The scenes that stuck with Bayern Munich’s convincing 4-0 win in the round of 16 in Mainz almost all had something to do with him: Joao Cancelo, the outstanding newcomer to Munich.
There was squad planner Marco Neppe, who ran behind Benjamin Pavard in the dressing room of the Mainz Arena, slapped the frustrated Frenchman on the back, who was suddenly in demand again, and called out to him several times: “Top performance, top performance!”
There was Joshua Kimmich, who was in a better mood than he had been after a football game in weeks and said with relief: “If you win, you feel better, you can laugh again.”
There was coach Julian Nagelsmann, who was the first player to hug Cancelo after the final whistle and was as happy as a child with Christmas presents.
And Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka, who walked together towards the stadium exit at 11:12 p.m., were understandably not quite as enthusiastic as many of their teammates because the two internationals had been on the bench at the beginning of the game.
A single game was enough to show the Cancelo effect at Bayern – both positive and negative. But on this evening in the wet and cold Mewa Arena, the encouraging insights prevailed. First of all: With Cancelo, the 28-year-old Portuguese, who is on loan from Manchester City until the end of the season, the Munich team has apparently landed a transfer coup.
“He did it very well and implemented what we wanted. He has extremely good creativity,” said Nagelsmann about the Cancelo premiere. The class was already evident in the 18th minute when the new Bayern star crossed precisely into the penalty area and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting completed the volley to make it 1-0.
“It was a good cross but the way Choupo-Moting completed it was even better,” Cancelo commented modestly. “I am very happy to have contributed to this victory.” He did – with clever passes and remarkable vision.
“That was a pretty good performance for his first game in a new team,” said Thomas Müller. And President Herbert Hainer added: “You could see what a great footballer he is. He’ll be really good for us.”
Also tactical. Nagelsmann chose a system with a back three in defense, in front of them Cancelo (right) and Kingsley Coman (left) played on the wings. With Kimmich, Jamal Musiala, Leroy Sané and Müller in the center, the Munich team was very difficult to calculate.
Müller in particular benefited from the change, he kept finding gaps on the defensive. “For me, that’s always a model for the future,” said Nagelsmann: “In my first season at Bayern, we also played with a back three during a very successful phase.”
Nice side effect: Pavard, who actually wants to change in the summer, has a perspective again as the right part of the chain of three. That should lift his spirits. Gnabry and Goretzka, on the other hand, will find it difficult to return to the starting XI for the time being…
The question is: does Nagelsmann’s system also work against stronger opponents than Mainz that evening? CEO Oliver Kahn tweeted: “The team showed their true colors for the first time this year against Mainz. Congratulations on reaching the quarter-finals! But we now have to bring this attitude to the pitch directly against Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.”
The next test follows on Sunday – with Cancelo.
This article was written by Maximilian Koch
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The original of this article “Everything new at Bayern! Who benefits from the winter transfer – and who doesn’t” comes from the evening newspaper.