RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition. He does have an amazing PATREON, but also *normal* ARTIST WEBSITE too.

Tuesday, March 9

25-Man Metaphysical Roster: FC BAYERN MUNICH

{Kingsley sealing the deal last CL final}

[25-Man Metaphysical Roster is a football metaphysics methodology based off the foundation of minutes played over the past 100 competitive matches for a club, determining which 25 players constitute the strongest psychic force on a club’s current path. Intuitive analysis, performed mostly from an un-American “soccer” fan’s perspective is added. Ideally, we do this twice a month, cycling through English Premier League clubs, because it’s the top domestic English-speaking league on Earth, and as un-American miscreants and mongrels, our staff of writers were born saddled with this limited, segmented tongue of the global colonizer, oppressor, and capitalizer. To some extent, we hate the English, but also America, and likely ourselves. Core staff is Raven Mack (chairman), Paul Robertson (director tecnico), and Neil Bulson (director rudo) from America, with additional input from Dan Brookes and Jude Riley as English consultants, and American soccer game expert and MLS aficionado Mike Dikk. Venmo @ravenmack23.]

Bayern Munich is essentially the senior club of Germany, having won the Bundesliga 17 out of the last 24 seasons, including eight straight. In fact, in this period, they’ve also had nine doubles (including the DFB-Pokal), as well as trebles last season and in 2013, when they won the Champions League as well. At this point, other German clubs – even their closest competition in Borussia Dortmund – are feeder clubs for Bayern, where someone might get a season or two run (like RB Leipzig is currently enjoying), but Bayern is going to be able to swoop in and purchase whoever they want domestically, as well as import whatever top-tier talent from elsewhere in the world they so desire. Recent seasons have essentially broken down to a first half sort of powering up, where Bayern Munich does not yet dominated the Bundesliga table, and often times finds itself down a few notches, while also ploughing their way through group stage play in the Champions League. All of this builds momentum so as the calendar turns into the second half of the season, they start to move ahead in Bundesliga’s table at the same time Champions League knockouts get going, hitting a higher-speed of momentum to pull away in German competition, and advance as far as possible in the Champions League brackets. Right now, they sit only 2 points ahead of the surging RB Leipzig, and also seem solid to secure advancement in the Champions League to the quarterfinals. In a month’s time, if recent patterns hold true, they’ll start to pull away in Bundesliga, usually locking that up a few weeks early in the season (at the very least), and they’ll continue to be a tough out in the Champions League, where they’ll be looking to only the second club to repeat in the past thirty years, and the first German club to do it since they themselves won the old European Cup three years in a row in the mid-‘70s. This is not a club competing against other German competition so much as part of the small conversation of elite European clubs in this fucked up era of footballing powerhouses built off the self-perpetuation of incomparable revenue. Bayern is more of this than even other elite clubs, having operated at a profit for nearly three decades (pre-pandemic stats), run in classic German economic fashion, as a commercial marketing powerhouse. In fact, the club earns less on match day revenue and broadcasting rights than other top European clubs, but more than makes up for it by that commercial revenue they roll in. The club owns itself, so to speak, like a stock company but with privately owned stock. This make-up owns 75% of the club, with the other quarter strategically sold off to major corporate investors over the past 20 years to Adidas apparel, Audi automotive company, and Allianz financial services group. Those investments were used to build and payoff their Allianz Arena – one of the most state-of-the-art stadiums in Europe. The motherfucker changes colors. So what we have here in this Bayern Munich club is not so much one competing against the rest of Germany, but one that has already staked the upper echelon of German football, and muscled everybody else from getting close. They are competing against Europe’s heavyweights, and you can best believe when those shitty discussions of a European Super League are secretly held, Bayern Munich is a key voice in that, and on the shortest of short lists to be part of that.

