Robert Lewandowski has vowed great things are on the horizon for Barcelona, believing the Blaugrana have waited "too long" for silverware.

The striker, who completed his €50million move from Bayern Munich last month, made his debut for the Catalan giants against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

Although he failed to find the net in the goalless draw at Camp Nou, the Poland captain had a strike disallowed by VAR while he also hit the woodwork. 

Barca are looking to regain the LaLiga title this season, having last donned the crown in 2018-19, while they finished 13 points behind eventual champions Real Madrid last term.

Meanwhile, it is now 16 months since the Blaugrana's last taste of silverware; Lionel Messi's brace inspiring them to a 4-0 victory over Athletic Bilbao in the 2021 Copa del Rey final.

But Lewandowski is convinced it is only a matter of time before the wait is over.

"I think it's been too long for Barcelona without winning titles," he said via quotes reported in Marca. "I'm sure we're going to win them.

"When I first knew that Barcelona were interested in bringing me to the club, at all times I thought it was the perfect time, for me and for the club.

"I didn't want to play my whole life in one league. In the Bundesliga, everything went well, it was a good experience for me, but I knew it was another step for my career to go to LaLiga."

Lewandowski will hope to open his Barca goalscoring account when Xavi's side travel to Real Sociedad on Sunday.

Jurgen Klopp admits he does not understand how Barcelona have been able to conduct their high-spending transfer plans, and has cautioned that the club may face irreparable damage down the line.

The Catalan giants have bolstered their ranks with a slew of major recruits ahead of the new campaign, including Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha and Jules Kounde.

But the club's long-documented financial struggles has seen them forced to sell off non-playing assets and activate various 'levers' in order to register them in line with rules laid out by La Liga.

Even then, the Spanish giants have not been able to get all of their new faces on board, with Kounde still waiting for sufficient cap space to be made in order to include him in Xavi's squad.

President Joan Laporta previously hit out at comments by Bayern Munich coach Julian Nagelsmann over their transfer dealings, but Liverpool boss Klopp concurs with his compatriot over their dealings.

"No, [I do not understand] for various reasons," he was quoted by Bild. "One reason is that I'm not a financial expert.

"[But] the second [is] if you tell me I don't have any money, then I don't spend anything anymore. I'm watching this like a football fan, I don't understand."

Barcelona have sold part of their stadium in order to secure the deals, effectively ransoming their future if their gamble fails to pay off.

Klopp speculated that such a move could lead to bankruptcy, and drew parallels to Borussia Dortmund, who sold their stadium rights and narrowly avoided financial ruin after Hans-Joachim Watzke took over in 2005.

"The only club I know that once sold the stadium and other rights in advance was Borussia Dortmund," he added. "Aki Watzke had to come at the last second and save the whole thing.

"I don't know if there is an Aki Watzke in Barcelona."

Jules Kounde is the only one of Barcelona's new signings who was not registered on the eve of the LaLiga season.

Barca head coach Xavi on Friday revealed the club were "very optimistic" that their new recruits would be registered, but all five may not be given the green light for their first match of the LaLiga campaign against Rayo Vallecano on Saturday.

It later emerged that Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie have been registered along with Ousmane Dembele and Sergi Roberto, who signed new contracts

Centre-back Kounde's registration has not been sanctioned by LaLiga despite Barca having activated a fourth economic lever on Friday.

It had been reported that Kounde may be the last of the five new recruits the Catalan giants have brought in to be registered, given the big-money signing from Sevilla underwent surgery to repair a minor pelvis injury in June.

Barca have been busy raising funds to try and meet LaLiga's salary limits and sold a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million, having also agreed a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify and sold a percentage of broadcast rights.

The Blaugrana have lowered their wage bill by offloading players and could also sell Frenkie de Jong and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, who have both been linked with Chelsea.

Blaugrana head coach Xavi said in a press conference on Friday he was prepared for the possibility that some of his new men may not be eligible to play this weekend.

He told reporters: "We are working hard and everyone at the club is very positive. Maybe not 100 per cent [of the players will be registered], but we are optimistic. We'll see. The club has signed very well, I am very excited about the players we have signed. We have time until tomorrow and now we are very optimistic."

Barca are expected to make Chelsea full-back Marcos Alonso their next signing and they continue to be linked with Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva.

Barcelona have activated a fourth economic lever in a bid to ensure their new signings can be registered for LaLiga, announcing the sale of a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million.

The Catalan giants, who have signed the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie despite ongoing financial troubles, have reportedly failed to register their new acquisitions for the upcoming league campaign.

