David Moyes was not the most unexpected visitor to a Bundesliga stadium this week. That was Mirko Slomka. The former coach of Hannover 96, who was fired only last December, turned up to watch his successor Tayfun Korkut get off to a blistering start with an unexpected 3-1 win away to rivals Wolfsburg.
Moyes' appearance in Gladbach's Borussia Park did raise a few eyebrows, however. Bayern central defender Dante has been linked with United this month, but the talk this weekend was that the United manager was also eyeing up a more ambitious target: Toni Kroos.
Of all the Bayern players currently undergoing contract extension talks, Kroos is the one kicking up most of a resistance. David Alaba, Jerome Boateng and Rafinha all extended towards the end of last year, while reports suggest that Arjen Robben is very close to putting pen to paper. Kroos, however, is proving more problematic.
It is not that Bayern are ready to let him go. Kroos' contract expires in 2015, meaning that the summer would be the last transfer window in which the club would be guaranteed to get a fee for him, while Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has recently spelled out the club's concrete desire not to lose him at all. When asked why a new contract has not yet been signed, the Bayern chief executive stonily replied that "the talks have not yet led to an extension".
According to SportBild, that is because Kroos is holding out for a doubling of his wages. He would arguably have earned it, having returned from long term injury to become the unappreciated backbone of Bayern's glittering midfield. In Guardiola's much disputed system of rotation, Kroos has played in every single one of Bayern's 30 competitive games this season.
And there is the catch for United. It seems improbable anyway that Kroos - who missed out on the glorious end of last season through long term injury, should choose to leave Bayern for United. But even if the club were still to have the same sporting allure as FC Bayern, it is highly unlikely that they would get their man. Kroos is simply too important, even for Project Guardiola. That the contract talks have gone on this long is testament to nothing more than Bayern's famous financial caution.
This is a club which no doubt spends vast sums of money, but is also absolutely determined never to have their very public wealth exploited. For every Javi Martínez and Mario Götze story of Bayern throwing endless cash out on an apparent whim, there is an anecdote about them refusing to pay more than they believe is necessary. When they brought Jerome Boateng in to strengthen a desperately weakened defence three years ago, for example, they did so at a price approximately 7 million euros lower than Manchester City had demanded.
On the other hand, Bayern are not averse to rewarding players with higher wages when they see fit. David Alaba, for example, was reported to have received a significant rise in his salary when he extended last year. It was, after all, only fair, given the way the Austrian had grown into an absolutely crucial player for Bayern over the last three years.
The same is true of Kroos. Where only several years ago, Kroos was neither fish nor fowl, drifting between defensive midfield for the national side and rampant attack for Bayern, now he is established. Even to Bayern's midfield, he is, if not invaluable, then certainly worth a great deal. In fact, he is probably worth very close to what he is demanding. Bayern, in their wisdom and experience in dealing with superstars, are not in the business of granting players' wishes on a whim. But that is no reason to believe that they would let Kroos go to Manchester United, or indeed anywhere else at all.
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