Bundesliga preview: All eyes on Kane at Bayern as Dortmund start life after Bellingham

Champions look to England captain ahead of title defence, runners-up weakened by loss of key midfielder, Leipzig rebuild after star exodus

Harry Kane during Bayern Munich's German Super Cup defeat against RB Leipzig. Reuters
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Perhaps the best time to judge the success or contentment of Harry Kane’s move to Bayern Munich will be the spring. Between the end of March and early April, he will see some of the quainter corners of German football as Bayern take successive trips to freshly-promoted Darmstadt and Heidenheim, stadiums holding fewer than 18,000.

Around that time, Tottenham Hotspur, tenants of one of the most stunning, state-of-the-art arenas in football and for the last 19 years the club to whom Kane has been attached, will be contesting four vigorous, atmospheric London derbies within six Premier League matches.

If Spurs are progressing, post-Kane, as they wish, they will by then be in contention for a top-four finish. If Bayern are being served by Kane in the way their €100 million purchase of him intends, they will be in the last eight of the Champions League, top of the German hierarchy and swatting aside the likes of Darmstadt and Heidenheim.

But if Bayern are anything like the stumbling, anxious version of their 2022-23 campaign, they will by spring be sacking their manager and pinning the blame for a poor choice of incoming Premier League striker on the director of sport and the chief executive.

Both those positions were vacated at the end of a season where Bayern scraped to the title on goal difference and then only because Borussia Dortmund, leaders going into the last matchday, choked. Julian Nagelsmann had been sacked as coach in March. Sadio Mane, bought from Liverpool the previous summer, was being invited to leave after a frustrating year.

All of which acts as a warning to Kane that while most of the logic around his choice to leave Spurs, where he set many individual goalscoring records but won no silverware, says joining Bayern is an upgrade, he has joined a complicated institution.

“I feel sorry for him,” Nagelsmann’s successor, Thomas Tuchel said of Kane after the England captain made his official Bayern debut, still tired from completing his transfer the previous day and thrust into action as a second half substitute for last weekend’s German Super Cup defeat to RB Leipzig. Bayern had lost 3-0. Tuchel, not yet six months into his tenure, was livid.

Tuchel had no complaint against Kane but with a team who, as the coach saw it, were displaying the frailties of last spring, when losses to Bayer Leverkusen, Mainz and Leipzig put in real jeopardy the defence of the title.

“A cycle of poor performances,” Tuchel diagnosed, and, if he absolved Kane from any blame for the dispiriting curtain-raiser, he applied some pressure to the newcomer, the most expensive signing ever to arrive in German football. “He will help us to step out of this repetitive cycle.”

That task begins on Friday when Bayern kick off the league at Werder Bremen, one of several former grandee clubs in recent years have found themselves eclipsed by the upward mobility of the likes of Leipzig and Union Berlin.

Kane will be emboldened by a week of practice, tuning his movements to the many wingers and sprinters – such as Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry, Jamal Musiala and Alphonso Davies – who can complement his rounded game.

He will have learned that not much happens at Bayern practice without a chatty running commentary from Thomas Muller, with whom he will hope to establish an on-field understanding as effective as Muller enjoyed with Robert Lewandowski, the record-breaking centre-forward who Mane, and now Kane, are obliged to replace.

Like Lewandowski, who joined Barcelona last summer, stars of Germany’s top flight continue to be lured elsewhere. Leipzig’s stunning Super Cup display was achieved in spite of their significant summer exodus, with Christopher Nkunku, Dominik Szoboszlai and Josko Gvardiol all having left for the Premier League, and Konrad Laimer having followed a familiar path from a challenger to the reigning champions. The Austrian midfielder moved from Leipzig to Bayern.

Raphael Guerreiro, the left-back, has likewise joined Bayern from Dortmund, who are most weakened by the departure of Jude Bellingham to Real Madrid a year after they lost Erling Haaland to Manchester City. Significant traffic going the opposite way to Kane – from Germany to England – also affects Bayer Leverkusen, who have sold Moussa Diaby to Aston Villa, and Wolfsburg, from whom Spurs bought defender Micky van der Ven.

But Leipzig look to have recruited shrewdly in hiring striker Lois Openda and midfielder Nicolas Seiwald, and, having glimpsed the wobbliness to Bayern’s most recent title defence, they and Dortmund hold out some hope that the Munich machine might at last be halted. It is up to Kane to extinguish those rival ambitions and be well into his stride by the time he takes his roadshow to places like Darmstadt and Heidenheim.

Updated: August 17, 2023, 3:52 AM