Interesting aside, would that also inadvertently pull in Borussia Dortmund, to have a domestic rival as well? And if you pulled the both of them out of the Bundesgliga, what’s left? Well, pretty much what’s already there – minor successes and hopes of upsetting the balance of power at the top, before having your stars sold off to those more powerful clubs. It’s just the likes of Borussia Monchengladbach and RB Leipzig wouldn’t get to play directly against Bayern Munich if a super league was ever formed. Hopefully that blasphemous pipe dream is a capitalistic casualty of the global pandemic. But who knows? These rich bastards who make all the decisions have no shortage of greed. They remain economic strikers of the most innate sort, never tempted to fall back on a defensive position for the austerity of humanity.

Anyways, here’s the top 25 men who’ve had the most prominent influence on this club over the course of their past 100 competitive matches, up until the beginning of February. This time period saw them win their 29th and 30th Bundesliga title, their 19th and 20th DFB-Pokal trophies, their 6th European title, and their second Club World Cup. The bulk of this time has been under the charge of Hans-Dieter Flick, who stepped into the managerial role after serving as an assistant under previous manager Niko Kovac, who left in November of 2019. That was during one of their hardest first-half sputters in recent memory, which hadn’t cost them anything to that point, but was not dominant enough to maintain that Bayern Munich standard. Since then, it’s been nothing but glory for Flick, who already has a continental treble at the highest level of club football. Throw in the German Super Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and Club World Cup – all of which Bayern won in the past year, and you have a man that has given one of the most successful clubs in European football its first ever sextuple… stereotypical German efficiency, to the highest possible level it’s been seen so far. [RAVEN]

#1: MANUEL NEUER – Neuer is Bayern Munich’s (and the German national team) captain, and has been minding the box for a decade now. In fact, Bayern’s current run of nine straight Bundesliga titles began in Neuer’s second season after having come over from Schalke 04. Despite missing most of 2017-18, and parts of the seasons around that, due to injuries, for the most part Neuer has been the foundation from which Bayern has developed this current global super power status. In fact, the question becomes, who will follow Neuer? Well, a decade later, Bayern has gotten another GK from Schalke 04, this past June, in the form of Alexander Nubel, who is being groomed as Neuer’s replacement down the road. Nubel gave Neuer rest during the DFB-Pokal cup, and even started Bayern’s Champions League group stage match against Atletico Madrid this past December. But Neuer is still a heavyweight figure in German football, and barring injury, he’ll hold his position for one more season I’d imagine. (I often imagine about German goalkeepers, to be honest.) [RAVEN]

#2: THOMAS MULLER – One slightly annoying modern trend is the endless need to have elaborate descriptions of player’s roles. There are inverted false sixes and registas all over the place. Muller, Germany’s most decorated player, is famously a Raumdeuter, a space invader. He came up with this himself in an interview. He is not the first to title himself. Paul Ince, when he was a force in the English game, was known as ‘The Self-Styled Guvner’. Never ‘The Guvner’ alone, Ince was never allowed to forget that he had invented his own moniker, that he was self-styled. Quite right too. Nobody should get away with that kind of onanism so, in the interests of balance, I hereby declare Thomas Muller ‘The Self-Styled Raumdeuter’. The descriptor means he gets about; he pops up here and there. Essentially, he plays between the lines and makes an endless nuisance of himself. Part of the reason why many have sought to explain Muller’s role is that players who have that free role are usually a bit tasty. Nobody ever asked Dennis Bergkamp why he was floating around between the opposition defence and attack because imminently he would do something glorious and we would need know nothing further. Muller is not glorious, he is effective, not technically bad but not special. The numbers though, the goals, the assists, they are a bit special. Last season Muller managed to provide over 20 assists in a Bayern team that won everything. This season he has 10 more and 10 goals to go with them. It probably does not hurt having Lewandowski to knock in those half-crosses Muller drifts over from the edge of the box, but it also does not hurt Lewandowski to have Muller nearby. This utilitarian gimmick could all be a bit annoying, a bit Bayern, a bit Eurocrat – he even looks like a mid-ranking Formula One driver – but in the age of the Super-Footballer, it has been refreshing to have someone so aesthetically mundane be consistently one of the world’s leading players. None of these dull yet sublime talents matter to Germany coach Jogi Löwe who has decided the Munich attacker is no longer of use to him and has exiled him from the national side. German football has never required the advice of an Englishman and never will but if the DFB should call, I would happily suggest that getting rid of Löwe is a better plan than getting rid of ‘The Self-Styled Raumdeuter’. [JUDE]

