Failed Palhinha Deal Rounds Up Deadline Day Disaster For Bayern

Perhaps other than Dortmund’s 2-2 draw against Heidenheim, it was a transfer deadline day to forget for Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga champions lost out on signing a replacement for Benjamin Pavard and failed to get a deal for defensive midfielder João Palhinha across the line.

Everything seemed to go Bayern’s way in the week leading up to the window closing on Friday. The Munich-based club sold defender Pavard for €30 million ($33 million) plus €2 million ($2.2 million) in add-ons to Inter Milan. That deal was supposed to cover about half of what was supposed to become a new defensive midfielder or no. 6.

Then, from Wednesday to Thursday, Bayern Munich edged close to an agreement with Liverpool to sell unhappy midfielder Ryan Gravenberch. Gravenberch was bought in a deal worth around $20 million from Ajax last summer. That deal also included a 7.5% sell-on.

Bayern head coach Thomas Tuchel explained on Friday why Gravenberch wasn’t a fit in Munich. “He’s a box-to-box midfielder for me, an attacking player,” Tuchel said. “The main problem for him is that we don’t really play with a no.8 in our 4-2-3-1 system. And we’re spoilt for choice up front, with really experienced players. Ryan is a very nice, hard-working, committed player. He wasn’t happy with his situation. He sees the chance in Liverpool to fight for a place at no.8 in a 4-3-3.”

Instead of a no.8, Tuchel wanted a hard-working defender. A player of the same mold as Bayern legend Javi Martínez. The Spaniard was the fundamental piece in a Bayern side that won the treble in 2013 and was still in the squad when the club won a second treble in 2020.

“I’ve been asked about this five times now,” Tuchel said after Bayern’s 3-1 win over Augsburg last weekend when asked about wanting another no.6. “I said we only have three central midfielders who can play the holding midfield role, the moment someone gets injured, we’ll only have two. And we play with a double pivot. So, it’s all a matter of numbers.”

With Pavard sold and Gravenberch on his way to Liverpool for €40 million ($44 million) plus €5 million ($5.5 million) in add-ons, the table was set for Tuchel to receive the player he wanted in the form of Fulham midfielder João Palhinha. Bayern Munich approached the Premier League club on Wednesday and struck a deal worth €65 million ($70 million) on Thursday night.

Palhinha then traveled to Munich to complete his paperwork and the medical. All of that was done on Friday. All that was missing was for Fulham to sign a replacement.

Fulham, however, never seemed to be fully committed to find that player. With the minutes ticking down, Palhinha was spotted at the Bayern training ground with his new jersey in hand. The photoshoot and presentation were all scheduled to get underway. But then at 18:00 German time the window closed for Bundesliga clubs to sign players and Fulham still hadn’t announced a replacement.

Just a few minutes after 18:00 German time it was official. Palhinha wasn’t going to join Bayern. But it wasn’t the only deal to collapse for Bayern Munich on Friday. The Bundesliga giants also failed to sign a replacement for Pavard. Talks with Southampton for Armel Bella-Kotchap and Chelsea for Trevoh Chalobah had been ongoing for days. But Bayern couldn’t agree on a suitable transfer structure with either club.

Ultimately, deals for both defenders failed because Bayern wanted to reserve their transfer resources for Palhinha. Hence, the club didn’t want to initially pay a transfer fee and sign either player on loan. But Southampton and Chelsea were uninterested in such a structure and, as a result, Bayern could not sign a no.6 or a new defender.

Overall, it was a disappointing outcome for Bayern’s transfer committee, which also included head coach Tuchel. New sporting director Christoph Freund had his first day on the job today. Freund will now take command of the upcoming window in January in which the club will hope for more structure in the decision-making process and hopefully avoid a repeat of a historic deadline day disaster.

Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing Podcast and the Area Manager USA at Transfermarkt. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and several other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth and on Threads: @manuveth

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