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?

Julian Nagelsmann will be "sad" to see Niklas Sule leave Bayern Munich but reiterated that the centre-back remains a crucial player for the remainder of the season.

It was confirmed last month that Sule would not be signing a new contract with Bayern. His current deal expires at the end of 2021-22.

And despite links to several Premier League and LaLiga clubs, it was revealed on Monday that Sule had agreed to join Bayern's Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund at the end of the campaign.

That decision was questioned by Bayern chairman Herbert Hainer earlier this week, as he queried why Sule would take what he views as a step down rather than go for a potentially more lucrative move to England or Spain.

Nagelsmann, however, has maintained his balanced view of the situation, having recently defended Sule following criticism from Bayern great Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

"I don't judge it at all because it's not my decision, it's not my life," he told a news conference ahead of Bayern's game with Bochum. 

"Of course I'm sad because I've been with him for a long time. These are normal processes in football, that players leave us on a free transfer.

"But we still have to get along and make it clear that Niklas is still our player until June 30, and we want the title with greed.

"I can understand that fans are frustrated. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose."

 

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns, as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

This season, he has played in 19 Bundesliga games, making 21 interceptions and winning 31 aerial duels.

Asked if Tanguy Nianzou, a 19-year-old who joined Bayern from Paris Saint-Germain in 2020, may step up to replace Sule next season, Nagelsmann replied: "Tanguy is a talent, but he's getting to an age when he has to play consistently. 

"There are moments when he plays outstandingly, then there are moments when he plays hair-raising bad passes. That's certainly due to the lack of rhythm.

"The coach has to take responsibility for that, but that creates a vicious cycle, you don't get any game practice and therefore no consistency.

"He has a very great asset and that is his aggression and his unconditional will to defend. Now he has to work on his consistency."

Nianzou has made just 21 appearances for Bayern so far, with just four of those being starts.

Bayern Munich chairman Herbert Hainer has questioned Niklas Sule's decision to leave the club at the end of his contract to join Borussia Dortmund.

Dortmund announced on Monday a pre-agreement is in place with the Germany defender, who will join the club from Bayern at the end of the season.

The 26-year-old has agreed to a four-year deal at Signal Iduna Park, having decided against extending his Bayern contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.

However, Hainer has questioned Sule's decision to choose Bundesliga rivals rather than potentially more lucrative offers from the Premier League and LaLiga.

"He was already being discussed at Dortmund and there was speculation – in addition to Real Madrid, Manchester City and a few others – but I hadn't thought that it would be his first choice," Hainer told Bild.

"It will be exciting to see him on the other side. But it's not new to us either. We also gave Mats Hummels to Dortmund.

"I don't know what salary Niklas Sule gets at Borussia Dortmund. But I don't think it's a sporting climb.

"Niklas is a very good player who has become a regular in the national team in the last five years. I'm assuming that he'll really give it his all over the next three months so that he can still clinch the titles that we have ahead of us."

 

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns, as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

However, when it emerged he would not be signing a new contract, former Bayern star and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge claimed the centre-back "never really asserted himself in his position" while at the club.

Sule's agent, Volker Struth, recently said his client "didn’t feel fully valued" by the German champions.

"I can only speak of myself and the people I am with every day," Hainer said in response to those comments.

"We all appreciated him and know what we had and still have in him. You have to ask him yourself what exactly he means by that."

Borussia Dortmund have announced the signing of defender Niklas Sule, who will join the club from Bayern Munich at the end of the season.

The 26-year-old has agreed to a four-year deal at Signal Iduna Park, having decided against extending his Bayern contract, which expires at the end of 2021-22.

"We're delighted that we have managed to sign Niklas Sule, a Germany international, on a free transfer and have tied the player down for four years," said Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc.

Sebastian Kehl, who will succeed Zorc later this year, added: "Niklas has shown during the course of personal talks that he is really keen on Borussia Dortmund.

"He possesses a lot of experience, composure in his build-up play and the necessary physicality to take the next step with us from this summer onwards."

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns, as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

However, when it emerged he would not be signing a new contract, former Bayern star and chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge claimed the centre-back "never really asserted himself in his position" while at the club.

Ex-Bayern captain Stefan Effenberg accused Sule of chasing money over sporting success as interest from Chelsea and newly rich Newcastle United was reported.

Sule's agent, however, told Sport1 that the player simply wanted a new challenge.

 

Niklas Sule already knows which club he will join when leaving Bayern Munich at the end of the season, according to the defender's agent Volker Struth.

