Recent news of Bayern Munich’s signing of Borussia Dortmund’s beloved Mario Götze was yet another reminder of the Bavarians’ propensity to spend heavily, something that has been accentuated after the arrival of Matthias Sammer. Rewinding back to the summer of 2012 and Bayern’s quintet of big name signings, Javi Martinez is probably the first name on most people’s lips.
Costing a staggering 40 m Euros, the midfielder from the north of Spain took a fair while to settle into Jupp Heycnkes’ system, but after having done so has added some much needed spine to what seemed like a single-handedly run midfield. His defensive solidarity coupled with great ability while going forward has given Heynckes the perfect complement to Bastian Schweinsteiger.
The arrival of Mario Madzukic has also done a great deal for the side as they don’t possess the highly one dimensional attack of the last couple of years anymore. The Croat has fit in brilliantly and seems just the addition future coach Pep Guardiola needed in attack. Not working as a regular striker, Mandzukic floats and switches positions with consummate ease, as if he has been with the current Bayern attacking unit for eternity. The fluidity in attack post his arrival has been nothing short of wondrous.
Both Mandzukic and Martinez have been superb signings, but there is minimal doubt regarding who was Bayern’s single best signing last summer. Arriving for a paltry sum of just under 5 m Euros from Borussia Mönchengladbach, the afro sporting Brazilian center back, Dante, has been Bayern’s most important arrival. The first reason for him pipping the others to this title is the transfer fee involved in bringing him to the Allianz Arena. Martinez’s fee was absolutely mind boggling, bordering on ridiculous, while Mandzukic didn’t come too cheap either at 13 m Euros. Brought in for such a meager sum in comparison to the aforementioned duo makes Dante all the more special a signing.
At such a low cost, some may have opined that the Brazilian may not be able to make the jump from a lower club like Gladbach to Germany’s biggest club. But he has done so effortlessly. Bayern’s defensive record, not necessarily their players, was by no means shoddy prior to the arrival of Dante. They boasted the best defensive record in the Bundesliga in the 2011-12 campaign, conceding just 22 goals in 34 games. Their numbers in Europe weren’t half bad either, 11 goals conceded in 13 games.
But looking at Bayern’s defense individually shows a unit that needed strengthening if the Bavarians were to challenge for European laurels. Depth was clearly lacking while they seemed to be searching for that perfect rock in the center of defense. Philipp Lahm may have provided the much needed leadership that a defensive unit requires but as has been seen over the years, a commanding center back, one who can hold the ship steady and seal all pores, is a must if a side’s defense is to go from decent to great.
And this is exactly what the former Juventude star has brought to their defense. Unlike Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng, Dante has been the epitome of consistency. An injury suffered by Badstuber in December was seen as worrisome by the Bayern camp but the Brazilian has taken things by the scruff and led the defensive unit remarkably well. With his defensive partner changing fairly often, between Boateng and Daniel van Buyten, Dante hasn’t seemed in the least bit troubled.
Forming the heart of Bayern’s defense, Dante has been ever present for the league champions having played in 42 of their 47 games this season. In fact Dante’s first rest in the Bundesliga came only on matchday 25 against Fortuna Düsseldorf, the defender having played ninety minutes in every league game until then. Dante has been indispensable to Heynckes’ Champions League lineup, having featured in every game that Bayern have played so far.
Returning to the numbers with regards to Bayern’s defense, Dante has only bettered them and bettered them by a great deal. Die Roten have conceded just 14 goals in 30 league games and 10 goals in 11 European outings. Bayern maintained a more than respectable total of 23 clean sheets last season but have already gotten to 22 this season with Dante in the center of defense. Four games remain in the league thus beating last season’s number seems inevitable.
In their sensational 4-0 thrashing of Barcelona, Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben may have stolen the headlines with their performances, but one just cannot discredit the influence that Dante had on the game. To start off, the burly defender assisted Bayern’s first goal with a beautiful header to Müller, this being a testament to his incredible aerial prowess. His next shining moment came when a tantalizing cross from Pedro was destined to meet the foot of Lionel Messi and give Barcelona the equalizer at 1-1. But thankfully for Bayern, Dante was there, diving at full stretch to ensure that the four time Ballon d’Or winner did not get his ninth goal in the Champions League.
Unlike previous warriors who have attempted to nullify stop Lionel Messi, Dante didn’t have to resort to last ditch challenges and tactical fouls. There was one particular challenge on Messi where Dante effortlessly robbed the Argentinian off the ball, almost as easily as stealing candy from a baby. Arguments regarding Messi’s fitness might be raised but wasn’t he supposed to have been injured even against Thiago Silva and his PSG?
This performance helped increase the appreciation that Dante has been receiving. By destroying the world’s best player without breaking a sweat, Dante surely has to be regarded amongst the top three defenders in the world at the moment. Although he may not possess the ball playing ability of Silva or Mats Hummels, Dante makes up for it defensively and as a potent threat via set pieces.
Pep Guardiola is indeed inheriting a side of immense quality, especially attacking quality, but wasn’t that the case when he took over at Barcelona too? In Dante, Guardiola is now blessed with one of the best, if not the best, center backs in the world. The abilities that Dante brings to the playing field are those that Guardiola has searched for but never truly found in his endeavors in Spain. An overstatement maybe, but one night at the Allianz Arena has taken Dante from one amongst the best, to the best.