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Why Bayern Munich Should Re-Sign Daniel Van Buyten Following Badstuber Injury

Just over a month ago, Daniel Van Buyten announced his retirement from football. The 36-year-old center back hung up his boots after 17 seasons as a professional, representing Charleroi, Standard Liege, Marseille, Manchester City and Hamburg before spending nearly a decade at Bayern Munich.

Van Buyten’s career in Munich had its ups and downs, but the Belgian’s professionalism and commitment to the club was consistent.

Even as his body showed signs of advancing years, he adapted his game and managed to perform at a high level. He played in just under half of Bayern’s games in their treble-winning 2012-13 campaign, one in which they shattered record after record, many of which were for their air-tight defense.

Not bad for a player who ended that season aged 35.

Even in June, Van Buyten showed he was still capable of performing at a high level. The veteran was an ever-present figure in a Belgium defense that conceded just two goals in 390 minutes at the World Cup in Brazil.

Van Buyten retired on a relatively high note. But Bayern need him again and ought to try to convince him to come back to help the club for at least a few months.

As it stands, the Munich giants have just three fit center backs: Jerome Boateng, Dante and new signing Mehdi Benatia. Javi Martinez is out for the majority of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament; Holger Badstuber won’t be back until after the winter break after sustaining a muscular tear over the weekend.

Unlike previous seasons, when Luiz Gustavo and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk were used as coverage in defense, none of Bayern’s holding midfielders has any experience at center-back. And in the reserves and youth teams there simply are no talents on the rise in the center of defense.

So short of depth in central defense are Bayern that in recent weeks they’ve used the 1.70 meter Philipp Lahm and the taller-but-still-narrow-framed David Alaba in the role, with Pep Guardiola insisting on a three-man defense.

The results have been mixed. On the regular, Bayern have fared just fine. But against elite opposition, the kind that will truly test their defense, there could be problems. Such weak points were exposed in the DFL-Superpokal, in which Alaba’s weak challenge set up Dortmund’s opener, and the Ruhr side doubled their advantage with an aerial attack.

Bayern proved last season to be weak from set plays and will surely do so once more if they carry on with a lineup lacking in height.

At 1.97 meters, Van Buyten offers aerial supremacy. And he certainly is not the type to be shy to go into a challenge.

In an open letter published in Belgian daily La Derniere Heure, the veteran announced his retirement (via the Daily Mail), turning down an offer from Anderlecht, citing that his body could no longer handle the burden required of him.

There are several reasons to believe that he might respond differently to an offer from Bayern.

Firstly, Van Buyten’s ties to Bayern are much closer than those to Anderlecht. He spent eight seasons in Munich and represented the club in 250 games. A native of Chimay, the defender never represented Anderlecht or any Brussels-based club.

Secondly, the demands on his body would be limited. Van Buyten would have to train but, barring long-term suspension or injury to any of the other Bayern center backs, would only need to play in a handful of games. High-profile games, perhaps, but not at a level he is not used to.

Perhaps most importantly, Bayern have money and a name that can draw in players like few others. Anderlecht could never hope to pay Van Buyten anywhere near the €5 million he earned, per SportBild (article in German), at Bayern last season. And although the biggest club in Belgium, their allure cannot compare to that of the five-time European champions.

The other option for Bayern would be to hope that Boateng, Dante and Benatia all remain fit and eligible to play for the rest of the fall.

Sooner or later, though, one is going to be unavailable. Boateng has been sent off four times and suspended on six occasions in the last three seasons. Benatia was booked 10 times last season alone. And although generally fit and clean in his defending, Dante is at nearly 31 years of age entering a stage in his career in which he will need to be very careful to avoid injuries.

As Dortmund can attest, having brought Manuel Friedrich out of retirement just under a year ago, it’s important for Bayern to move fast. The ex-Leverkusen man was BVB’s only option and predictably had a nightmare of a performance in a 3-0 loss to Bayern that came just days after he returned to training.

Given the difference in stage in the season and factoring in the World Cup, however, Van Buyten would have a three-month advantage on Friedrich in terms of his time spent removed from the professional game; it’s been less than three months since he last played.

Bayern have had some woeful luck with injuries in recent months and, at least in defense, their situation can only get worse before it improves in January.

The transfer window may be closed for now, but there is hope and an opportunity for the club to take matters into their own hands. Having Van Buyten on the books at least until the winter break would be a relatively inexpensive and certainly worthwhile insurance policy.