Germany international Sule confirmed to the club last week he will exit the Allianz Arena when his contract expires in four months' time, having failed to agree to a new deal.

That led to criticism from club legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who stated Sule "never really asserted himself in his position" at Bayern.

Former Bayern skipper Stefan Effenberg went one further by accusing the 26-year-old of "deciding against sporting success for more money", with newly rich Newcastle United among the sides linked.

But the player's representative has refuted those claims, insisting Sule's decision to leave Bayern is not financially motivated.

"I think I would have a problem if we were to announce in a few days that the player would move to Newcastle and I'm sitting here explaining that the money isn't the priority," Struth told Sport1.

"We never negotiated [with Bayern]. There was only a verbal approach. We met, spoke about it and I signalled at the time that the player was considering whether he wants to extend his contract. 

"It wasn't about the money at all. A conversation was planned in January. Niklas spent Christmas with his family, called me at the time and said: 'I don't want that anymore. I don't want this appointment to take place.' 

"It has nothing to do with money at all. I spoke to [sporting director] Hasan Salihamidzic about a possible renewal, that was in late autumn last year – six or seven months before the end of his contract.

"By then, Sule had already decided and told me: 'I want to do something differen.'"

Asked if Sule's next destination is already known, Struth said: "Yes, that's for sure. Niklas recently made a decision, and I would be surprised if he changes it again."

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns, as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer have leapt to the defence of the departing Niklas Sule following criticism from club legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Sule confirmed earlier this week that he would exit Bayern when his current contract expires at the end of this season, despite being offered a new deal by the German champions.

The 26-year-old defender's decision led to Rummenigge stating he "never really asserting himself in his position" at Bayern.

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

Former Bayern skipper Stefan Effenberg chimed in, adding Sule “decided against sporting success and for more money”.

"I've only read it and haven't spoken to him about it yet," Nagelsmann told Sky when asked about Rummenigge's comments.

"Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is so regarded that he can say things. In the end it is important that Niklas performs well. That's more important than interviews."

He continued: “He has a contract situation that allows him to make a change. One can understand that.

"We will have a very good central defender again next year. We have to see what's going on in the transfer market. Everyone would have liked to keep him."

Sule put in a full shift in Saturday's 3-2 win over RB Leipzig, with Bayern captain Neuer admitting his departure hurts but defending his decision to leave.

"It annoys us all that Niklas is going," Neuer told Sky . "He's a very good player, we'll miss him.

"He came from Hoffenheim, that was the way until he worked his way up to his peak performance. It's a process - and I think you can say today that it has succeeded."

He added: "When a player decides to go a different route, everyone lives their own career, you accept such decisions."

Bayern Munich head coach Julian Nagelsmann and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer have leapt to the defence of the departing Niklas Sule following criticism from club legend Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

Sule confirmed earlier this week that he would exit Bayern when his current contract expires at the end of this season, despite being offered a new deal by the German champions.

The 26-year-old defender's decision led to Rummenigge stating he "never really asserting himself in his position" at Bayern.

Sule joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in 2017 and has made 159 appearances for the club, winning four Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokal crowns as well as the 2019-20 Champions League.

Former Bayern skipper Stefan Effenberg chimed in, adding Sule “decided against sporting success and for more money”.

"I've only read it and haven't spoken to him about it yet," Nagelsmann told Sky when asked about Rummenigge's comments.

"Karl-Heinz Rummenigge is so regarded that he can say things. In the end it is important that Niklas performs well. That's more important than interviews."

He continued: “He has a contract situation that allows him to make a change. One can understand that.

"We will have a very good central defender again next year. We have to see what's going on in the transfer market. Everyone would have liked to keep him."

Sule put in a full shift in Saturday's 3-2 win over RB Leipzig, with Bayern captain Neuer admitting his departure hurts but defending his decision to leave.

"It annoys us all that Niklas is going," Neuer told Sky . "He's a very good player, we'll miss him.

"He came from Hoffenheim, that was the way until he worked his way up to his peak performance. It's a process - and I think you can say today that it has succeeded."

He added: "When a player decides to go a different route, everyone lives their own career, you accept such decisions."

Niklas Sule is set to leave Bayern Munich as a free agent at the end of the season, but Julian Nagelsmann has no ill feelings towards the defender.

Sule was offered a new deal by Bayern but has instead decided his future lies elsewhere.

The centre-back has missed just two Bundesliga games this season and will surely be highly sought after as a free agent.