President Joan Laporta has been working to raise funds to allow Barca to meet LaLiga's salary limits ahead of the season, and said last week the club had made a "great effort" to do so. 

Last month, 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios was sold to the company Socios.com for €100million, while the Blaugrana have also sold 10 per cent of their LaLiga broadcasting rights to American investment firm Sixth Street, among other measures.

But with reports suggesting the club were still struggling to meet LaLiga's rules, they have announced a second deal for an equivalent stake in Barca Studios.

"FC Barcelona announces the sale of 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios to the company Orpheus Media, managed by Mr Jaume Roures, an audiovisual production company with a long history of producing content, for 100 million euros," read a club statement.

"The agreement complements the one signed on 29 July with Socios.com and will help to accelerate the growth of the club's digital, NFT and Web.3 strategy.

"With this investment the strategic partners in Barca Studios show confidence in the value of the project and the future of digital content in the world of sport."

Reports suggest that while Barca are prioritising the registration of their new signings, they are still eyeing a move for Chelsea's Marcos Alonso, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva has been touted as another target.

Barca begin their LaLiga campaign when they host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, though it remains to be seen how many of their new stars can feature.

Barcelona have activated a fourth economic lever in a bid to ensure their new signings can be registered for LaLiga, announcing the sale of a further 24.5 per cent of their production company for €100million.

The Catalan giants, who have signed the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Raphinha, Jules Kounde, Andreas Christensen and Franck Kessie despite ongoing financial troubles, have reportedly failed to register their new acquisitions for the upcoming league campaign.

President Joan Laporta has been working to raise funds to allow Barca to meet LaLiga's salary limits ahead of the season, and said last week the club had made a "great effort" to do so. 

Last month, 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios was sold to the company Socios.com for €100million, while the Blaugrana have also sold 10 per cent of their LaLiga broadcasting rights to American investment firm Sixth Street, among other measures.

But with reports suggesting the club were still struggling to meet LaLiga's rules, they have announced a second deal for an equivalent stake in Barca Studios.

"FC Barcelona announces the sale of 24.5 per cent of Barca Studios to the company Orpheus Media, managed by Mr Jaume Roures, an audiovisual production company with a long history of producing content, for 100 million euros," read a club statement.

"The agreement complements the one signed on 29 July with Socios.com and will help to accelerate the growth of the club's digital, NFT and Web.3 strategy.

"With this investment the strategic partners in Barca Studios show confidence in the value of the project and the future of digital content in the world of sport."

Reports suggest that while Barca are prioritising the registration of their new signings, they are still eyeing a move for Chelsea's Marcos Alonso, while Manchester City's Bernardo Silva has been touted as another target.

Barca begin their LaLiga campaign when they host Rayo Vallecano on Saturday, though it remains to be seen how many of their new stars can feature.

Barcelona fans may have completely forgotten there will be actual football to play very soon.

So chaotic and draining has the off-season been for Barca supporters that they'd be forgiven for thinking they were stuck in some form of purgatory, where the club's finances are discussed and debated endlessly.

In fairness, even those who don't necessarily support Barca may have similar feelings. If you've been following the soap opera in recent weeks and months, you'll already be sick to death of the word palanca, or 'lever'.

Of course, those proverbial levers are what president Joan Laporta has been pulling to inject capital. Barca were expected to work within another measly LaLiga salary limit this season before selling off some of their TV rights at the end of the last financial year, which meant they actually turned a profit.

With the other 'levers' Laporta has activated, he claims the club has brought in €860million in two months, but obviously the deals involved will result in reduced long-term income, hence the widespread suggestions Barca are "mortgaging their future".

It's probably an understatement to say there has been a lot to take in, and that's before we even mention the Frenkie de Jong sideshow, the signings and the latest concerns about whether their new players can even be registered.

In the background, Xavi continues to plug away and drown out all the nonsense surrounding the club, and on the pitch, there are genuine reasons for optimism at Camp Nou.

A platform of rapid improvement

There was a time last season – even after Xavi's November appointment – when Barca's campaign looked to be heading for embarrassment.

After a 1-0 defeat to Real Betis in December, Barca had 23 points from their first 16 matches of the league season, their worst total at that stage since 2002-03.

But the same team – plus a few January additions – claimed more points (45) in LaLiga than any other club after the turn of the year. Sure, Real Madrid played one game less over the same period, but even if they had contested an extra match and won, Los Blancos would still have been two points shy.

