The Breno Ultimatum

Life could be so nice for Breno these days. A week ago he got the chance to practice with the Selecao for the first time (I’d love to use the word ‘play’ instead of ‘practice’ but he unfortunately didn’t play a second against France) and surely not the last time. But he’s not happy at all because of the very short time he has spent on the fields of the Bundesliga lately. Is the center back about to leave the FCB?

Breno started his professional career in Sao Paolo in 2007 and impressed every Brazilian immediately. In his first season he was voted best center back in the league. Of course it didn’t take long until some of the best and wealthiest clubs in the world contacted SPFC (Sao Paolo Football Club). Everybody wanted this talented defender to be a part of his team for years to come. Real Madrid was close to winning the battle but they doubted his age so Breno, understandably feeling offended, rejected the offer. A bit later, Bayern announced the signing of the young Brazilian and paid SPFC €12m.

Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said this is a signing for the future and that became apparent when Breno played only two matches (1 league, 1 UEFA-Cup) in his first season in Munich. Over the next 18 months he only played another 8 times so Bayern made the right decision and loaned him to Nuremberg, a team that was fighting against relegation.

In Franconia he played often and well but then tore his ligament. Despite his absence, Nuremberg managed to closely avoid relegation. For Breno himself the injury meant that he’ll return to Munich not being able to participate immediately. He wasn’t an option until November but then finally became a part of Bayern’s starting lineup regularly.

Now, four months later, he’s back on the bench. A very solid performance against Wolfsburg wasn’t enough in Louis van Gaal’s eyes. But why?

His replacement, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is not a real center back, he’s a midfielder and has often mentioned that he prefers that position over the one in the back four. During the winter break, Breno and Holger Badstuber were predestined as the center back pairing for now and the future. When he was injured, van Gaal praised his passing abilities. Now he criticizes exactly that.

When we look at the stats (provided by OptaFranz, follow him at Twitter: @OptaFranz ), we see that Tymoshchuk’s passes (88% pass completion) indeed seem to be more accurate than Breno’s (82%). However, Danijel Pranjic’s pass completion is the same (82%). Not only that, the Croatian wins less duels (50%) than Tymoshchuk (57%) and Breno (68%).

Why do you let the player with the worst stats play when there seems to be a much better solution possible? Why not let Tymoshchuk play where he wants to play (central midfield) and use Breno as the second center back? As shown above, he wins more duels than the Ukrainian and that’s always a plus for defenders. Also, Tymoshchuk’s passes are more accurate than Pranjic’s and that’s what you want from a central midfielder.

Granted, stats never tell the whole story, but other explanations don’t make a lot of sense either. Some people say that Pranjic can move to left-back temporarily when Gustavo moves forward but let’s be honest, that doesn’t happen often enough to be relevant. Gustavo is not an attacking full-back, you could even argue whether he’s a full-back at all. Philipp Lahm on the other hand moves forward a lot and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is perfectly capable of playing right-back for a minute or two, it wouldn’t be the first time for him to do so.

(Don’t get me wrong here, I like Pranjic a lot, I just think he shouldn’t be more than the first-choice backup right now)

I’m sure Breno thinks the same way at the moment and that’s why he publicly said he’s unhappy with the current situation and doesn’t think he has any real chance to play (roughly translated: “Let me play more often or I’ll be gone soon”). If the coach prefers a midfielder over him now, why should he ever expect to play regularly for this club? He’s a talented player, dozens of clubs wanted him a few years ago, he’s now in Brazil’s extended national squad, why should he spend more years in Munich waiting for a real chance? Unless he starts to play more regularly, he’ll leave sooner or later. Do we want another Mats Hummels story where a talent joins another club, becomes a part of the starting lineup and delevops into one of the league’s best defenders? I don’t think so.

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