Nagelsmann acknowledged that his initial response was to wonder if he had done something to aggravate Sule, whom he also worked with at Hoffenheim, but he does not believe that to be the case.

Indeed, he insisted his relationship with Sule remains strong and he is excited to see what the future holds for the Germany international.

"I know his reasons, but I'll keep them between us," Nagelsmann said in a news conference ahead of Saturday's clash with his old club RB Leipzig. 

"I would have liked to have kept Niklas here, so he plays a lot. There is absolutely nothing going on between us. Decisions like his are part of football.

"There will be players that I'm happy with, and sometimes players leave that you are not happy with. 

"I wondered if I had done something wrong or could have done better. I think that's part of reflecting.

"Niklas will be with us until the summer. Then I wait with the same excitement as everyone else where he will go and how he will fare at his new club."

Bayern Munich will do "everything" to keep Robert Lewandowski for "as long as possible", but Niklas Sule is set to leave the club at the end of the season.

Lewandowski's contract expires at the end of 2022-23 and there have been suggestions Bayern could look to move the Poland star on this year to free up room for Borussia Dortmund's Erling Haaland.

That is despite the 33-year-old having just won The Best FIFA Men's Player Award for the second year running, his 34 goals in all competitions this season at least 10 more than any other player in Europe's top five leagues.

Bayern CEO Oliver Kahn suggested on Wednesday that the Bundesliga champions have no plans to let Lewandowski leave.

"He is an absolute phenomenon," Kahn told reporters. "Not just for the goals he constantly scores but for the level at which he has been playing for years.

"Of course, we will try to keep Robert with us. He's a kind of insurance for us, with his way of playing football. We will do everything we can to have Robert with us for as long as possible."

 

Sule, however, appears destined to leave the Allianz Arena after rejecting Bayern's offer of a new contract.

The centre-back, 26, has missed just two games in the Bundesliga this season and is reportedly of interest to Chelsea and Newcastle United, who could offer greater salaries.

"Negotiations with Niklas have dragged on for a very long time," Kahn said.

"We made him an offer, but he didn't accept it, as he told us. I think [club president] Herbert Hainer wanted to leave the back door a little ajar.

"Now we know what the situation is. This has happened over the past few days. I think you have to take into account that there are a lot of conversations going on. At some point, a player makes his decision.

"I think it was a very good offer. We have economic limits within which we must move. He's one of the best central defenders out there right now. I think we showed him that appreciation.

"Ultimately, it's the player's decision."

When asked if Bayern would look to sign a replacement, Kahn added: "We always look at all the options. We have a lot of options when it comes to the centre-back position.

"We have Lucas Hernandez in central defence, an excellent centre-back in [Dayot] Upamecano, young talent in Tanguy Nianzou. [Benjamin] Pavard can also play there."

 

Anthony Martial has made no secret of his desire to leave Manchester United in the January window – and the France international appears to have been granted his wish.

Restricted to just four starts in all competitions this season, Martial has very much been on the periphery at United in what is his seventh campaign at the club.

However, there are no shortage of suitors for Martial and it looks increasingly likely that the 26-year-old will spend the remainder of the campaign away from Old Trafford.


TOP STORY – SECOND TIME LUCKY FOR SEVILLA

Sevilla had a loan bid for Martial rejected earlier this month, but Goal reports that the issues have been ironed out and the out-of-favour forward is now set to undergo a medical.

Juventus are said to have been among a number of other European sides in the running to sign Martial, but Sevilla were always his preferred destination.

The LaLiga club are expected to pay a loan fee for the former Monaco man, potentially as much as €5.96million (£5m), while the player himself will accept a cut in wages.


ROUND-UP

– After growing frustrated in their attempt to sign Dusan Vlahovic from Fiorentina, The Sun reports that Arsenal may now instead go after Real Madrid's Luka Jovic this month.

– Calciomercato claims that Serie A leaders Inter are close to strengthening their squad with the addition of striker Felipe Caicedo from Genoa.

Watford are set to move quickly on the back of sacking head coach Claudio Ranieri by bringing in Roy Hodgson as early as Tuesday, according to Sky Sports.

– Goal suggest that Bayern Munich are targeting Chelsea's Andreas Christensen on a free transfer after Niklas Sule turned down the offer of a new contract in Bavaria.

Manchester City are increasingly confident of wrapping up a deal for Julian Alvarez. However, the Daily Mail reports that the striker will initially remain on loan with River Plate.

Newcastle United have made a fresh approach for Man Utd winger Jesse Lingard, according to The Telegraph. The Magpies are happy to pay a £6m loan fee.

