Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
The phrase holds true especially in football. We seem never to realise just how good a player is until they’ve retired, but only after they’ve left us do we fully contextualise where they stand amongst the all-time greats, if they stand there at all.
We remember Franck Ribéry and Arjen Robben as all-time greats for Bayern Munich now, Ribéry as maybe the greatest pure wide-man of all time, and Robben as being the most iconic ‘one trick pony’ of all time. But when they were regular parts of the first team we all constantly complained of their injury records and Robben’s sometimes selfish nature.
We can see it today too. Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman and co. are on track to rival the numbers of Ribéry and Robben, but there is no person on Earth who would equate the two.
Other than me apparently.
Of course I know that they need to keep up the longevity to actually be in the conversation, but their current trajectories must be acknowledged. When Ribéry and Robben signed for Bayern, they were 24 and 25 respectively, which is the same age Coman and Gnabry were when they won the Champions League in 2020. Mention must also go to Thomas Müller who is so good that he is already looked upon as one of the greatest players of all time while only 33 years of age and not close to retirement, as well as Jamal Musiala who has already stamped himself as one of Bayern’s best players at the tender age of 19.
The current crop of Bayern attacking talent is one hell of a unit. Müller holds the record for the most appearances for Bayern from a forward with 639 over the years. Coman and Gnabry have already broken into the top 20 with 239 and 185 respectively. Sané still has a ways to go with 104, but he makes it in at #27 which is still more than highly respected players such as Luca Toni (89), Mario Mandžukić (89) and Ivica Olić (80).
In terms of production, Müller is the third most prolific goalscorer in Bayern’s history, while Gnabry has just broken into the top 25 goal-scorers of all time for Bayern with 68 goals, level with Bastian Schweinsteiger. Coman comes in at #32 with 50 goals while Sané just broke into the top 50 with 33 goals. Müller is the all-time leader for assists with 248 (!!!), with Coman next at #14 with 60 assists, as well as Gnabry at #24 with 43. Sané is already at #35 in just two (and a bit) seasons with 31 assists. The benchmark for the very best in terms of pure production in Bayern’s history are Gerd Müller, Robert Lewandowski, Karl-Heinz Rumenigge, Mehmet Scholl, Arjen Robben, and of course Franck Ribéry. Let’s see how the current crop fair against these absolute icons of the game.
Gerd Müller: 658GA in 606 appearances, 1.09GA per game
Robert Lewandowski: 416GA in 375 appearances, 1.11GA per game
Karl-Heinz Rumenigge: 286GA in 422 appearances, 0.68GA per game
Mehmet Scholl: 222GA in 469 appearances, 0.47GA per game
Arjen Robben: 245GA in 309 appearances, 0.79GA per game
Franck Ribéry: 306GA in 425 appearances, 0.72GA per game
Thomas Müller: 478GA in 639 appearances: 0.75GA per game
Serge Gnabry: 111GA in 185 appearances, 0.60GA per game
Kingsley Coman: 110GA in 239 appearances, 0.46GA per game
Leroy Sané: 64GA in 104 appearances, 0.62GA per game
Jamal Musiala: 37GA in 91 appearances, 0.41GA per game
As we can see, the current attackers seem to not be on the level of players such as Robben, Ribéry, Rummenigge, and especially not even close to the levels of Lewandowski and Müller(s) just yet. However it must be stated that the trio of Gnabry, Coman, Sané and especially Musiala have their best years ahead of them.
This season we have seen these attackers step up with the production that their price tags justify. Müller and Gnabry have actually come down from their averages with 0.62GA/g and 0.57GA/g respectively, but the others have all surpassed their averages with flying colours, showing the prolific nature of Julian Nagelsmann’s attacking style. Coman is currently averaging 0.71GA/g which is almost twice his Bayern average, but it is the last two that stand out even further. Musiala is averaging 1.15GA/g this season, and Sané is averaging 0.87GA/g. These are insane numbers, Ballon d’Or-esque. They are numbers only matched by the very best in Bayern’s history, and they are showing no signs of stopping.
There is a notable gap between Bayern’s current production numbers and the numbers of their historic legends showing that the attackers aren’t at the same level just yet, but the recent upward trend shows great promise for the future. We could be talking about Sané and Coman in the context of Ribéry and Robben if not even greater, and Musiala is showcasing amounts of talent that have never been seen from a Bayern youngster at 19, only being seen from the likes of all-time greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo. He is putting up not only world class numbers, but numbers that would earn him the moniker of ‘best in the world’ in most eras, while still a teenager.