#3: ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI – The whiteness of being American white male is often presented as this grand culmination of western civilization, as if Columbus set out in the 1400s to establish a giant land mass full of Hitler’s eventual delusions, to just sit around in weird-looking suits, being so fucking smart they didn’t have to do shit. But the reality of American whiteness for the majority of us is not nearly as Skull and Bones Society pristine. It’s more like a burn barrel full of various European trashes, emitting a horrible smell as different shades of clear plastics get transmogrified into a melted, fused hunk of hardened glob. Even if a lot of white people in America subconsciously still believe in white supremacy, we are – at our core – just a giant melted blob of European trash, walking around, trying to survive late capitalist life, applying mythologies that no longer have teeth to keep ourselves from overdosing on opioids in our work truck by the railroad tracks, stretching that half-hour lunch out to an eternity. I mean, that’s the American Dream, right? The Polish quarter of the melted plastic bottle that is dirtgod raven mack was my maternal grandfather, who taught me to shut the fuck up and be responsible, even if it sucks. He also looked about 97 years old his entire life, even when I was young. These are both Polish metaphysics. You are supposed to be a shitty hard-working loser, and you will look old. Somehow, Robert Lewandowski has confused the first part though, because rather than be some solid but broody GK, or a technically proficient center back who stacks yellow cards strategically, but never gets a straight red, Lewandowski scores goals. Who the fuck ever told a Polish boy he could score goals like that? This fucker got 5 in 9 minutes one time, famously. No natural born Polish man should be a slayer of defensive spirits like that. Thus, I cannot imagine how hard life must have been for Polish youth who grew up in footballing systems with Lewandowski, attuned culturally to stout defensive lifestyles, who had this fucking Lewandowski kid blasting goals past them. As much as Lewandowski has become an international superstar and face for the Polish national team, he likely destroyed the spirits of countless potential defenders and GKs, early on. Nonetheless, it seems almost impossible for a 49-year-old looking Polish striker to end up in any European super domestic league other than Germany. England or the Mediterranean just aren’t conducive to this type of human being. Thus, with only Germany making sense, there’s only two real options in Dortmund and Bayern. And naturally, these are exactly the two clubs Lewandowski has played for since coming over premier Polish club Lech Poznan back in the day, over a decade ago. The question for me regarding metaphysics becomes can a force like this ever fulfill the footballing prodigal son arc? Does he end up back at Legia Warsaw in his twilight years, back in the town he grew up in, first playing as an unregistered youth player? Of course not. That story has been ruined by global football’s money, so after a couple seasons in China or Turkey or wherever there is an ambitious domestic league with far more cash flow than tradition in four or five years. He (and his wife) are involved in a lot of philanthropy in Warsaw, and invests in a lot of shit, so perhaps he shows back up in a Polish boardroom. But then again, he’s a striker, not a defender, and coming back from whence you came is a parking the bus mentality, more likely to get involved in football in some guaranteed payoff rather than slugging it through an established pyramid. You know what that means… future MLS club Milwaukee or Baltimore Bohemian, somewhere where there’s a bunch of historical Polish people but also is rapidly being gentrified with microbreweries and less poors, thus prime MLS location. I can’t wait to be jaded about it (which comes to me naturally, because of my Polish grandfather on my mother’s side). [RAVEN]

