Despite the difference in quality to Robert Lewandowski, the Cameroon striker offers more to the Bavarians than the green Joshua Zirkzee
After Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting left Paris Saint-Germain for Bayern Munich, less than two months after losing to Hansi Flick’s Bavarians in the Champions League final, there was a temptation to whisper “if you can’t beat them join them”.
The Cameroon forward had come off the bench for the Parisians on August 23 when FC Hollywood pipped them to the continent’s most sought-after prize 1-0 in Lisbon. It was a huge vote of confidence from Thomas Tuchel to opt for the Indomitable Lion ahead of Mauro Icardi, who’d scored 12 times in 14 Ligue 1 starts before the French top flight was curtailed.
In truth, maybe Tuchel’s choice was a consequence of how events in Portugal had played out in the previous rounds.
Having seen Choupo-Moting come up trumps in their late, late fightback vs Atalanta in the quarter-final — a game Icardi largely underwhelmed — the African star was elevated above the Argentina forward for the rest of the competition, albeit as a substitute.
Simply put: while Choupo-Moting may not be top drawer, he’s someone who can be trusted to deputise up front when the usual incumbents are absent. Recognising this opening, Bayern signed the 31-year-old whose Bundesliga experience in his prime took him to Mainz and Schalke having struggled to break into the Hamburg side.
“He gives us the squad depth we need in the centre of our attack,” said Bayern sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. “Eric has gained international experience in Paris, knows the Bundesliga and joins us on a free. So, it all works out well.”
He continued: “We have seen how important Maxim can be in Lisbon. I know from my own experience how crucial it is to have a lot of good forwards in the squad.”
Fortunately, the striker himself understands he won’t be first choice, given Robert Lewandowski’s presence, so there won’t be an expectation to play regularly. Having had a taste of this for about two years in Paris, Choupo-Moting knows what’s required for the bit-part role.
“There were conversations with the coach, he made it clear to me that he would be happy if I came. We are not talking about a major role,” the forward explained to the media recently. “Everyone knows that at Bayern there is Lewandowski at the forefront, but each player is important in the project”.
“Paris wanted me to stay, but I turned them down. There were some interesting offers. My choice was made as soon as Bayern contacted my agents,” Choupo-Moting continued. “It wasn’t a shock they came in for me, but it’s a huge honour. They’re the Champions League holders, the biggest team in Germany. It’s a great league. Munich is a beautiful city. I am super happy.”
After winning two Ligue 1 crowns as well as the Coupe de France and Couple de la Ligue in his time in the French capital, a return to the Bundesliga makes sense. He not only has the chance to add to his trophy collection playing for the best side in Europe at the moment but returns to a league he’s familiar with.
This removes or, at least, reduces the bedding-in period it’d have taken a new signing to acclimatise to a different division, even though partnerships with teammates at Sabener Strasse have to be struck. The need for a Lewandowski replacement was made apparent after last month’s 4-1 thrashing at Hoffenheim, which came about three days after Flick’s troops played for 120 minutes in the Uefa Super Cup.
Teenage prodigy, Joshua Zirkzee was selected to start but the chasm in quality was obvious. In fairness to the young forward, his selection was probably the least of Bayern’s worries on the day — the criminal defending for 90 minutes was — but he was an easy target for an early substitution as the visitors chased the game.
Indeed, it was then argued that, despite the dearth of bodies in Bavaria, a loan deal for Zirkzee was imperative as opportunities were probably going to be few and far between. The arrival of Choupo-Moting means the 19-year-old is probably going to be third-choice until January, ceteris paribus.
He’s since revealed that a loan deal was considered in the final hours of the transfer window but nothing materialised eventually.
“It was a difficult situation, only there was not enough time on deadline day,” Zirkzee told Dutch daily Algemeen Dagblad. “I will stay with Bayern now, but maybe something will happen in the future. I don’t know exactly yet.”
Barring an injury to any of Bayern’s forwards, a temporary spell could help the youngster’s development, even if it’ll be for a few months. Thus, it’s a shame the club couldn’t find a suitable option for him before signing the Cameroonian in early October.
Choupo-Moting sat fifth last season for xG per 90 and non-penalty xG per 90 in the PSG side, behind the quartet of Kylian Mbappe, Neymar, Icardi and Edinson Cavani, which somewhat summarises his profile. While not essentially top class, he is no slouch either.
Bayern are set to be beneficiaries of the forward’s intermittent contribution, and the 31-year-old can enjoy a return to the Bundesliga with the best side in the land and Europe.