba (10 titles) as the Bundesliga's most decorated player of all time, having been ever-present in the 10-in-a-row feat alongside the title win in 2010 (11).

Kroos believes his former colleague Muller relishes the prospect of protecting Bayern's dominance every campaign.

"You can also say at some point, after the eighth, ninth, tenth time: 'Well, then not for a year.'," Kroos added.

"But I have the feeling that he has a lot of fun defending the thing year after year."

Dynamo Kyiv overcame Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in a charity match that raised €400,000 for victims of the ongoing war in Ukraine.

A crowd of 35,000 at Signal Iduna Park watched a five-goal thriller in what was the fourth match of Kyiv's 'Match for Peace' tour of Europe.

Dortmund took a fourth-minute lead when Erling Haaland provided the lay-off for Jamie Bynoe-Gittens to tuck away.

The visitors are unbeaten on their tour thus far, recording 3-1 wins over Legia Warsaw and Galatasaray, while holding Romanian side Cluj to a goalless draw.

Mircea Lucescu's side responded almost immediately through Vitaliy Buyalskyi, before Vladyslav Vanat's brace put them 3-1 up at half-time.

The hosts completed the scoring when Tom Rothe volleyed home in the 65th minute.

Erling Haaland should head to Arsenal if he is to make a Premier League move this summer, joked Norway team-mate Martin Odegaard.

The Borussia Dortmund striker is expected to bring the curtain down on his stay in the Bundesliga and move to new pastures in the off-season.

Having commanded interest from a host of European heavyweights, it is widely expected that the Leeds-born attacker will choose Manchester City as his next club.

But speaking to Stadium Astro, Odegaard – who skippers the attacker at international level and plays his club football for the Gunners – quipped he should move to the Emirates Stadium instead.

"He is a funny guy," Odegaard said. "He's a good friend of mine and a great player as well. We will see what he will do. I don't know.

"But, if he is coming to England, he needs to come to us of course! No, I don't know what he will do, but he is a great guy.

"To be honest we haven't talked too much about it. I know he has so many people trying to ask him and to tell him what to do, and I don't want to do that. So, we will have to wait and see."

 

Having signed for Dortmund in December 2019, Haaland looks set to end a two-and-a-half-year spell that has seen him establish himself as one of world football's great talents.

The DFB-Pokal winner has endured fitness problems at times this season, managing only 21 games in the Bundesliga.

However, Odegaard has backed him to adapt to life in the Premier League if he comes, adding: "He’s a beast. He is strong, he is fast, and I think he has everything. So, I think he can play in every league, in every country to be honest."

Former Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich player Torsten Frings believes it was the latter's experience that led to them winning this season's Bundesliga title, their 10th in a row.

The Bavarians secured the championship after a 3-1 win against Dortmund at the Allianz Arena on Saturday.

Frings played for Dortmund between 2002 and 2004, before spending the 2004-05 season with Bayern, winning a Bundesliga and DFP-Pokal double.

Speaking to Stats Perform, Frings pointed to Bayern's key experienced players, while suggesting that Dortmund suffered too many "slip-ups" to challenge.

"The paths both teams are taking are different," the former Germany international said. "Bayern have a lot of experienced players in the team, a real axis with [Manuel] Neuer, [Thomas] Muller, [Robert] Lewandowski and [Joshua] Kimmich.

 

"They have leading players in the national team, they have the Best FIFA Men's Player, a striker who scores 40 goals every year [Lewandowski].

"On the other hand, Dortmund are a club where [sporting directors] Sebastian Kehl and Michael Zorc have to be praised for the players they bring in and the profit they make by selling them on.

"But that is the difference. Bayern have a team of experienced players who are always on the spot. And Dortmund have a very talented team that certainly has what it takes to play for championships.

"But every now and then there is a slip-up, where perhaps the experience is missing a bit. And when you make three or four slip-ups in the Bundesliga, it can be too much."

Bayern Munich signing Erling Haaland "doesn't make any sense" for sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic because they have Robert Lewandowski.

Haaland is believed to be available for €75million due to a clause in his Borussia Dortmund contract and is set leave in one of the upcoming off-season's major transfers. 

The Norway international has scored 82 goals and supplied 19 assists in 86 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund since making his debut on January 18, 2020. He has averaged 1.1 goals per 90 minutes, a record that is only bettered by Bayern striker Lewandowski (1.2) among players in the top five European leagues.

Haaland has been touted as a potential replacement for Lewandowski, who Bayern were said to be open to offers for with his contract expiring at the end of next season. 

However, Lewandowski leaving the Allianz Arena at the end of the campaign has been ruled out by Salihamidzic, who therefore sees no reason to pursue Haaland. 

"It doesn't make any sense," Salihamidzic said when asked on Sky90 about Bayern moving for Haaland. 

"We have the best striker in the world. We have Lewandowski." 

Asked if there was any player Bayern would break the bank for, Salihamidzic replied: "That's up to the supervisory board. But we don't want to put the club at risk. That will continue to be our philosophy in the future. 

