BERLIN (Reuters) – Bayern Munich are still the team to beat in the Bundesliga even without top striker Robert Lewandowski or a direct replacement, former Bayern and Germany coach Juergen Klinsmann said on Friday, a day before the Bundesliga season starts.
The Poland forward, who scored 344 goals for Bayern in 375 games during his eight years at the club, joined Barcelona in a deal worth 45 million euros last month after forcing a move from the German club.
But even without him the Bavarians, who kick off their league campaign against Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday, remain favourites for a record-extending 11th consecutive Bundesliga title, Klinsmann, who also played for Bayern, said.
“Lewandowski’s departure will change dramatically the dynamic of Bayern,” Klinsmann told an international media round table on Thursday.
“Losing him is a big deal, a big deal for the entire Bundesliga, to lose such a high profile player.
“But the solution for right now, putting pieces on more shoulders, is probably the right way to go right now. Overall as a roster it’s the team in the Bundesliga, they are the favourites for another title,” he said.
Bayern have brought in French forward Mathys Tel, Sadio Mane from Liverpool where he played as a centre forward last season, Dutch defender Matthijs de Ligt, and Ajax Amsterdam duo Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui.
Club bosses have also said they could still bring in a direct replacement for Lewandowski.
“Playing without a real number nine is very unusual for a traditional Bayern Munich. They have the quality in the roster but it’s going to be a different Bayern,” Klinsmann said.
He said Borussia Dortmund, runners-up last season, and German Cup winners RB Leipzig will again be Bayern’s main challengers but it will depend on their ability to remain consistent throughout the season, a vulnerability for both that proved decisive last season.
“Dortmund is the team to challenge Bayern,” he said but warned a lot will also depend on how the players will return from the World Cup in Qatar in November and December for the second half of the domestic season.
“It could be a dramatic season for everyone. It is about how players will transition from the first part of the season. (A winter World Cup) has never been done before. It will shake everybody. It’s a challenge for everybody.”
(Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, editing by Pritha Sarkar)