Lewandowski, Higuain & Bayern Munich's game of striker poker

The German club have been unusually public in expressing their admiration of the Napoli star but it is difficult to imagine his arrival at the Allianz Arena while ‘Lewy’ is around


Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has been around long enough to know how things work. If he says Gonzalo Higuain is a “great player, who Bayern Munich like” there is a clear calculation behind it. It is the beginning of a game of striker poker at the Allianz Arena, and Robert Lewandowski is the table’s chip leader.

The public nature of Rummenigge’s announcement may have come as a surprise but that Higuain’s name appears on management notepads in Munich is logical.

The Argentine belongs alongside Lewandowski on the list of the world’s top strikers. In six years at Real Madrid, he scored 107 goals in 190 league games. Since joining Napoli in 2013, he has netted 53 goals in 88 Serie A matches and with 18 in 19 this season he is comfortably the top scorer in Italy, seven goals ahead of his closest challenger.

“Of all the foreign players [in Italy] I would like to have Higuain the most,” incoming Bayern coach Carlo Ancelotti told La Gazzetta dello Sport in December. “Because of his goals Napoli is top of the table.”

Could Higuain become Bayern’s first marquee signing of the post-Pep Guardiola era?

Goal understands there is no chance of a transfer this winter. Higuain has the chance to lead Napoli to a first Scudetto since 1990 and he will not pass it up. He is an icon in Naples and even spoken of as the true successor of his compatriot Diego Maradona, who was the star of that last title-winning side.

In the summer, however, the cards could be reshuffled. Last year, ahead of the Copa America, Argentina coach Gerardo Martino suggested Higuain should move to a better team that would create more chances for him, with Arsenal regularly linked with a potential move.

Bayern would also fit the bill in that respect. But even if Higuain feels the same way, it will be difficult and, above all, expensive to persuade Napoli to part with a player who is under contract until 2018.

The 28-year-old has a release clause of €94.7 million (£71.3m), Napoli confirmed last summer. “My friend [Napoli president] Aurelio De Laurentiis does not want to sell him,” Rummenigge admitted. According to Goal’s sources there has been no contact between the two clubs or between Bayern and Higuain.

Given the lack of interest from (and transfer bans in) Spain, Napoli are only vulnerable to big offers from the Premier League or from Bayern. Such a bid is only likely to come from the latter if Lewandowski leaves Germany.

The public love letters to Higuain could, in that respect, be no more than a tactical move by the Bayern board to position themselves for any contract renegotiations with Lewandowski with a clear plan B in their sights.

Bayern declined to comment on the subject and the Poland star’s advisor Maik Barthel would only note that “if the amount (€94.7m) which is talked about in regard to Higuain is correct, we can estimate the actual value of Lewandowski even better.”

Lewandowski’s current contract runs until 2019. As good as Higuain has been this season, Bayern’s man remains the better player and finished fourth in the voting for the Ballon d’Or this month. For the German champions to allow him to leave and spend a near-world record fee on his replacement currently seems a fanciful proposition and Lewandowski is happy in Munich.

Bayern will remain wary, however, that according to Goal’s information Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and both Manchester clubs would love to add a striker of Lewandowski’s calibre. Madrid and Manchester United have both courted him ever since his emergence at Borussia Dortmund.

One thing that is for certain is that the only weak point of an otherwise loaded Bayern squad is their depth in attack. Beyond Lewandowski and Thomas Muller there are few alternatives, and that duo usually start together. “That’s something we are aware of,” Matthias Sammer told Goal in December. “I can assure you we have that issue in mind.”

It would make more sense, though, for Bayern to identify a young, promising forward with no immediate claim for first-team football who can develop in the shadow of Lewandowski and Muller into a potential successor. For now, they already have their complete centre forward at Sabener Strasse.

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