#4: DAVID ALABA – This dude is literally royalty, the son of a Yoruba Nigerian Prince who also is apparently a rapper and works as a DJ. That’s some crazy Spirit Warrior Energy to be benutted from. So, it’s no surprise that David Alaba has been the heartbeat of Austrian football for a good while, and on the money making scene he has ridden with Bayern Munich for a long stretch, which seems to be just about finishing up. I guess at some point, Bayern Munich tried to swap Alaba to Manchester City for Leroy Sane, which this Nigerian Prince rightly took as a slap to the face. It’s hard to say exactly what will be next for David Alaba, but his dad is a Prince and a rapper and a DJ, so I’m sure he has a lot of other opportunities outside of the sporting world. These European teams don’t know how to properly look after African royalty, and so one would hope that Alaba will take his millions from his German and Austrian benefactors and spice up the Nigerian game as their fucking Prince come home. But, no, in this weirdly fucked world we live in, David Alaba isn’t going to do any of that because he self identifies as an Austrian, like Arnold Schwarzenegger or that one dude, Adolf Hitler, who to be fair tried to self identify as German, which just goes to show how fucked up these things get. Europe is full of aspirational people wanting to access the “cultured” Europe, which is ass backwards for the most parts like people striving to be blue checks on Twitter. But who am I to tell David Alaba how to self-identify? I don’t know, I just think life would be cooler lived as a Nigerian rap Prince. [NEIL]

#5: JOSHUA KIMMICH – Joshua Kimmich – one of Bayern’s most aggressive players on defense – has an ominous scary demeanor at times, for me as an American, reminiscent of old comic book caricatures of Nazi soldiers to be murdered by Sgt. Rock (or Sgt. Fury, the Marvel comics counter to DC’s Sgt. Rock). Side note: it’s sad to think but somewhere, on some disgusting Petri dish of a subreddit, some people are arguing passionately about Sgt. Rock vs. Sgt. Fury. This of course suggests that maybe there were no good guys in the world wars. Or that maybe even if you are good at one point, for vanquishing a global evil, you may very well become a global evil yourself. Maybe empires are like vampires, sharing more than etymology, and by destroying an evil empire, you in turn become poisoned with that same curse. This has nothing to do with Joshua Kimmich, who is not even a Nazi, but just a mean-mugging German defender. He was born in Rottweil, which is where the world’s meanest dogs originated too. In fact, what the fuck, German shepherds and Rottweilers come from Germany? What kinda fucking place is that? I’m glad post-World Wars, the Germans have channeled all their aggression into business efficiency, like the father who got a restraining order against his ex but is also trying to keep up visitation with his children, so just throws himself entirely into his profession. I fear whatever happens later in world history when capitalism inevitably fails, and the Germans go back to being jobless Germans. [RAVEN]

#6: SERGE GNABRY – Former Arsenal prospect who ended up going home to Germany, and has become a Bayern key in the past couple seasons, and been a part of them quintupling on trophies this past calendar year. In a metaphysical sense, Gnabry continues to ascend, benefitting from the exit of longtime creep Franck Ribery, which freed up the Universal God number of 7 for Gnabry to takeover. He promptly got his first-ever hat trick in his first Bundesliga match wearing the 7. Only 25, with strong spirit warrior potential, it will be interesting to watch how his development is allowed to continue to ascend in the German ranks. Bayern will want a scoring threat, certainly, but they won’t tolerate any loose cannons. I’d assume Gnabry, as a native German (German mother, Ivorian father, but born and lived in Germany most all his life), would be welcome for as long as he feels fit with Bayern. But man, I’d love to see a dude like this turned loose in Italy or Spain instead. But once you hit a certain level of status, there’s only a select few clubs who can afford you in your prime, and the spots are limited. [RAVEN]

#7: BENJAMIN PAVARD – Handsome young French right back who, after cutting his teeth and making his top-level club name at Stuttgart, was bought up by Bayern in January of 2019. Red kit doesn’t complement his strong jawline features all that well though, and would ideally benefit, aesthetically, from a move back to France, for a club in a good blue color, preferably bright, not dark. The dull, deep blue as seen in the French national team’s recent kits just drains the beauty of a young man’s face, and the effects this has on psyche cannot be underestimated. When you look in that mirror before going out to conquer some fuckin’ club, you want to look fresh to death – not depleted, broody, and suffering from anemia. Right now, Pavard can overlook this because Bayern is so much better than the majority of their competition. He doesn’t have to be fresh to death because he so rarely is fighting to the death, metaphorically, for real. [RAVEN]

