Bayern Munich pin hopes on ‘messiah’ Kane as Bundesliga returns

Bayern Munich's new signing Harry KaneReuters

Bayern Munich are pinning their hopes on England captain Harry Kane to return a stuttering team fresh off their worst season in a decade to the European elite.

Bayern’s 11th straight Bundesliga title failed to paper over the cracks of a side which is yet to click since the arrival of coach Thomas Tuchel in March.

Last week’s signing of Kane for €100 million ($109 million) from English Premier League side Tottenham broke the German club’s transfer record.

The deal also broke a long-standing promise from former boss Uli Hoeness that the club “wouldn’t buy a player for 100 million even if I had the money”.

But whether the 30-year-old Kane, who arrives after a successful but trophyless career in north London, can truly be Bayern’s saviour remains to be seen.

‘A bad start’

Bayern limped to the title in 2022-23, winning on goal difference after Borussia Dortmund’s last-day collapse to draw at home with mid-table Mainz.

Bayern’s points total of 71 was their lowest since 2010-11, when the side finished third under caretaker coach Andries Jonker.

Bayern Munich's English forward Harry Kane reacts during the German Super Cup final between Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig in Munich on 12 August 2023

The shock firing of Julian Nagelsmann for Tuchel in March failed to have the desired effect, with Bayern knocked out of the German Cup and the Champions League soon afterwards.

Former Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic repeatedly dismissed criticisms of the team under Tuchel, saying the side needed time to get used to the Champions League-winning coach’s methods.

In late May, just days before he himself was sacked, Salihamidzic told Sky, “Thomas Tuchel just needs the pre-season with the team, then everything will be better.”

Early evidence however suggests Bayern have not solved their problems from last season.

On Saturday, Bayern were beaten 3-0 at home by RB Leipzig in the German Super Cup with Kane making little impact, making his debut as a late substitute.

Just like last season, Bayern lacked fluency and coherence, with a “sorry” Tuchel saying Kane “probably thinks we haven’t been training here for weeks”.

Tuchel blamed his side’s “bad start” to the match and said he saw a “huge discrepancy” between what his team produced at training and what they showed on the pitch.

Tuchel said he was “frightened”, telling reporters he has “no solution” to the side’s problems.

Tuchel has publicly called for a new defensive midfielder, while the ongoing saga surrounding injured captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was made worse by the sale of replacement Yann Sommer to Inter Milan.

‘Walking on water’

Even for the richest club in Germany, the outlay on Kane was lavish and the Bayern brass will want an immediate return.

Tuchel said as much after Saturday’s result, saying Kane would “soon help the team and lift us up to a new level”.

“We have to get to know him but he will play every game.”

Bayern Munich's Harry Kane

Kane embraced the expectations on him at his unveiling on Sunday, saying, “I’m here to win the Champions League with this team.”

The sky-high expectations on Kane come after the failed signing of Sadio Mane.

Mane, another arrival from the Premier League unveiled to great fanfare, lasted just one disappointing year in Munich, having failed to step into the shoes of the departed Robert Lewandowski.

Lewandowski scored 344 goals in 375 Bayern appearances during his eight years at the club, making the Pole an almost impossible act to follow.

As a true centre-forward, Kane is more likely than the Senegalese to match Lewandowski’s output, but whether he alone can return Bayern to the European elite is a task questioned by the club’s rivals.

Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl said after his side’s dominant performance on Saturday that the hype around Kane made the England captain seem “like the messiah, walking on water”.

Kane’s first true test will come on Friday, when he will start up front as Bayern take on Werder Bremen in the season opener.

If Kane takes too long to resemble the second coming of Lewandowski, the England captain will soon realise how quickly patience wears thin in Bavaria.