Agreeing a new contract with Robert Lewandowski is not a matter of urgency for Bayern Munich president Herbert Hainer, though he hopes the striker will stay put.

With his deal set to expire at the end of next season, Lewandowski's future has been the subject of much speculation. 

It was reported this week that Bayern were open to selling the Poland captain at the end of the season to avoid losing him on a free transfer. 

Lewandowski on Monday won The Best FIFA Men's Player award for the second straight year, having scored an astounding 82 goals in 68 games in all competitions for Bayern since the start of last season.  

That is the most of any player from the top five European leagues. Erling Haaland is his closest rival with 64 strikes in 61 appearances for Borussia Dortmund. 

Hainer remains keen for Lewandowski to extend his stay at the Allianz Arena, though he insists there is no rush for an agreement to be reached. 

"I've already said this a few times. I would be happy if Robert ended his career at Bayern," Hainer told Sky. 

"Our sporting management is in constant contact with the players. We still have a little time with him. The contract runs until 2023." 

Hainer suggested a new contract for goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, reportedly until June 2025, is much closer to being confirmed. The Germany star's existing deal is also due to expire at the end of next season. 

"I am absolutely convinced Manuel will end his career at Bayern Munich. He can certainly play at this level for a few more years," said Hainer. 

"He's still the world's best goalkeeper for me, and I'd be happy if we can announce it at some point. 

"We are in no hurry. Manuel knows what he has in us. We know what we have in him. He's been with us long enough now, so there is no rush. But at some point, I hope, it will happen." 

Defender Niklas Sule is only under contract until the end of this campaign and he has been linked with Barcelona and a number of Premier League clubs. 

Hainer confirmed an extension has been offered to Sule and he has a deadline to make his decision so the club are not left scrambling for a replacement. 

"We made Niklas an offer. Now it's up to him to accept or reject that," said Hainer. 

"Of course, it has to be within a certain period of time because we have to position ourselves accordingly. 

"I don't know the exact date right now, but it will certainly be at some point in the foreseeable future that he will say what his wishes are. Then we will take to him." 

Bayern Munich forward Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has tested positive for coronavirus.

Choupo-Moting had already been self-isolating, along with team-mates Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich, Jamal Musiala and Michael Cuisance, after coming into contact with a person who had contracted the respiratory illness.

Bundesliga leaders Bayern confirmed on their official website on Wednesday that the 32-year-old has also now tested positive and will continue to quarantine.

"Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting has tested positive for COVID-19," the statement read. 

"The FC Bayern forward is self-isolating at home in accordance with the relevant health authorities and doing well under the circumstances."

German media outlet Bild reported last week that Bayern have told players they will have their pay withheld for time missed in quarantine if they have not been fully vaccinated.

Choupo-Moting, who has made 11 of his 12 appearances for the German champions this season from the bench, is reported to be among those yet to receive both doses.

However, speaking on Monday, head coach Julian Nagelsmann insisted he does not see the issue of players potentially going unpaid causing any friction in the camp.

"It's always a group's distinction that you don't always agree," he said.

"In a functioning team, however, everyone has to be there for everyone. I don't think it will break the team, we have to grow from it. 

"By not vaccinating, they are more likely to fail. But we have to be there for each other, we should grow from that.

"You often have conversations, if the person is positive, you have to be in quarantine as an unvaccinated person.

"The players are doing fine though, they are being tested. Josh could return earlier than the others because he was quarantined earlier."

In better news for Bayern, Niklas Sule and Josip Stanisic returned to individual training on Wednesday after completing their own periods of self-isolation.

Dayot Upamecano also took part in training a day on from missing Bayern's 2-1 Champions League win at Dynamo Kiev that clinched top spot in Group E.

Germany's national team director Oliver Bierhoff has confirmed Niklas Sule is the player to have tested positive for coronavirus.

It was announced earlier on Tuesday that a member of Germany's squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Liechtenstein and Armenia had returned a positive PCR test result and had immediately gone into isolation, though the player was not named at the time.

Four other players who were judged to have been close contacts also had to isolate, though no other positive results had been recorded within the camp.

At a subsequent news conference, Bierhoff confirmed Bayern Munich centre-back Sule was the player to have contracted COVID-19. 

Sule is double vaccinated, and the earlier update stated he had not shown any symptoms.

His club-mate Joshua Kimmich, who has publicly confirmed he has not yet received either dose of his vaccine, is one of the other four players to have gone into quarantine.