#8: JEROME BOATENG – This dude is a picture of what happens when you become an elite Euro footballer. He comes from Ghanaian parents and his brother also kicks along the international footballing wire, but Jerome settled in nice and deep in Bayern Munich and has won a lot of glory with them. He’s also run into that trap of getting with models and likely that high society cocaine game, having kids with multiple women and just generally trading up the snatch tree. The dude is hungry. I get it. You’re young, rich, with a sleeked out body and big dick and there are these women everywhere, and the more you keep playing the game, the wilder and hotter they probably get. But unfortunately for Jerome, his latest hookup, a Polish model named Kasia Lenhardt, is (or was, we’ll get to that) one of those wild child free spirit hot as the sun will burn your house down types, and she got in a bunch of trouble stealing his mini cooper and drunk driving it into a car crash, but that wasn’t the end of it as a little bit later on, she was found dead in her Berlin apartment, apparently a suicide but my man Boateng here is this close to catching an OJ image if he’s not careful. He’s taken an understandable leave of absence but shit, man, I think he’s at the point in his career and life where he needs to look in the mirror and hope he doesn’t see some coke nose bleed or some shit. Drink some water and maybe fade out with a big money Turkish club. [NEIL]

#9: ALPHONSO DAVIES – As an America, I remain constantly intrigued by American dudes playing at the top clubs in Europe. Shit, I remain intrigued by them playing anywhere but America, to be honest. The American system is fucked, and stunts player growth and development. But Canada is pretty much part of that same system. You just don’t see many Canadians making a name anywhere beyond MLS. That’s why Alphonso Davies is so weird. Davies is a Liberian kid, born in a refugee camp in Ghana, as part of the crisis after the Second Liberian Civil War at the turn of the century. After five transient years, his family relocated to Edmonton, Canada. And while he surely was exposed to football as a refugee, he never played organized football until joining an after-school youth league for poor kids in Edmonton. One of the biggest issues with North American soccer is how expensive it is at the youth level, and how that denies a lot of the potential talent pool from an early age. Somehow Davies nutmegged that problem, through a couple of local clubs, and ended up signed to the Vancouver Whitecaps at the age of 16. In his 2016 debut for the senior Whitecaps club, he was the second-youngest ever player in MLS history. That shit might still be true, I don’t know. He excelled immediately in MLS, and European clubs came calling. Bayern Munich snatched him up, and he spent time on their second team but has been a consistent member of their line-ups the past year or so. Part of that success is simply because of that one after-school program for inner-city kids in Edmonton, he completely bypassed the normal youth league system in North America, which feeds the collegiate system here, which means young prospects are mired in a four-year residency as an amateur when they should be developing professionally. Davies skipped all that, so while his peers at the same age are playing as student-athletes at American colleges, Davies is cashing fat assed checks and competing in the Champions League – the European one, not North America. [RAVEN]

#10: LEON GORETZKA – Watching Bayern from afar is an occasional pleasure (and I use ‘pleasure’ advisedly inasmuch as it is no pleasure to see a team of rational megastars power their way to inevitable victory year on year). The gap of one viewing a season usually means when the newest Bayern team take the field there is always one guy you (I) have never heard of. Arrogantly you (I) think ‘ah, giving a kid a run out’ until approximately ten minutes later when they’ve smartly ghosted their man and found space in a problematic little pocket for the second time and you say “ah Bayern, you’ve done it again, smartly weighing the probabilities by purchasing a player climbing the ladder outside of your own youth setup or the harsh light of international prospect scouting, well done.” Clipped for free from an ailing Schalke, Goretzka is a total player – pass, head, mental acuity, defensive coverage, versatile, can score – and he’s ruthlessly boring. His Instagram shows a man who fancies himself a GQ proto-James Bond figure. He could as easily be an investment banker as a modern midfielder. This is the modern Bayern post-Ribery and Vidal. Smug, bland, handsome winners. [Dan]

