With the World Cup players still on holiday, FC Bayern took a depleted side for their short tour of the United States. Two defeats, plenty of training, and the usual media, marketing and sponsor flimflam. Not much to write home about, but this is modern football.
I have never really been a fan of these elaborate preseason shindigs. Games that take the gloss off what might otherwise be big occasions against big opponents. Events that serve no purpose but selling the brand. Yes, we have to put up with it. But it really does not have much to do with serious football.
Overseas tours are the perfect opportunity for a team to play in front of their overseas supporters, which in itself is not such a bad idea. But when tickets are overpriced and fans are left to feel second best watching second string teams, things can start to unravel.
When overseas tours were overseas tours, it worked just fine. Now that these meaningless games are all billed as the “International Champions Cup”, it is clear that there are other agendas at play. Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho suggested that fans should not bother coming to these matches. It is difficult to disagree.
Bayern punched out in Philadelphia
Philadelphia is the biggest steel town in the US, but is better known as the home of fictional boxing world champion Rocky Balboa. In a soggy and half-full Lincoln Financial field, an otherwise impressive Bayern were knocked out by the Italian stallions of Juventus.
Bayern’s mix of senior pros and up and comers were not short of chances, but were undone by two sucker punches in the first half. One could blame the poor pitch conditions, but a Sven Ulreich gift allowed the Italians to score against the run of play after 32 minutes, before Favilli hit his second eight minutes later.
This was not the Ulreich who had been Bayern’s man of the season in 2017/18. He is like Cinderella, with the clock having struck midnight at the start of the Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid.
Coach Niko Kovač rang the changes at the start of the second half, with Renato Sanches, Arjen Robben, Rafinha and Kingsley Coman all coming on. They upped the ante and were the better side, but could not get anything past Juve ‘keeper Mattia Perin.
Pep’s City on top in Miami
Kovač’s men headed to Miami for their second tour game, where they took on EPL champions Manchester City. Up against former coach Pep Guardiola, Bayern roared into an early two goal lead, only to get get pipped at the post by a City side that was able to offer that little bit more.
After just 15 minutes, teenager Meritan Shebani headed Die Roten the lead, from Rafinha’s cross. Then it was the turn of Bayern’s old school veterans. A lovely ball over the top of the City defence from Franck Ribéry set up Arjen Robben, who executed the crispest of finishes. It was arguably the highlight of the tour.
That was as good as it got. City pulled a goal back just before half time through Bernardo Silva, and then completed the turnaround in the second half.
The central figure was Ulreich. First, Lukas Nmecha levelled the scores after the Bayern ‘keeper could only weakly parry a shot from Phil Foden. Then, he was beaten at his near post by Silva. It is too early to rule Ulle out, but it looks like he is heading back to the bench.
Bayern find themselves floating mid-table in the meaningless ICC tournament, but the Bayern coach was happy enough with the tour.
There were no injuries. The older players showed that there is still fuel in the tank. The younger players put themselves forward as potential off the bench options. So, we can easily shake off this preseason nonsense. There is not long to go until the serious stuff begins.
Tomorrow, the whole Bayern squad get together in Tegernsee.
So far, Bayern have stuck to their guns by not splashing the cash. Their first signing of the summer can be seen as something of an investment. For what could prove to be a bargain ten million Euro, Canadian youngster Alphonso Davies has been picked up from MLS side Vancouver Whitecaps. Just 17, Davies has already played six international for Canada, and has scored six goals. He also has quite a backstory.
Elsewhere, there are lots of stories doing the rounds. All are still at the gossip stage. Robert Lewandowski has been locked in at Bayern. Whether he is happy or not, only time will tell. Arturo Vidal is all set for a loan move to Internazionale. Jérôme Boateng is on his way to Paris Saint-Germain. The mission to sign Benjamin Pavard from VfB Stuttgart is taking new twists.
I usually do not bother chasing down transfer gossip. It is much better to talk about a new player once they have put pen to paper. But we need things to talk about.
So watch this space, where I let the Twitter gossip-merchants take the lead. Just for fun.