Of course, Madrid's focus towards the end was on the Champions League as they never looked likely to throw the title away, so it's probably not the perfect comparison, but it does at least highlight the results Xavi was getting and the degree of the turnaround he has already overseen at Camp Nou.

 

Similarly, there were signs of classic Barca in their performances. Their 9.4 high turnovers per game was a LaLiga high after Xavi's appointment, while they also boasted the greatest average share of possession (64 per cent).

Perhaps the biggest indicator of Barca's promise under Xavi was the 4-0 hammering of Madrid at the Santiago Bernabeu in March's Clasico. They had lost their previous five such clashes, including four in the league, making it the Blaugrana's worst run against their bitter rivals since the 1960s.

Barca were electric going forward, carving through Madrid almost at will, while they also looked solid defensively, with Xavi's decision to play Ronald Araujo at right-back proving wise as he kept Vinicius Junior in check.

Gerard Pique responded by declaring: "We are back."

Playing the part

The improvement Xavi instigated last season was made even more impressive by the fact certain players didn't have an especially prominent role.

Pedri made just 12 appearances in the league, while Ansu Fati recorded 10. Both were hampered by serious injuries but will in all likelihood – assuming they stay fit – be key players this season.

Pedri will be the vital midfield conductor, keeping the build-up play ticking over, while Fati can provide both goals and creativity from out wide on the left. As clichéd as it sounds, the Spain forward will feel every bit a new signing if he can stay out of the medical room.

 

But it's also fair to say there are several players whose reputations have been enhanced lately – or at the very least restored.

Ronald Araujo really stepped up last season and matured into a colossus of a centre-back. Athletic, composed on the ball and uncompromising in defence, the Uruguayan looks cut out for a long career at the heart of Barca's backline.

While some might've had concerns about his ability to get Barca on the front foot, with his passing range hardly that of a young Pique, the arrival of Jules Kounde should offset those worries given the France international's reputation as an excellent progressor of the ball.

Arguably the biggest surprise of the Xavi era so far, however, has been Ousmane Dembele.

 

Almost perennially injured or underwhelming at Barca, Dembele became essential for Xavi's men in the second half of last season.

Between January 1 and the end of the campaign, Dembele's assists count of 11 was four more than anyone else in the league despite the Frenchman not even playing 1,100 minutes. Vinicius, for example, registered six from 1,182 minutes.

Granted, Dembele's assists tally outstripped his expected assists (xA), though his 7.3 xA was still comfortably better than everyone else over the same period – Vinicius was second with 4.5 xA.

Until he has an extended period without injury, Dembele's fitness and reliability will always be a concern, but Xavi has made it clear the winger is key to his plans, and the 25-year-old has certainly shown his commitment by signing a new contract on reduced terms. He wants to be a success at Barca.

New blood

Now, obviously this part comes with an asterix. Barca have made some impressive additions to their squad, but it remains to be seen whether they can register them in time for the opening weekend. They can only do that if LaLiga are happy their finances are in order and the club adhere to their salary limit.

But assuming Laporta finds a way to get the green light before the transfer window closes, the new faces should be considered statement signings.

The headline arrival is obviously Robert Lewandowski. Barca didn't necessarily have a problem scoring goals last season, but they were short of reliable options in the centre of attack, with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang often occupying spaces out on the left.

 

Ferran Torres simply isn't a 'killer' in front of goal, Lewandowski is, and you don't need to go into any great detail to explain precisely what he'll offer; his 161 top-flight goals over the past five years is 30 more than any other player in the top five leagues (Lionel Messi is second with 131).

Among those charged with laying on chances for Lewandowski will be Raphinha, whose dynamism and exceptional creativity made him one of the standout Premier League wingers at Leeds United.

His ability to come inside onto his left foot will give Barca greater invention in central areas as well, potentially key against packed defences, and he's demonstrably a wonderful creator, with his 13.0 xA over two seasons in the Premier League bettered only by Trent Alexander-Arnold, Bruno Fernandes, Mohamed Salah, Mason Mount and Kevin De Bruyne – not bad for a player who was embroiled in a relegation battle last term.

 

Then you've got Kounde, who has not only marked himself out as one of LaLiga's best defenders in three seasons at Sevilla, but many consider him an archetypal Barca centre-back – in fact, his ability on the ball was best exemplified against the Catalans in the Copa del Rey last season, when he embarked on a brilliant solo run from defence before applying a cool finish.

 

Add Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen to the mix as well, and Barca have themselves an impressive array of signings who all appear well-suited to the club's particular brand of football.