#11: KINGSLEY COMAN – I have had this Mandela Effect thing going on where up until very recently I thought the Bayern Munich logo actually said BAYERN MUNICH and not BAYERN MUNCHEN which I assume is the German word for Munich??? Isn’t Munich already a German word? Munchen isn’t some phonetic spelling unless I’m missing something. Why aren’t we all calling it Munchen? Especially American soccer fans who tend to be....a type. I am not that type. TRUST ME I am not. I don’t think anyone who is writing for this is that type either, but yeah it seems the American soccer fan would have “well actually’d” the proper way to say Munich or Munchen or whatever the fuck. Anyway, Kingsley Coman is a very great somewhat still young player who looks like he was generated in the soccer player lab just like all the top-level guys are. It’s weird when you watch some old documentary showing like a late 70s average English league player and he looks like a teacher you would have bullied in 7th grade but now every top-level guy is a genetic dynamo that doesn’t look real. If I looked at Kingsley without knowing jack shit about him and was asked to guess his job and the level he was at said job, I would guess “Elite level soccer player” within milliseconds. [MIKE]

#12: NIKLAS SULE – Sule is a Bayern defensive anchor of sorts, and the perfect example of how everyone else in the Bundesliga ends up being a feeder club for Bayern. Sule actually was part of a number of different youth systems, but ended up at 1899 Hoffenheim, where he moved from youth to second team to first team. Dude even tore his ACL as his star was rising, but upon returning, played in almost every match for them for two straight seasons, aiding their Champions League qualification for the first time in club history in 2016-17. Before he could play for them in the Champions League though, Bayern came in and swooped him up. He’s been a key player on defense, except last season when he tore his ACL again. Strangely, despite this being his 9th season in the Bundesliga, and having come back from multiple ACL tears, Sule is only 25. How is that possible? [RAVEN]

#13: LUCAS HERNANDEZ – French defender whose elite club pedigree is pretty solid, having only played professionally thus far Atletico Madrid and Bayern Munich. Only 25, but also empowered by the most significant of Aquarian birthdays of Valentine’s Day, thus surely a formidable spirit warrior at some level, although that may be lost in Bayern’s crowded but German locker room. (I also have that same birthday, so I know the weight it lays upon your heart’s shoulders.) [RAVEN]

#14: CORENTIN TOLISSO – Why are there so many French dudes at Bayern? Had a paternal heritage of Togolese, and Togo recruited him heavily to play for them at international level, but Tolisso remained true to the nation he was born and raised in, and was part of that 2018 World Cup-winning club that was referred to in some media circles as Africa’s first World Cup champions, due to all the sons of African immigrants that populated the team. [RAVEN]

#15: THIAGO ALCANTARA – Alcantara left Bayern for Liverpool this past September, in an ultra-prestigious jump between the previous two Champions League-winning clubs. In fact, Alcantara’s professional resume is about as elite as it gets for a dude with a decade of play under his belt, having played only for Barcelona, Bayern Munich, and now Liverpool. He was a young role player when Barca won the Champions League in 2011, and obviously played a more prominent role this past season when he won his second Champions League with Bayern. Of course, in his second match with Liverpool, Richarlison straight fucked him up, which sidelined Alcantara for several months. His transfer was a major splash for Liverpool, who positioned themselves as a continental destination with that move. Of course, that shit ain’t panning out like they thought it was going to. And Bayern Munich’s just kicking back counting the cash. Fuckin’ Germans. [RAVEN]

#16: LEROY SANE – Funnily enough, I just mentioned Leroy here in my David Alaba write-up because Alaba was offended that Bayern Munich wanted to swap him with Leroy to Man City, but that didn’t happen and yet Leroy Sane found himself with Bayern Munich anyway. I’m sure nothing is awkward between the two, it’s not them who are making these deals but their parasite agents and club owners. But anyway, Leroy Sane is a German born talent who has made a living both scoring and setting up goals for his teammates in that central winger type role where you are half a facilitator of the football and half a goal sniffer and half a credible defensive presence which is way too many halfs but that is the responsibility for some of these dudes. Better said, he’s the sort of integral part of any top flight footballing machine that might go overlooked but does a million jobs for you. He started out kicking it with Schalke before making his name with Manchester City, where he was a pain in the ass sort that I’m glad to be rid of now that he has found his natural home at Bayern Munich. It was probably always leading to this place for him, and now it’s just up to him to cement his place there or be discarded to the Turks. Life is what you make of it. [NEIL]

