Bayern Munich: Replacing Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery won't come cheap

With Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery set to leave Bayern Munich at the end of the season, replacements are needed in Bavaria. Nothing comes cheap in today's market, but Bayern must be prepared to flash the cash.

Out with the old and in with the new. Never has a statement been so accurate as in the case of Bayern Munich's wingers. With a combined age of 71, Arjen Robben (pictured above, right) and Franck Ribery (above, left) finally look set to ride off into the sunset at the end of the current season, bringing to an end an era of remarkable success. 

Read more: Franck Ribery confirms he will leave Bayern

"Franck and Arjen are outstanding players," said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who confirmed a testimonial will be held to honor both players at some point in 2020. "FC Bayern owes a lot to both of them and we will give them a wonderful and emotional farewell. They've helped shape FC Bayern's most successful decade with fantastic football."

With neither player ever too far from the treatment room, Bayern fans have become used to seeing understudies assume greater responsibility in recent years. However, when the pair are fit and firing, they continue to carry Bayern's creative burden well into retirement age. 266 goals and 284 assists in the past 728 games won't be easy, or cheap, to replace, but Bayern will need to find a solution soon. 

Different times

The harsh reality is, the same 23-year old Robben signed from Real Madrid for a reported €25 million ($28.4 million) in 2009 would certainly cost north of €100 million in today's market. Ditto Franck Ribery; a relative steal when signed from Marseille for €25 million in August 2007. It's safe to assume the reigning French player of the year, Antoine Griezmann, would cost any club at least three-times that much if he could be prised away from Atletico Madrid next summer.

Ribery has scored 80 goals in 259 appearances for Bayern

Whether or not Bayern would be willing to shell out those sorts of sums was addressed by club President Uli Hoeness in an interview with ESPN in September 2017.

"The market is way too hot at the moment," Hoeness said. "Clubs are now goading each other. I've clearly said that a €100-million player is unacceptable for Bayern. People should be singing our praises because we have been successful due to our own work and resources."

There is something to be said for operating with a more measured transfer policy, of course. As fun it would be to see Kylian Mbappe giving Nuremberg defenders the runaround, the money it would take to sign him would be bordering on the unethical. That doesn't appear to be an issue for many of Bayern’s Champions League rivals, though.

In response to PSG’s world record €222-million Neymar swoop, Barcelona signed Ousmane Demebele and Philippe Coutinho for a combined €280 million. Manchester City’s young wingers, Raheem Sterling and Leroy Sane, were brought in for a collective €113 million. In the same time period, Bayern have signed Serge Gnabry for €8 million and Alphonso Davies for €10 million. It’s not hard to guess which duo Sergio Ramos would prefer to face in a European semifinal next spring.

Neymar was signed by PSG for €222m in August 2017

As things stand, Davies (18), Gnabry (23) and Kinsley Coman (22) may well be Bayern’s only wingers next season. The former is an unknown quantity, having only previously played in Major League Soccer, and the other two are still raw talents. Bayern could use at least one experienced star, capable of taking the game to opponents on a consistent basis while setting an example for the younger stars, the way Marco Reus has done for Dortmund’s clutch of wunderkinds this season. Those kinds of players don't come cheap.

Change of heart?

For such a long time Germany’s record champions could lay claim to arguably the finest pair of wingers in world football. That time is over and a year after that ESPN interview, Hoeness is making it sound like Bayern's days of relative austerity could also be about to end. Speaking at the club's annual general meeting in December 2018, Hoeness promised to provide the funds for a "transition at the highest level". 

"The older players who may potentially retire will no longer be here," he said.  "So we will have the room as well as the necessary funds to reinforce the team. We will be more than a match for every opponent in the Bundesliga and most international opponents. This must be the ambition."

Talk is cheap, of course. Fans want to see real investment in a squad that has been allowed to yellow at the edges in recent years. Replacing the wingers that made Bayern such a force, both at home and abroad, for the best part of a decade would be the perfect place to start. 

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

10 — Virgil van Dijk

In the 2017-18 season, Jürgen Klopp desperately needed a defender. Liverpool found a way to supply him with one, spending a reported 75 million pounds (€84.2 million, $101.3 million) on Virgil van Dijk in January, making the Dutchman the most expensive defender of all time.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

9 — Romelu Lukaku

After Lukaku scoring 26 goals for Everton in the 2016-17 season, Manchester United shelled out a reported 75 million pounds (€84.8 million, $96.8 million) for the Belgian striker. He rewarded the Red Devils for their investment right away, scoring seven goals in his first seven Premier League games.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

8 — Gonzalo Higuain

Scoring 36 goals in 35 league appearances, Gonzalo Higuain had a memorable 2015-2016 season at Napoli. Italy's record champions Juventus were eager to sign the Argentinian striker, paying €90 million ($99 million) for his services. After two seasons in Turin, he moved to AC Milan on loan, a deal which could become permanent in 2019.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

7 — Gareth Bale

Welsh superstar Gareth Bale became the world's most expensive player in 2013 after he transferred to Real Madrid for a fee of €100 million (then $132 million) after a six-year stint at Tottenham Hotspur. His move remains the most costly signing ever finalized by the Spanish club.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

6 — Paul Pogba

Three years after Bale's mega-move, Paul Pogba dethroned the Welshman as the world's most expensive player when he moved from Juventus to Manchester United for €105 million ($116.6 million). Pogba had come through the Red Devils' youth setup before leaving on a free transfer.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

5 — Ousmane Dembele

Dembele was one of Dortmund's most exciting and promising players, so much so that only after a year of playing in Germany, Barcelona came knocking for his services. The French forward transferred to Barca for €105 million ($123.9 million) with up to €42 million in bonus payments. The deal is the most expensive sale by a German club in football history.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

4 — Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal's most capped player could appear on this list twice. His €94 million (then $132.5 million) move to Real Madrid shattered the world transfer record. After four Ballon d'Or, four Champions League and two La Liga titles with the Galacticos, he completed a €117 million ($136.9 million) move to Juventus in July.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

3 — Philippe Coutinho

Want to talk about profit? Liverpool purchased Philippe Coutinho from Inter Milan in January 2013 for €13 million ($17.3 million at the time). Five years later, the English club sold the Brazilian playmaker for a reported €120 million ($145.2 million) fee, which could increase to €160 million with bonuses. A pretty good turnover, right?

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

2 — Kylian Mbappe

Before he was a World Cup winner with France, Mbappe was a highly coveted teenage talent. After a bursting onto the season with Monaco in 2016-17, the French forward moved to Paris Saint-Germain for a total package worth €180 million (€214 million) — a €45 million loan for 2017-18 followed by a €135 million transfer.

The top 10 most expensive football transfers

1 — Neymar

Who could afford to buy a player for €222 million ($262 million)? Qatari-owned French giants Paris Saint-Germain are one of the very few clubs in the globe capable of it. In the summer of 2017, Brazilian star Neymar received an offer he could just not refuse from PSG. The Brazilian left Lionel Messi's shadow in Barcelona for the French capital, becoming the world's most expensive footballer.