Kimmich, 26, explained last month that he is not opposed to the prospect of getting vaccinated at some stage, but he wishes to wait for further research to be conducted.

Fellow Bayern players Serge Gnabry and Jamal Musiala have also been forced into isolation, given they were part of the same travelling party to the training camp, while Karim Adeyemi also has to quarantine.

"The squad is still strong, and we will prepare for the two games in World Cup qualification from noon today and make them successful," said Bierhoff.

"The situation is not easy for the players, but there is no huge concern now."

Asked about Kimmich, Bierhoff said: "It was clear that if someone in his environment tests positive, he would be put in quarantine.

"Of course, that's difficult to accept when you have acted correctly and paid attention to everything."

Bierhoff was joined at the media conference by Germany's team doctor Tim Meyer, who explained the length of the quarantine will depend on the regulations set by the local health authority in Wolfsburg.

Asked if Gnabry, Musiala and Adeyemi were vaccinated, Dr Meyer said: "I won't give you any information about that. The vaccination plays a role in the decision, but also how close the contact was.

"I have already given my personal opinion on vaccination against COVID-19. Joshua Kimmich's opinion is also known. We have to accept that."

Dr Meyer added that four other players have been classed as contacts, though will be allowed to remain at the accommodation and will be tested again in the coming days.

Germany have also lost Florian Wirtz and Nico Schlotterbeck to muscular injuries, with Kevin Volland and Wolfsburg duo Ridle Baku and Maximilian Arnold added to the squad.

Bayern Munich face mounting injury problems ahead of Saturday's showdown with Union Berlin, as Hansi Flick fears Niklas Sule could miss the second leg with Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League.

Sule, Leon Goretzka, Lucas Hernandez and Marc Roca will all be absent when Bayern return to Bundesliga action at the weekend.

Defender Sule and midfielder Goretzka were both injured in the 3-2 quarter-final first-leg loss to PSG, with the former a major doubt for the return match.

"Leon Goretzka, Niklas Sule, Lucas Hernandez and Marc Roca will all be unavailable," said head coach Flick.

"Niklas Sule and Leon Goretzka have muscular problems. Leon's problems aren't quite as bad as Niklas'.

"So Niklas will probably miss the second leg versus PSG as well. We need to wait and see how things develop.

"Marc got injured against Leipzig. He started training again but had to stop. Lucas suffered a knock, this is nothing to do with his abdominal muscle injury, but it's painful.

"We're hoping Leon and Lucas will be available in Paris."

Despite Bayern's midweek setback in defence of their Champions League title, Flick's men sit seven points clear at the Bundesliga summit ahead of the visit of seventh-placed Union Berlin.

Union held the German champions to a 1-1 draw in December and Flick expects another tough test from Urs Fischer's side.

"We want to beat Union, but it will be difficult," he said. "We will also be taking workload into consideration however, but three points are our priority.

"I like their mentality and the way they play football. They run a lot and are very dynamic. The coach is doing an outstanding job and I'm looking forward to seeing him again."

Bayern Munich would have the financial strength to sign Erling Haaland, club president Herbert Hainer says. 

Borussia Dortmund striker Haaland is likely to be one of the most in-demand players over the coming transfer windows as he continues to thrive at Signal Iduna Park. 

Haaland has scored 27 goals and provided seven assists in 27 games in all competitions this season. Among Bundesliga players, only Robert Lewandowski (42) has more direct goal involvements. 

Real Madrid, Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona have all been linked with the 20-year-old, while former Germany star Lothar Matthaus suggested Haaland's next logical step would be to join Bayern if he chooses to stay in Germany. 

A release clause of €75million will reportedly come into effect next year, and Hainer believes Bayern will be in a position to compete with others for Haaland's signature despite the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Insisting Bayern will "go even more down our successful path of signing young players with outstanding skills", having already agreed a deal to bring in Dayot Upamecano from RB Leipzig this year, Hainer told Sport1: "We are an economically very strong and healthy club. 

"Although we're also suffering massively from the pandemic, we can always bring in players when we're convinced about them." 

Hainer also confirmed plans to discuss new contracts with midfielder Leon Goretzka and defender Niklas Sule, whose deals expire in 2022. 

Goretzka has regained form recently after recovering from a coronavirus infection, while Sule, who had been linked with Chelsea, has enjoyed a positive run as a makeshift right-back. 

"Leon Goretzka has developed hugely in the last 12 months," said Hainer. "He's become one of the most important players for us. Yes, we want to extend with him." 

He added of Sule: "He's an important player for us. We'll sit down with him in the spring."

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