Benjamin Pavard is playing better than he has for a long time at FC Bayern Munich this season, but is also causing a lot of turbulence. The latest developments: After the absence of Noussair Mazraoui, the 26-year-old is becoming even more important in an unpopular position – but at the same time a farewell is becoming more and more concrete.
Shortly before Christmas 2021, Benjamin Pavard initiated a change quite proactively. In the closing stages of the Bundesliga game against VfL Wolfsburg, the FC Bayern Munich defender suddenly stormed off the pitch in the direction of the catacombs. Pavard “came out and said in French that he had to go to the toilet,” reported Julian Nagelsmann afterwards, “I understood that with my modest school French.”
In any case, the coach had to reschedule without further ado: instead of replacing Jamal Musiala for Malik Tillman, who was on the sidelines, as originally planned, Nagelsmann just took Pavard down. Ironically, Musiala prepared the goal for the 4-0 final score.
Pavard currently seems to be pushing for a change again – but this time not on the pitch, but on the transfer market. Just before the World Cup in Qatar he gave up the Italian Gazzetta dello Sport and the French L’Equipe Interviews in which he openly flirted with saying goodbye to FC Bayern. “I’m not averse to taking on a new challenge. Maybe now is the right time. Why not discover a new country, a new culture?” said the 26-year-old Frenchman.
Pavard’s contract runs until 2024, so far he has refused a contract extension sought by FC Bayern. If it stays that way and a decent transfer fee is to be generated, it must be sold next summer. “We will try to solve this issue early – no matter in which direction,” said sports director Hasan Salihamidzic recently sports picture.
There is no shortage of potential buyers: almost every top European club has been associated with Pavard. FC Barcelona is particularly interested: Like that table football reported on Friday, there is already contact between Barça and Pavard’s consulting agency. Salihamidzic avoided a corresponding request at a press conference on Saturday, but emphasized that the player allegedly “feels very comfortable” in Munich.
Benjamin Pavard pushes into central defence
It’s possible that the right-back – who, by the way, doesn’t want to be called that himself – wants to discover a new country and a new culture. Above all, however, he wants to finally switch to his favorite position: in central defence, where he is hardly allowed to play at Bayern. Pavard came to Munich from VfB Stuttgart in 2019 for 35 million euros and since then has spoken in almost every interview about finally wanting to move firmly into the center of defence.
In his three and a half years at Bayern, Pavard has mostly been irreplaceable as a right-back. When he suffered a ligament injury before the 2020 Champions League final tournament after a strong debut season, FC Bayern was on high alert. In the end, due to a lack of alternatives, midfielder Joshua Kimmich had to help out on the right-hand side, who may even be less keen on doing it than Pavard.
In the two following seasons Pavard showed only average performances, in the Allianz Arena there was even a banner with the inscription “Pavard = district league” during one game. Álvaro Odriozola and Bouna Sarr never became a threat to him.
FC Bayern: Benjamin Pavard is having a strong season
Only with the signing of Noussair Mazraoui in the summer of 2022 did Pavard have a serious competitor for the right-back position. If that were an annoyance for other players, it should have been a relief for him.
The result was quite astonishing: Pavard initially kept his place at right back and showed his best performance there for a long time. Especially in the offensive game, traditionally one of his weaknesses. Towards the end of the first half of the season, Pavard was allowed to play in central defence, made possible by injuries to his rivals Matthijs de Ligt and Lucas Hernández and left-back Alphonso Davies. As at the start of the season, Pavard was also convincing on the inside.
The 26-year-old is having his best season since his first in Munich in 2019/20, but at the same time it is probably his most turbulent. He is constantly in the headlines for issues outside his core business of football – not just in relation to his publicly stated intention to change (position and club).
Benjamin Pavard: His performance data at Bayern
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Benjamin Pavard repeatedly hits the headlines
In September, Pavard spoke openly about mental upsets during the Corona period. “I don’t like the word depression, but it was,” he said Le Parisien. He “hid it from everyone, but today I’m much better. I emerged from it as a better person. It changed me.” Such open statements are important for breaking the taboo on this difficult topic. Werder Bremen’s Niklas Schmidt even encouraged Pavard to go public with similar problems himself.
Pavard, on the other hand, did not do justice to his role model effect by driving under the influence of alcohol, which is why he had to give up his driver’s license in the fall and received an internal club penalty. “He saw the mistake,” said Nagelsmann later.
After a bench seat in the game against FSV Mainz 05 at the end of October, Pavard appeared grumpy. “He was definitely mad at me, and rightly so,” explained Nagelsmann. Comparable allegations have been made by Pavard several times: He is said to have repeatedly spread bad vibes among the French national team. According to French media reports, Pavard clashed with Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane during the EM 2021, and a little later Pogba even attacked him in front of the public on the pitch.
At the World Cup in Qatar, Pavard lost his starting place after the opening game against Australia. “I won’t go into details but he wasn’t in the right condition to play,” explained national team coach Didier Deschamps. “Mentally and physically, the first game didn’t do him any good.” Without Pavard, France stormed into the World Cup final but lost to Argentina on penalties.
FC Bayern Munich: What’s next on the right back?
At Pavard’s presentation in July 2019, sports director Hasan Salihamidzic said that despite his young age, he had already got to know “the extremes of football”. He was already world champion with France and relegated with Stuttgart.
Since moving to Bayern, Pavard’s penchant for extremes has continued to a certain extent. Despite his publicly expressed intentions to change, he is currently more important than ever this season due to Mazraoui’s absence and the generally tense personnel situation on the defensive. The Moroccan fell ill with Corona at the World Cup, which was so successful for him, but still played and is now likely to be out of action for four to six weeks due to pericarditis.
For the time being, the only alternative to Pavard for legal defense is homegrown Josip Stanisic. FC Bayern is already exploring the market for potential newcomers – and is thus also preparing for a possible Pavard departure in the summer. Traded are Axel Disasi from AS Monaco (24), Inter Milan’s Denzel Dumfries (26) and Olympique Lyon’s Malo Gusto (19).