Back in April reports surfaced that Bayer 04 Leverkusen prodigy Julian Brandt had agreed terms with Bayern Munich. It was believed the, then 20-year-old would become yet another young German talent to turn up at the Allianz Arena.
Carlo Ancelotti had already signed Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy on pre-contract’s from last season’s surprise package Hoffenheim and was eyeing up the Leverkusen playmaker.
Bayern have a natural allure for the Bundesliga’s brightest stars. Their ruthless streak extends beyond domestic dominance to the turnover of talent that they can recruit and dispose of at their leisure.
There have been mistakes made in the past which has seen the likes of Wolfsburg, Stuttgart and Jürgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund usurp them at the summit but since their record-breaking treble in 2013, they have monopolised the upper echelons of the league.
Summer 2017 alone has seen the permanent signing of Serge Gnabry, impressive at Werder Bremen last season as well as Rudy and Süle as Bayern cherry pick the best of the Bundesliga. This has been preceded by the arrivals of Mario Mandzukic, Mats Hummels, Robert Lewandowski in recent years and before that Mario Götze who was cherry picked from their title rivals.
Brandt was meant to be the next one through the conveyor belt but talk of an agreement was premature as the father claimed it was ‘a hoax’ and that his son, now a highly sought after commodity was still up for grabs.
He explained to Kicker: “Julian was never in a situation to have to make a decision. Accordingly, he hasn’t decided.” Then added, “There isn’t any trend nor any agreement. Julian will speak to Leverkusen about the season and his future in the summer.”
German newspaper Die Welt who have called the 21-year-old the ‘next Toni Kroos’ also has admirers glances from England, with Liverpool most closely monitoring his progress. He would definitely fit into the Klopp’s high press and pacy forward line.
He could even prove to be a long-term successor to the seemingly departing Philippe Coutinho, who surely will make the move to Catalonia next summer, thanks to Barcelona’s continued interest.
Nonetheless, Brandt’s path has cleared at Leverkusen to become the main man, after they lost Hakan Calhanoglu to AC Milan and star striker Javier Hernandez in the summer. However, in spite of his flexibility and creative influence he still found a way to start on the bench for the opening day of the 2017-18 season, against of all clubs, Bayern, under new coach Heiko Herrlich.
Despite coming off the back of a Confederations Cup victory with Germany, the 21-year-old only managed 88 minutes in three matches. It is clear one area of his game he must improve is his goal-scoring. For a player that operates in the final third of the pitch his scoring output needs to be reaching double figures, something he has failed to do so far in his three seasons in the Leverkusen first team, although with three goals in Die Werkself’s first ten league games, he’s on pace to score ten league goals this season. Brandt also has three assists so far in league play, along with a goal and an assist in Leverkusen’s two Pokal wins.
This could be a reason why he was quick to quash any chance of leaving the Bay Arena this summer: “My stomach as well as my mind tell me that the right moment for a transfer is not there yet,” he clarified to Kicker.
Brandt feels he owes at least one more year to the club following a tumultuous time last campaign that culminated with no European football and a disappointing 12th placed finish: “I am still young, but also in my fourth year—I feel responsible for the bad season. I therefore see it as my duty to bring the club back where it belongs and for me that means among the top six.” Die Werkself currently occupy the 8th spot in the table (only three points out of fourth) after only winning once in their first five league matches,, but having been moving upwards, including consecutive comeback wins in their last two matches with Brandt playing a key role in those wins over Borussia Mönchengladbach and 1.FC Köln.
Shrewdly, the young native of Bremen observes that “[b]ut a transfer to a bigger club is also taking a risk one year ahead of the World Cup. You have to settle in there and possibly you don’t get so much game time.” Brandt concluded: “Of course there are players who say a year without European football ahead of the World Cup is a reason to change clubs.”
However, one key factor in the eventual departure of the Bremen born attacker is his €20 million release clause that becomes active next summer. This is a bargain in the modern game for a player of Brandt’s unerring potential that could mean that, despite Bayern’s stranglehold in Germany, that they will face stiff competition from Europe’s elite.
No-one would begrudge him of electing to join the rekordmeisters. However, he only has to look at the likes of Mario Götze in 2014, arriving in Munich as the one of the most bewitching talents following his World Cup success or even the signing of Xherdan Shaqiri to think he’d be better served looking further afield to continue his progression.
One more year rubber-stamping his burgeoning reputation on the European stage could be the difference between joining the long list of players that have fallen by the wayside of Bayern’s unforgiving system, or carving his own path to fully announce himself as Germany’s next big superstar and perhaps even stay at a rejuvenated Leverkusen, as a recent interview implies. With Leverkusen’s attack rejeuvenated as the trio of Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland and Brandt have combined for 11 goals and seem to grow in effectiveness every week, leading to Die Werkself’s five match unbeaten streak, things are looking on the way up again for Brandt.
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