When they'll all be able to play is still a mystery, but clearly Barca will be a force when they can.

 

Robert Lewandowski believes playing under Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich represented the ideal preparation for his move to Barcelona, as he compared Blaugrana boss Xavi to his former coach.

Guardiola was one year into a three-season tenure with the Bavarian giants when Lewandowski joined from rivals Borussia Dortmund in 2014, with the striker scoring 67 goals in 100 appearances under him in all competitions. 

Having ended his Bayern career with 344 goals in all competitions, Lewandowski – one of several new faces at Camp Nou – scored for the first time in Barca colours three minutes into Sunday's 6-0 friendly thrashing of Pumas UNAM.

As Xavi looks to lead Barca to a title challenge in his first full season at the helm, Lewandowski identified similarities between with Manchester City manager Guardiola.

"Guardiola's philosophy and his style of caring for and managing the team, I think, basically was Barca at Bayern Munich," Lewandowski told Sport.

"Xavi is very similar to Guardiola. They were both 'sixes', they worked together. They think about football in the same way.

"With that memory in mind, Barca was the only option for me, and it was a great preparation when I was there.

"I didn't talk to Guardiola before signing. But when I was with him at Bayern, it was like a great preparation to get to Barca one day. 

"All the staff were Spanish, there were eight Spanish players. During that period, I had a very good relationship with Thiago [Alcantara] and Javi Martinez. Both of them congratulated me when I signed for Barca."

Lewandowski made his desire to leave Bayern clear on several occasions before finalising a move to Camp Nou and has reiterated his €45million transfer was primarily motivated by a wish to test himself in Spain.

"I feel like a small child who enters a huge store of new toys," he said. "What I feel in Barcelona so far is pure happiness and motivation to start this new chapter.

"In Munich, I was missing new challenges. I won many titles and I recognise that I felt less and less intensity. I needed another challenge, a boost, a change of environment.

"I've always wanted to play in LaLiga, live in Spain, see what life is like here. Twelve years in Germany is a long time. 

"I achieved everything there. I didn't want to stand in front of the mirror in 12 years and say to myself: 'Why haven't you tried?' There would be a lot of unanswered questions."

Lewandowski will hope to make his competitive Barcelona debut when they host Rayo Vallecano in their LaLiga opener on Saturday, with president Joan Laporta confident the Blaugrana will be able to register their new arrivals despite ongoing financial concerns.

 

Pedri described playing with Robert Lewandowski as a "luxury" after both players starred in Barcelona's 6-0 demolition of Pumas UNAM in the Joan Gamper trophy on Sunday.

The Blaugrana ran riot in their traditional Camp Nou curtain-raiser, with goals from Pedri (two), Lewandowski, Ousmane Dembele, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Frenkie de Jong condemning the Mexican side to a crushing loss.

Barca took just 20 minutes to establish a 4-0 lead as Pedri scored twice after laying on new signing Lewandowski's opener, with the Poland striker returning the favour to tee up the skilful midfielder's second strike.

Lewandowski – who scored 50 goals in all competitions during his final season with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich last term – was named as man of the match, leading Pedri to shower him with praise. 

"It was important for us to win in front of our fans and we have achieved it by playing a good game," the midfielder said.

"The coach asks us all to reach the top and that we score goals, and I hope it continues like this. We've had a good pre-season and we wanted to start scoring soon.

"It is a luxury to play with Lewandowski, I really enjoy seeing how he finishes and how he links up.

"The president [Joan Laporta] and everyone have done a great job, and we will fight until May for it to be a very beautiful year for us all."

With Lewandowski joining Franck Kessie, Andreas Christensen, Jules Kounde and Raphinha in moving to Camp Nou ahead of the 2022-23 season, hopes are high that Barca can challenge for silverware – even if speculation persists that they may be unable to register their newcomers.

For Xavi, the performance against Pumas – for whom Barca legend Dani Alves featured – represented the standard the Catalan giants must hit in every match.

"Everything went well tonight, I'm very happy with the good game and for the fans, who have been excited. This is the way," Xavi declared.

"We are in a good dynamic of play and results, but we have to continue working for this to work. The sensations are good, yes, but there is no need to lower the pace or the intensity during the 90 minutes.

"Today it is understood that we relaxed a bit because we were 4-0 very early and it was a friendly, but in official competition you cannot lower your guard."

Barca begin their LaLiga campaign at home to Rayo Vallecano next Saturday.

Sadio Mane scored his first Bundesliga goal as Bayern Munich opened the new campaign with a stunning 6-1 victory at Eintracht Frankfurt.