#17: JAVI MARTINEZ – Spaniards confuse my American brain, because Spanish names here usually mean that classic Latin mix of races that has given us our best football here, the best professional wrestling, and some of the greatest flea market stands too to be honest. Male model European Spaniards with the name Javi Martinez completely fuck me up, because I’m expecting a chill dude I can try to shoot the shit with wherever our two sets of broken languages meet – both first and second tongues (because none of us speak a proper version of even our first language). But instead I get some guy who looks like he’s going to call the cops on me for simply existing in the same spaces. And why is such a Spaniard even in Germany? What sordid shit has happened behind the scenes in Javi Martinez’s life to cause all this? [RAVEN]

#18: PHILIPPE COUTINHO – It is easy to forget that Phil Coutinho is the third most expensive player ever. While there have been moments of real brilliance, it has been a strange career. After a teenage failure at Inter, where expectations were too high and a more promising loan spell with Pochettino’s Espanyol, he made an immediate impact for Brendan Rodgers’s fragile yet at times thrilling Liverpool side eventually becoming the team’s most important player once Gerrard waned and Suarez bit his way to Barcelona. When the chance came to link up again with Suarez and with Messi at Barcelona, it appeared the intuitively gifted Brazilian had reached the pinnacle of the game. However, the only winner of the deal were Liverpool who famously spent the money on Van Dijk and Alisson while Barcelona faded and failed and Coutinho seemed lost especially as his erstwhile colleagues beat Barcelona 4-0 on the way to a Champions League triumph. A middling-at-best eighteen months at Camp Nou saw Barca try to sell the player but with the high price tag, there were no takers and he ended up at Bayern on loan. The deal only embellished Bayern’s position as the best run major club in Europe. Though a host of books and essays have poured praise on other teams’ business brilliance, remind yourself that in the last decade Bayern have had both Coutinho and James Rodriguez play for them at their peak, for a limited period, with no commitment to buy, for a fraction of what their parent clubs paid for them and with better results. They did not even have to treat them well, using them as bit-part men – luxury  substitutes. In his most notable contribution in Bavaria Phil came off the bench against Barcelona for Bayern and scored twice in the Munich team’s 8-2 drubbing of the Catalans. He did not appear particularly joyous, doubtless already aware that Bayern were not going down on one knee for him and he would have to return to his loveless marriage with Barcelona. Which leads me to argue that Coutinho to Barcelona is the worst transfer of all time. He has contributed both directly and indirectly to Barcelona’s ignominious Champions League exits for two successive years at enormous expense to Barcelona while also being ineffective when playing for them. When you think about it, if you are callous, as I am, and if you are a Liverpool fan, as I am, and if you are still bitter about his exit from Anfield, as I am, then it is all truly, very funny. And hopefully this is not the end. I want more Barcelona pain at the hands of little Phillipe. I dream of a return to Espanyol on a free transfer at the end of an abject Barca stay, only for the old magic to re-emerge, leading to a Phil hat-trick in the Derbi Barceloni to relegate Barcelona….in Messi’s first season as manager….Guardiola and Pique weeping in the stands…with their kids….and it’s raining. [JUDE]

#19: IVAN PERISIC – Periodic spent all last season on loan to Bayern from Inter Milan. Bayern chose not to make a permanent deal for the Croatian winger, so back to Italy he went, where Inter is in first place, contending for their first Serie A title in a decade, hoping to upset Juventus’s nine-year run as the Kings of Italian football. And it’s impossible to be the biggest asshole on a club that includes Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Arturo Vidal, and even Christian Eriksen. What a fuckin’ collection that is. [RAVEN]

#20: JAMAL MUSIALA – German players get first-team time way earlier than England, and Jamal Musiala cracks this list despite only having turned 18 in the past month. He has both German and English heritage through his parents (plus Nigerian), and just as he forsook Chelsea’s youth system to return to his native Germany to join Bayern Munich’s youth academy a few years back, he just announced he would represent Germany, not England at the senior international level after turning 18. But most importantly, his existence means there will be a notable surge in Germans named Jamal in the coming years. Looking forward to what that sub-genre of Germans named Jamal adds to Earthly culture. [RAVEN]

