Dante: The Bayern Munich defender ‘every manager dreams of having’
If Arsenal are to keep one thing in mind when they line up against FC Bayern tomorrow evening, it should be that this is not Bayern as we have known them in recent years. With a fifteen point lead at the top of the Bundesliga, a record amount of points for this stage of the season, and a goal difference of plus fifty, the class of 2013 are arguably far beyond any Bayern side of the last decade.
Gone are the sporadic attacks of choking in front of goal which saw them surrender the European Cup to Chelsea last May. Bayern’s expenditure on boosting their attacking depth has paid off so handsomely this season that the likes of Arjen Robben and Mario Gómez now find themselves demoted to the position of benchwarmer. But the real turnaround in the Rekordmeister’s fortunes has been in defence. Having been more easily exposed than David Beckham’s torso for most of last season, the Bayern back line has recreated itself this year. With only seven goals conceded in twenty two league games this season, Bayern have a more impressive defensive record than all of Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus.
One man in particular has stood out in the transformation of Bayern’s defence from a divine comedy of errors into the most watertight ship in Europe. And not just because of his haircut. Dante has played every single minute of Bayern’s Bundesliga campaign thus far, and the results have been tangible. No defender has even come close to matching the form he has shown for his new employers, and he is already becoming something of a fan favourite at the Allianz Arena. In a summer transfer window in which they broke the German transfer record for Javi Martínez, the 29 year old Brazilian centre back who they snapped up for less than €5m has certainly proven to be Bayern’s most worthwhile purchase.
Dante has long been a recognisable figure in the Bundesliga, having graced the back line of Borussia Mönchengladbach since 2009. And while his performances for Bayern mark him out not only as the best defender in the Bundesliga this season, but also one of the best in Europe, he has been nothing if not a late bloomer. His first cap for the Seleção came only two weeks ago against England, but the latter stages of his career promise to be the most remarkable. Indeed, his move to Bayern was, by his own admission, completed with a view to boosting his chances for selection for the 2014 World Cup. “I’m certain I would not have been called up [to play England] had I still been a Gladbach player”, he told the German press recently.
It was an astute career move. With his calmness in possession, his ability to push forward, and his incredible prowess in the air, Dante has single handedly papered over nearly all the cracks which littered Bayern’s defence last year. And while his transfer fee may have been a little less glamorous than those of his contemporaries, his contribution has not gone unnoticed, with Jupp Heynckes having heaped praise on him this month. “Dante has guaranteed that we have conceded fewer goals this season. With his attitude and his drive to perform, he is the sort of player every manager dreams of having.”
Certainly, it is easy to imagine Arsène Wenger having such dreams. His hair and his perpetual grin may be characteristic of the Brazilian footballer, but in footballing terms, Dante and FC Bayern have turned football clichés on their heads. In a side littered with breathtakingly creative but often fatally fragile German talent, it is the Brazilian who is the efficient, consistent and indispensable rock at the foundation of Bayern’s dominance this season.Tagged in: Arsenal, bayern munich, Champions League
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