Europa League winners Frankfurt seemed a tricky first opponent for the champions, but Julian Nagelsmann's side swept them aside in sensational style.

Having defeated RB Leipzig 5-3 in the DFL-Supercup in their first competitive match after Robert Lewandowski's departure last week, Bayern were five up by half-time on Friday – Joshua Kimmich, Benjamin Pavard, Jamal Musiala and Serge Gnabry joining Mane on the scoresheet.

Manuel Neuer's sloppiness gifted Randal Kolo Muani a consolation, yet it was a minor blip in a supreme Bayern display, and Musiala capped things off with his second late on.

Bayern had full control by the 10th minute. Kimmich fooled Kevin Trapp with a long-range free-kick that clipped in off the right-hand upright, before Pavard lashed in his second goal in as many games.

Juventus-linked Filip Kostic teed up a golden chance for Frankfurt to drag themselves back into contention, only for Tuta to head against the woodwork, which then denied Bayern a third after Gnabry's poor pass sold Thomas Muller short in front of goal.

Another glorious Eintracht chance went begging due to Jesper Lindstrom's profligacy, but Bayern had their third after Trapp had parried Musiala's effort onto the crossbar – Mane stooping low to head in Gnabry's cross.

Mane turned architect for Bayern's fourth six minutes later, drawing out the Frankfurt defence and finding Muller, who squared for Musiala, and it was five before half-time when Gnabry squeezed home.

Kristijan Jakic, one of three half-time Frankfurt substitutes, thought he had pulled a goal back in the 56th minute, yet it was disallowed for offside.

Neuer hardly covered himself in glory in that incident, and Bayern's captain was entirely at fault eight minutes later when he was bundled off the ball by Kolo Muani.

Musiala had the final say, though, tucking in after Leroy Sane's exquisite pass to add further gloss to a statement win.

What does it mean? No Lewy, no problem

Bayern have now gone unbeaten in their opening league fixture for 11 straight seasons – they went on to win the title in each of the previous 10.

Although Bayern have lost more times away to Frankfurt than they have any other team (23), they were in top gear from the off, and there was never any danger of another defeat.

Lewandowski may have gone, but Bayern's attack – spearheaded by Mane and the evergreen Muller, who matched Hans Georg Schwarzenbeck's 416 Bundesliga outings for Bayern (the second-most among outfield players) and finished with two assists – looks scintillating. 

Magical Mane off to a flyer

In five of his six Premier League campaigns for Liverpool, Mane scored in his first away game of the season, including on his Reds debut in a 4-3 win at Arsenal in August 2016.

The Senegal forward always seemed likely to start fast in Germany, and he has done just that. He is the first player to score in his maiden Bundesliga away game for Bayern since Joshua Zirkzee did so against Freiburg in December 2019, while Mario Mandzukic, in 2012, was the last Bayern player to score in his first two appearances for the club in all competitions.

Few home comforts for Frankfurt

Friday's game was the ninth example of an away team scoring five before half-time in Bundesliga history, and Bayern are responsible for four of those occasions.

But in truth, they were helped by a woeful defensive display from their hosts. Frankfurt picked up just 19 points at home (W4 D7 L6) last season, bettering only the two relegated sides in Arminia Bielefeld and Greuther Furth, and Oliver Glasner must strike a better balance.

What's next?

Bayern host Wolfsburg in their second Bundesliga game of the season, while Frankfurt travel to Helsinki for the small matter of facing Champions League winners Real Madrid in the Super Cup.

Joan Laporta is confident Barcelona will be able to register all of their new signings after they "complied with everything" required by LaLiga.

Robert Lewandowski was presented as a Barca player at Camp Nou on Friday after the Poland captain was signed from Bayern Munich for a fee that could reportedly rise to €50million.

The Catalan giants have also splashed out on Raphinha and Jules Kounde, while Franck Kessie and Andreas Christensen arrived as free agents and Ousmane Dembele signed a new deal.

Barca were in dire straits a year ago, with Lionel Messi leaving the club as they could not afford to keep the legendary Argentina skipper due to a financial crisis at Camp Nou.

There has been talk that LaLiga may not give the green light to register Barca's new recruits due to limits on spending.

Blaugrana president Laporta does not envisage any issues after the club signed up to a hugely lucrative sponsorship deal with Spotify, and sold a percentage of LaLiga broadcast rights, merchandising rights and a stake in Barca Studios.

Laporta said in a media conference after Lewandowski was paraded on the pitch: "We have worked to be able to register all the players that we have incorporated.