"Of course, after the Champions League win it would've been great to keep all the players – like [Philippe] Coutinho and [Ivan] Perisic – but we can't ruin the club financially. We can't do squad planning like that. 

"We have a philosophy at the club. We have 14 top players in the squad and a number of top talents we want to develop. We don't have the money for 20 top players like in England." 

One player who could be heading to Munich for next season is Ajax midfielder Ryan Gravenberch, though Bayern are yet to agree to reported demands of a €30million fee. 

"He is a good player. We're in talks, I can say that much," Salihamidzic revealed. 

"With a transfer like this, a lot has to go right. I can't say [how it is looking]. It's difficult, like all transfers." 

Salihamidzic is also expecting to see more from Leroy Sane, who has failed to score or assist in his past eight appearances in all competitions for Bayern. 

"He's an incredibly talented young man who has everything. He's super fast, he can dribble and has this mental strength. But he has to deliver now," he said. 

"When he's showing good body language, that's good, but if he doesn't, that's not good. I don't want to see this. I spoke to him about it. 

"He has potential, but I want to see that on the pitch. We spoke several times. The people in charge, the coach, the players, everyone expects him to explode on the pitch. It's hard to say why he's not performing as expected. He's listening well. I hope he'll do it." 

Bayern Munich secured the Bundesliga title for a 10th consecutive season as they saw off rivals Borussia Dortmund 3-1 in Der Klassiker.

Dortmund needed a win on Saturday to halt Bayern's procession to a historic crown, but despite a steely second-half showing the visitors never looked likely to prolong the title race.

Indeed, they were run ragged in the first half as Bayern cruised into a 2-0 lead courtesy of Serge Gnabry and Robert Lewandowski.

Emre Can's 52nd-minute penalty made matters more interesting, though an eighth straight Klassiker victory was capped off by Jamal Musiala's goal late on.

Bayern's fans were in party mode after 15 minutes, with Gnabry slamming a wonderful strike beyond Marwin Hitz from the edge of the box after Dortmund failed to clear a corner.

With Erling Haaland skewing wide at the other end, Gnabry swept in a second just before the half-hour mark, yet it was disallowed by VAR for Kingsley Coman having strayed offside.

Nevertheless, it was 2-0 in the 34th minute – Lewandowski helping himself to a customary goal against his former club when Bayern pounced on Dan-Axel Zagadou's error.

Leon Goretzka and Lewandowski passed up chances to stretch Bayern's lead and the hosts were made to pay early in the second half when Can coolly converted from the spot after Joshua Kimmich's foul on Marco Reus.

Bayern were suddenly living dangerously, and first Manuel Neuer and then Lucas Hernandez had to make last-ditch interventions to deny Reus.

Lewandowski dragged wide and was then denied by Hitz as Bayern searched for a third, yet it came via substitute Musiala, who tucked in from close range in the 83rd minute to round off a decade of dominance.


What does it mean? History made by Bavarian giants

Bayern are the first team across Europe's top five leagues to win their respective top flight on 10 successive occasions – they had previously shared the record of nine with Juventus, who won Serie A each year from 2012 to 2020.

Fittingly, Bayern sealed the title against their great rivals, though it has been a rather one-sided rivalry in recent seasons. In fact, only against Hamburg (between 1982 and 1985) have Dortmund suffered as many consecutive defeats against an opponent as they have Bayern (eight).

Lewy hits another against his old side

It was only fair that Bayern's talismanic striker got in on the act as they clinched the title. Lewandowski has scored more goals against Dortmund, who he left in 2014, in all competitions than against any other club in his career (27).

Haaland frustrated

It may well have been Haaland's final Klassiker appearance, but it was not one to remember.

After that shot in the first half, the 21-year-old – who might well be bound for Manchester City – had to wait until the 80th minute for his next attempt, which was blocked. Another half-chance fell his way a moment later, but the Norway international blazed over from the centre of the area. He was taken off before the game was up, having failed to get any of his three efforts on target.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Mainz in their next outing, while Dortmund host Bochum.

In this footballing climate, what are Bayern Munich and where do they sit in its pecking order?

From Barcelona, to Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus in recent years, the financial and footballing disparity between Europe's elite and the rest has warped perception. Lifting the league trophy at the end of the season no longer provides safety for a head coach.

Even then, Bayern are an extreme example. In the six years since Pep Guardiola left for Manchester City, they have gone through six head coaches, despite winning the Bundesliga in every season over that same period.

Bayern have been global standard-bearers for nearly four decades. Where other clubs and leagues have had lull periods away from the very highest levels of European football, they have consistently been in contention for silverware, even in relatively weak periods.

Just as importantly, though, the superiority clubs like Bayern now enjoy almost automatically dictates they will dominate possession in many games, irrespective of the ideology of the coach in charge and whether their teams can function with the ball as a consequence.