#21: DOUGLAS COSTA – Brazilian winger that has the weirdest club path thing where he was once contracted to Bayern, but got loaned to Juventus when he had no role on the club. That earned a permanent move to Juventus, where he featured for a couple seasons, but now no longer has a role on the club, so has been loaned back to Bayern, somehow. He also played for half a decade for Shakhtar Donetsk, and I would like to read long-winded essays about black Brazilians playing in the Ukraine. Send them to me if you got them. [RAVEN]

#22: BOUNA SARR – French winger and back who runs the whole right edge of the pitch, who made his first move outside his native France this past October, joining Bayern Munich on a four-year deal. His parents are Senegalese and Guinean, and he got the call from the Guinean national team in 2014, but passed on the offer. He also got feelers from the Senegalese team in 2018, and turned that one down as well. I guess he just doesn’t want to play international football, because even if cracking a top squad like Bayern Munich, he’s 29 now, and not exactly gaining ground on the crowded French national team stage. [RAVEN]

#23: ERIC MAXIM CHOUPO-MOTING – What do we make of the career path of a player like Choupo-Moting? Coming through the youth system in his native Hamburg to not-quite crack the first team, EMCM left for Mainz to play Bundesliga football of a lesser stripe. His work rate, speed, and versatility across the front line brought him goals and acclaim, leading Schalke to knock on his door. EMCM holds his stats but Schalke falter and our man seeks the big overseas move years of thankless effort deserve. He gets it: the bright lights of Stoke beckon! But Stoke are relegated in a season where no player covered themselves in glory. EMCM is dropped into the Championship and doesn’t even come off the bench. A golden lifeline is handed as ex-boss Thomas Tuchel gives him a call from his PSG hotseat to reward those years of toil at the Mainz coalface. EMCM lands on his feet and pockets two Ligue 1 winners medal from a fairly fringe position in the PSG squad. In the COVID panic he wound down his PSG contract and jumped to Bayern where he has been even less of a force, scoring against chumps in cup games already won. We can say ‘here is a guy who thinks he has what it takes at the top level and repeatedly tries to crack it’. Or we can say ‘here is a guy who is only really loved at those mid-table/relegation candidates and is absolutely stealing a living warming the great benches of Europe’. Neither is unfair. It’s certainly the career path of a guy who won’t live up to his admittedly excellent name. Sad. [Dan]

#24: MARC ROCA – Spanish midfielder who is one of those rare players to have played for the Catalan autonomous national team, but not the Spanish national team yet. Catalonia has always maintained an autonomous team that has played well over 200 matches over the past century, including with more regularity since 1997, as the Catalan independence movement has grown. Footballing genius Johan Cruyff even managed Catalonia for a while a decade back. All Catalonia players are legally residents of Spain, so play for the Spanish team when good enough. Thus far, Roca’s most prominent shots at the Spanish national team were when he was part of their U-21 squad for the 2019 UEFA European Championships, at the age of 22. I do not know what sort of corrupt lawyerball was being played, but regardless of Spain, Catalonia, Europe, or Americas, 22 is not under 21. At least I don’t think so. Are metric years different? [RAVEN]

#25: JOSHUA ZIRKZEE – Bayern stays stocked up on young talent – so much so that Zirkzee, only 19, is somewhat expendable. There was a transfer battle between England’s Everton and Italy’s Parma to secure a loan for the young Zirkzee this past January. Parma won, and secured an option to seal a permanent deal at the end of the loan, too. So Zirkzee is playing in Serie A, for a potentially relegated club, thus likely to come back to Bayern – because a relegated club is not going to choose the option to buy – and get shuttled off again. Although the other side of that, after a promising start with Bayern as potential striker for the future, that stalled out more recently, Zirkzee could find his goal-poaching form again, help Parma survive this season, and find a place with Bayern even again. But as a Dutch player, his absolute worst case scenario is pretty good: he ends up back in Eredivisie with Ajax or PSV Eindhoven, and not only plays continental football to a minimal extent, but schools the young international talents passing through about the pitfalls of top level European club football. So many options compared to being the token-American player to manufacture US interest. [RAVEN] 

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