"We have worked hard and well to meet the requirements that are needed for the registrations. If any further operation is needed, we will do it, but the documentation has been presented. It's a decision that LaLiga must make. We have complied with everything they require and we are confident that they will be able to sign up."

He added: "The second sale of Barca Studios was approved because we had foreseen it. As a precaution and in anticipation of divergence in some interpretations, we have done it. To have the foresight.

"We had already planned to do the fourth lever, if it also serves to consolidate registrations better. Barca has entered these two months and operations worth 868million euros. We have positive funds, a healthy balance sheet and results also because we have made profits.

"We have made a great effort, we have had to carry out operations to sell some assets, always in a controlled manner."

Laporta revealed that Lewandowski had to be assured his move to Barcelona would not collapse.

"When an agreement was reached with Bayern, we had a series of talks," he said.

"Robert and his agent were concerned about whether we could register him, but I gave them comfort and told them that if we had to register one Robert would be the first. There were other clubs that offered more money and more salary to the player."

Prolific striker Lewandowski has taken the number nine shirt that Memphis Depay wore last year, but Laporta does not feel Barca have been disrespectful to the Netherlands international.

He said: "The number nine thing was a club decision. For reasons that interest the club, for image and publicity reasons. We have considered an appropriate decision and we have made it with all respect for Memphis."

Robert Lewandowski's departure leaves a big void for Bayern Munich to fill, yet Julian Nagelsmann has full confidence his squad is stronger now than it was last season.

Bayern sold star striker Lewandowski, who scored 50 goals across all competitions last season, to Barcelona last month.

Lewandowski had refused to sign a new contract with the Bundesliga champions, who made the reluctant decision to cash in on the 33-year-old.

Sadio Mane had already arrived from Liverpool as Lewandowski's de facto replacement, with Bayern chief executive Oliver Khan having confirmed the club do not plan to sign another senior forward this transfer window.

Bayern have also brought in defender Matthijs de Ligt from Juventus, as well as Noussair Mazraoui and Ryan Gravenberch from Ajax and teenage attacker Mathys Tel from Rennes.

Niklas Sule, Corentin Tolisso, Marc Roca, Omar Richards and Chris Richards are members of the first-team squad to have also left alongside Lewandowski, but Nagelsmann is confident his side have improved overall.

"I'm looking forward to the start with great anticipation I tend to put pressure on myself," Nagelsmann told a news conference ahead of Bayern's Bundesliga opener against Eintracht Frankfurt.

"I read very little. It's normal for Bayern Munich that we always strive for the highest. We lost a striker who scored more than 50 goals, we have to compensate for that.

"I think that's okay, our squad has improved. I know we're going to do well. The lads are very motivated."

 

Asked if more players might yet arrive, Nagelsmann said: "When the season starts, as a coach you focus on the players that are there and on preparing [for] the opponents.

"As a coach you have to do justice to every player in the squad. I don't have any expectations one way or the other.

"I'm very happy with the squad, and I'll see what happens between now and August 31."

As for Bayern's goals this season, Nagelsmann is aiming to improve on their trophy haul. A 10th straight Bundesliga title arrived last term, but they exited the DFB-Pokal early on and lost to Villarreal in the Champions League quarter-finals.

"My first championship was nice. The club is longing for more," Nagelsmann said. "The goal will be to come to Berlin and win the [DFB-Pokal] trophy. We also want to get further in the Champions League.

"It always depends on how lucky we are at the draw and the games. I would also like to take a photo with more titles in it. Maybe we can do that after this season."

Death, taxes and Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title.

It is slightly paraphrasing the old idiom to say these are the only three things certain in life.

Such is the optimism of football fandom, though, the question always arises ahead of the new campaign whether this year will be the one where someone steps up and takes Bayern's throne.

The 2021-22 season saw the Bavarian giants claim their 10th Bundesliga title in a row, with Julian Nagelsmann leading Bayern to the championship by eight points in his first season at the Allianz Arena.

Since Jurgen Klopp's exciting Borussia Dortmund side of 2011-12, no team has been able to halt the relentless Bayern dominance of German football.

In fact, in the last decade, only the 2018-19 campaign saw anyone finish closer than the eight points Dortmund were behind last season, when BVB were just two points shy of their Der Klassiker rivals.

How can anyone seriously make the argument that their run will halt any time soon then? Well, let Stats Perform have a go as we take a look at some of the reasons why Bayern might struggle to maintain their stranglehold in 2022-23.

