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Bayern Munich is ready to jump in the Hugo Ekitike sweepstakes should they sell Robert Lewandowski to Barcelona this summer. Internally, the decision-makers at the Rekordmeister rate the 20-year-old French striker very highly; however, there are some obstacles before a deal even be considered.
The primary question is the future of star striker Lewandowski. The Polish forward has made it quite clear that he wants to leave Bayern this summer and join Barcelona. Publicly, Bayern bosses Hasan Salihamidzic and Oliver Kahn have been very outspoken when it comes to not selling Lewandowski.
Internally, the situation is a bit different. With Lewandowski making strong comments about wanting to leave, many players in the squad have voiced their discontent and doubts about whether the 33-year-old can be re-integrated into the squad.
The bosses at the Säbener Straße know this, and a hardline is very much a negotiation tactic. Furthermore, they want to press Barca hard to accept a deal. The Catalans will have to pay at least €50 million, and because of Barcelona’s financial situation, Bayern is unlikely to accept any structured or bonus-heavy deals—in fact, the German champions want the lump sum in one go.
Should the Lewandowski deal go ahead, Bayern will be looking for a successor. The market for number 9s is, however, problematic. One candidate was Darwin Núñez, who recently joined Liverpool. Another is Sébastien Haller, the Ivorian national team player who has already agreed on terms with Bayern’s competitor Borussia Dortmund and will be presented in July. Finally, Sasa Kalajdzic is considered a backup rather than a full-time starter.
In the short-term, newly signed Sadio Mané is expected to fill that void. The problem with the Senegalese forward is that he is not a traditional number 9 and, despite being a prolific forward, will not be able to match Lewandowski’s goalscoring output right away.
Short-term, Bayern head coach Julian Nagelsmann seems to be happy to start a flexible attack with three natural wingers—Mané, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, and Leroy Sané. Long-term, there cannot be a future with a traditional number 9.
That is where Ekitie comes in. The 20-year-old French striker has already agreed on personal terms with Newcastle, and the Premier
Signing Ekitike, in fact, is seen as the sort of visionary transfer that could aid the club for the coming decade. There are, however, some doubts.
The $30.8 million rated forward would require an investment above his market value of at least $40 million. Then there is his recent injury history—Ekitike missed ten Ligue 1 games with a hamstring injury this season.
When he played, he was a force. The forward managed ten goals and four assists in just 24 Ligue 1 games this season—scoring every 128 minutes. Ekitike’s 0.64 goals per 90 minutes are, of course, a significant drop from Lewandowski’s 1 goal per 90 minutes scored for Bayern last season—but the Frenchman is 20.
Ekitike, in fact, had a higher goal conversion (34.375 vs. 26.027) than Lewandowski and managed to have a higher percentage of shots on target (62.5% to 54.34%). Ekitike is also better in one-v-one situations both in the number of dribbles attempted but also in the number of dribbles completed successfully.
Naturally, those numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt. Ekitike is 20 and has only just completed his first-ever professional season. Furthermore, Lewandowski—together with Karim Benzema—is the best number 9 on the planet. Still, the numbers show that Ekitike has enormous upside and underline why the Rekordmeister is seriously considering him as a potential signing this summer.
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