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Bayern Munich are at a crossroads following their Champions League exit: What next for Carlo Ancelotti, and who are their next generation?

April 19, 2017 12:05 PM
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In the aftermath of Bayern Munich's Champions League exit on Tuesday night, all the talk in Germany is of a certain Viktor Kassai.

The Hungarian referee was lambasted by both the Bayern players and the German press, after several borderline decisions appeared to tip the game in Real Madrid's favour in extra time.

Arturo Vidal described Kassai as a 'clown' who had 'robbed' Bayern of victory, while Carlo Ancelotti insisted that the referee's performance had been 'significantly worse than ours'.

Yes, Arturo Vidal's second yellow card was unfair. Yes, Casemiro might have been sent off too. Yes, Cristiano Ronaldo's second goal should have been ruled out for offside. At the end of the day, however, it doesn't make a blind bit of difference.

The reality is that Real Madrid deserve their place in the semi-final. The reality is that, for the first time since 2011, Bayern won't be in the last four of the Champions League.

That, some are saying, marks the end of an era. Now it is time to look beyond refereeing decisions and survey the bigger picture. So what happens next for Bayern, and what will the fallout be from last night's defeat?

Bayern's second leg against Real Madrid was described as a game which would define their future. That may be hyperbolic, but what is certain is that Bayern stand on the brink of a generational shift.

For both Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso, it was a Champions League farewell, as both veterans are set to retire at the end of the season.

With the likes of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Manuel Neuer all over 30 as well, this is at least the beginning of the end for the treble-winning generation of Bayern stars.

The club are already planning for that change, and the age variation in the squad is the best indicator that this shift hasn't caught Bayern by surprise.

That is doubtful. Some may point out that Ancelotti has got an easier ride of it than predecessor Pep Guardiola, who faced endless criticism for his failure to reach the Champions League Final with Bayern.

Guardiola took over a team in full bloom, however, and Ancelotti was always going to be the pragmatist who negotiated these changing years.

The fact that, like Guardiola's team, Ancelotti's Bayern have once again lost to Spanish opposition is probably more indicative of the strength of Spanish teams than of any failure on the part of either manager.

The Italian coach's contract runs until 2019, and while Bayern will always target all major trophies, only failure to win the league or a complete deterioration of squad harmony could see Ancelotti sacked.

With a seven-point lead over RB Leipzig and a cup semi-final against Borussia Dortmund next week, Ancelotti will be looking to win a domestic double and prepare in peace for next season.

With Alonso and Lahm leaving, one of Ancelotti's major tasks next season will be to fully integrate some of the younger players in the Bayern squad.

The likes of Kingsley Coman and Renato Sanches have seen less time on the field than was expected under Ancelotti this season, and the Bayern hierarchy will be hoping that will change next season given the amount they have invested in such talents.

If there is one key youngster, however, it is Joshua Kimmich. The young defensive midfielder has matured immensely since he was first thrust into the limelight by Pep Guardiola two years ago.

With Lahm departing, Kimmich's tactical savvy and elegance on the ball may yet see him quickly assume a leadership role, not only on the pitch, but also in the club in general.

Bayern have always felt the need to have Bavarian or at least German leaders within the squad, and Kimmich, who hails from south-western Germany, looks like a natural heir to the throne of Lahm, Schweinsteiger and co.

The image of him and Lahm walking off the field in conversation last night may be one we see on many occasions in the years to come.

With Alonso gone, an extra defensive midfielder may be a priority for Bayern this summer. While Rafinha is a reasonable replacement for Lahm at right-back, the injuries and suspensions which hit Bayern during their tie with Real have shown that they can never have too many central defensive operators in the squad.

Aside from that, one of the main priorities will be finding a back-up option for Robert Lewandowski. Though playing second fiddle to the Polish striker is perhaps not the most enticing prospect for a forward, Bayern certainly need a classic number nine to fill in when Lewandowski is missing.

Thomas Muller is unable to fulfil that role properly, and Lewandowski's absence in the first leg against Real was crippling for Bayern.

A replacement is also being sought for Douglas Costa, whose days at Bayern are said to be numbered. Napoli's Lorenzo Insigne has been one name in the rumour mill, but Bayern are yet to make any meaningful moves in the transfer market.


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