 

Loss of Lewy means new Bayern approach

Bayern's signing of Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014 was one of the catalysts for their concerted period of dominance.

However, after eight years of service and 238 goals in 253 Bundesliga games for Bayern, the Poland striker wanted to move on and eventually sealed a transfer to Barcelona.

His goals-per-game ratio in the German top flight of 0.94 bested even the great Gerd Muller (0.85), and his loss was certainly not one Bayern had planned for, with the club initially indicating they expected him to honour the final year of his contract, before finally relenting.

Despite being 33 years old, Lewandowski's impact had not waned at all, with him scoring 50 goals in all club competitions last season, making it seven consecutive seasons with at least 40 goals to his name.

Nagelsmann has insisted his team will evolve in Lewandowski's absence, though, and the signing of Sadio Mane appears to suggest that.

After Lewandowski's sale was confirmed, Nagelsmann told BR24: "I'm not worried right now, we are very well-equipped offensively and I'm still spoiled for choice. We have a possibility of building FC Bayern without a striker that can reliably score 40 goals."

With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, Mane averaged a goal every 178.3 minutes for the Reds – a return of one in slightly under two matches. He also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes.

In the Premier League, only Harry Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City's Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.

His scoring rate has never been close to that of Lewandowski, though he has played a significant amount of his career on the left of a front three rather than through the middle, where he ended last season for Liverpool and is expected to mostly play at Bayern.

That means the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller will need to step up and contribute more goals, while it will be interesting to see if 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel will feature much in his first season after signing from Rennes.

The club has also added Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, while former Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has arrived from Juventus to replace the outgoing Niklas Sule, who chose to swap Munich for Dortmund when his contract expired.

Will Dortmund finally solve flakiness issue?

Marco Rose looked to be a very astute appointment in 2021, but the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss just did not work out at Dortmund.

Rose has been replaced by Edin Terzic, who enjoyed a spell as caretaker boss in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, winning the DFB-Pokal.

Terzic now has the reins permanently and has two big jobs on his hands.

The first is fixing a leaky defence, which conceded 52 goals in the Bundesliga last season, more than any other team to finish in the top eight, and only one goal fewer than relegated Arminia Bielefeld.

The club may have addressed the issue in the transfer market as they have essentially procured the German national team's central defence by adding Sule from Bayern on a free transfer and the highly rated Nico Schlotterbeck from Freiburg.

Schlotterbeck won 69 per cent of his duels in the Bundesliga last season, the joint-most of all players who contested at least 100 duels, while Sule was third with 68 per cent.

Another issue that needed addressing was similar to Bayern's Lewandowski issue, with Erling Haaland having departed for Manchester City.

The Norwegian scored 86 goals in 89 appearances at Dortmund, including 22 of their 85 league goals last season, though he was only able to feature in 24 games due to injury.

Sebastien Haller was signed to replace Haaland but will unfortunately miss the first few months of the campaign after undergoing surgery for a testicular tumour.

The addition of exciting young talent Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg will give them a dynamic in attack they have missed since selling Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while in Haller's absence it will be interesting to see if Youssoufa Moukoko, still just 17-years-old, can add to the five Bundesliga goals he already has to his name.

Having also signed defensive midfielder Salih Ozcan from Cologne to provide some steel alongside Jude Bellingham, who it appears they will be keeping hold of for another season at least, the balance of a frequently wobbly side could be there for Terzic to build some momentum.

Best of the rest

Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a strong campaign last season and have replaced Lucas Alario with promising Czech striker Adam Hlozek.

They also appear to have fought off interest in Moussa Diaby so it would not be a surprise to see them go well again, but with Champions League football to contend with, questions remain whether they have the depth of squad to excel on all fronts.

RB Leipzig will hope to provide a challenge and have also kept hold of their star player in Christopher Nkunku, though losing Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele will be a blow, while Eintracht Frankfurt will want to build on last season's Europa League success.

It would be churlish to write Bayern off, of course. They go into the season as heavy favourites and rightly so.

 

Mane might not have the same goalscoring output as Lewandowski, but football has proven time and again that having one player who scores lots of goals is not the only way to be successful.

The African Football Player of the Year has the chance to be the face of the new Bayern, where everyone will be expected to chip in and Nagelsmann can truly cement his ideas on the team.

However, while Bayern have been somewhat forced into a new era, Dortmund appear to have reached theirs more by design and if everything clicks early on for Terzic, an exciting title race could develop.

After all, the only thing that is certain about football is that nothing is certain.