Niko Kovac's first season in 2018-19 was a good example of this. Bayern came nowhere near functioning in possession relative to the array of talent they had and still – along with some aid from Borussia Dortmund's regression to the mean after initial xG over-performance under Lucien Favre – managed an 11-point turnaround from third place in February to win the Bundesliga.

Meanwhile, they were comprehensively beaten by Liverpool in the last 16 of the Champions League with the majority of possession. Things declined even further under Kovac in his second season, before Hansi Flick took over the head coaching role, conquered Europe and subsequently replaced Joachim Low as the German national team coach at the end of the 2020-21 season.

This is the wider context that must be considered for Julian Nagelsmann's first season and what follows, because both club and international football ultimately acts within a continuum. Ahead of this weekend's Klassiker, much like that first season under Kovac, there's a dissonance that will accompany Bayern's title win.

Ultimately, a 10th consecutive Bundesliga title will not wash away the taste of Bayern's meek elimination at the hands of Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals. Those two legs were a microcosm of numerous aspects concerning this Bayern season – their true capacity in possession relative to the level of opposition, Nagelsmann's continual switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 formations, and finally from a standpoint of net gain, whether he's really getting the most out of the extraordinary creative forces that are Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski.

It is hard to overstate how Muller and Lewandowski provided more than goals and assists for Bayern under Flick. The utilisation of that duo was integral to the team's very functioning in possession, especially with Thiago Alcantara missing significant portions of that post-lockdown run late in the 2019-20 season. Kingsley Coman's decisive goal in the 2020 Champions League final against PSG was a perfect picture of the team when all three of Lewandowski, Muller and Thiago played – having initially tried to cover Muller, Leandro Paredes had to scramble, but it was too late, as Thiago fired his pass into Joshua Kimmich and Bayern got up the pitch.

Their combined touches in open play per 90 minutes under respective coaches makes for a good starting point. Under Kovac, Lewandowski and Muller held a combined 98.19 touches and 3.35 chances created from open play per 90 in all competitions. Flick's arrival leads to a dramatic spike for the two in both categories, with 107.6 touches in open play and 4.53 chances created in open play per 90.

 

 

Father Time will dictate an inevitable decline for the two as they approach 35, but more pertinently, Nagelsmann's approach has led to a return to their numbers under Kovac, with 98.59 touches per match and 3.85 chances created from open play between the two in all competitions this season. Then there's the discrepancy in eventual shot location.

The difference lies in involvement. Under Flick, Muller and Lewandowski effectively played as two strikers in a 4-4-2, while the wingers kept the defensive line pinned back, allowing the two with sufficient space to retreat and operate between the lines. Especially with midfielders like Kimmich and Leon Goretzka who do not like receiving the ball in tight areas, it was a critical component of Bayern's play and enabled them to open up the pitch.

Kimmich's increase in chance creation – his 2.83 per 90 this season is his highest out of the last four seasons in all competitions – is arguably born of the fact he is now Bayern's set-piece taker. His chance creation in open play has actually gone down from last season's 1.68 to 1.44, despite an increase in touches from 100.8 to 105.85.

 

 

Lewandowski and Muller's comparatively higher positioning and primary objective of threat behind the defensive line under Nagelsmann frankly makes the switching between 4-2-3-1 and 3-4-3 irrelevant, because the 34-year-old has taken away the very thing that made Bayern function to begin with – the pair's ability to incorporate as well as get on the end of moves. Jamal Musiala's deployment in a 3-4-3 in the second leg against Villarreal only managed to clog the middle of the pitch up even further.

The player who has suffered the most with this change, however, is Serge Gnabry. His combined xG+xA figure of 0.92 in 2019-20 has dramatically decreased to 0.69 this year, while the middle of the pitch has been completely closed off to him, something evident in his dribble progression.

 

 

It all relates to the eventuality of Bayern's shot location and quality. Shot volume in Nagelsmann's first season has gone up to 20.13 in comparison to the 18.08 of that treble season under Flick, but they are shooting from further away, and with no increase in xG per shot. Against better defences, teams that hold high volumes of possession but ultimately struggle to play through the middle of the pitch are eventually found out. That has been the case this year, in Europe and particular in domestic losses to Eintracht Frankfurt and Borussia Monchengladbach.

This all exists amid the backdrop of Bayern Munich's waning financial power and status as a destination in relation to the rest of Europe's elite. Bayern centre-back Niklas Sule is set to leave for arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. Emerging stars from within the Bundesliga who traditionally would have been guaranteed to end up at Sabener Strasse such as Dortmund's Erling Haaland, or RB Leipzig's Cristopher Nkunku and Josko Gvardiol, appear destined for elsewhere.

In the meantime, Bayern are reportedly haggling with Ajax over the release of Ryan Gravenberch who, despite the hype, arguably will not transform their midfield – much like Corentin Tolisso and Marc Roca.

There is also the small matter of Lewandowski's contract not being renewed and running the risk of expiring at the end of next season.

Sustained success can run the risk of providing diminishing returns, much like Juventus discovered in Italy. The question for Bayern is how to avoid it both as a club and under Nagelsmann, but can they?

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