Bayern Munich chief executive Oliver Kahn has ruled out a move for another striker, despite the sale of Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona.

The Bundesliga champions have been linked with moves for Cristiano Ronaldo and Harry Kane in recent weeks, although the club have distanced themselves from such rumours.

Lewandowski scored 50 goals in all competitions last season but made it clear he wanted a new challenge in Spain and secured a move to Barca in mid-July.

Speaking after Bayern's 5-3 DFL-Supercup victory against RB Leipzig, Kahn said there was "no discussion" about bringing in another number nine.

"That was strong," he said of the performance to BILD. "You could see how many opportunities we had going forward, how many different formations we had, how surprising we can be, how many good footballers are there, how much speed we can bring into the game with many, many extremely fast players.

"It's the case that we still have options in the current team. [Joshua] Zirkzee is there, [Eric] Choupo-Moting is there, then the young Mathys Tel, who is training incredibly well at the moment. We would also have opportunities there."

Five different players found the net for Julian Nagelsmann's side against Leipzig, including new arrival Sadio Mane, and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic was pleased to see the variety that Bayern displayed.

"You could see that we are extremely dangerous, that we have many fast and dangerous players," he told BILD. "That's the idea.

"Of course, it's a different way of playing. If the boys do what we envision, I think we can spread the goals on many shoulders."

While Salihamidzic stopped short of also ruling out a new striker arriving at the Allianz Arena, he did hint that the club's incomings may be done for this transfer window, adding: "The transfer market runs until August 31, but usually we have completed our planning by then."

Barcelona coach Xavi is confident Robert Lewandowski will soon find his rhythm at the club, having failed to find the net in pre-season.

The Poland international is one of Barcelona's marquee additions for the 2022-23 season, joining from Bayern Munich, and arrives with an established reputation as one of Europe's deadliest finishers.

Goals have not come in preparation for the new season, but Xavi is not concerned and believes there have been some encouraging signs already.

"The positive is that he has had all those opportunities, I am sure he will mark them," he said following Barcelona's win against the New York Red Bulls.

"In training, they go in; today, they have not gone in. I am convinced that they will go in, I trust him. 

"It happened with Luis Suarez, Ferran [Torres] last year. He's going to have chances to score; tonight he's had them, that's the positive part."

There could yet be further transfer business at Camp Nou, as Frenkie de Jong continues to be of interest to Manchester United.

Xavi has insisted playing De Jong at centre-back in a previous friendly was not a "signal" he was to leave, although the coach has almost finalised plans for his first-team squad.

"I don't know if there will be more [signings], it all depends on the financial fair play and the finances," Xavi said. "There will be exits, and I've been clear about that.

"I think I'm 99 per cent sure about [the final squad list], and most players know, too. We have spoken to the players whose future we've decided."

Robert Lewandowski accused Bayern Munich of making up "bulls***" about him in an attempt to keep the fan base onside ahead of his move to Barcelona. 

Barca paid an initial €45million to sign Lewandowski from Bayern, where he had one year left on his contract and had made his desire to leave clear after a breakdown in talks over an extension. 

Lewandowski denied wanting out because of the Bundesliga champions' reported interest in Erling Haaland, who ended up swapping Borussia Dortmund for Manchester City. 

While he was unwilling to give the full details, he hit out at his former club for painting what he feels was an inaccurate portrait of the situation. 

"No, that was nothing to do with Erling," he told ESPN FC. "I am the guy who even if something's not good for me, truth is more important.

"I don't want to speak about what happened exactly. But if the question is if the decision to move was because of him, no, I didn't see the problem if he joined Bayern Munich. 

"But some people don't tell me the truth, [they] say something different. And for me, it was always important to be clear, to stay true, and maybe for a few people that was the problem. 

"In the end, I know that something doesn't work well with my person... and I feel that maybe it's a good time to move out of Bayern Munich and join Barcelona. 

"I had a very good relationship with my team-mates, with the staff, with the coach, and these are all things I'm going to miss because I spent a beautiful time there. 

"We were not only friends from the pitch but also something more. But in the end this chapter is over, and I open a new chapter in my life and a new chapter in my career. 

"So I feel that I'm in the right position, right place. So everything that's happened in the last few weeks before I left Bayern Munich, that was also of course a lot of politics. 

"The club tried to find an argument [for] why they can sell me to another club because before it was difficult to explain maybe to the fans. I had to accept that, even though it was a lot of bulls***, a lot of s*** said about me. 

"[It was] not true, but in the end I knew that the fans, even in this period, still support me a lot." 

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