International Soccer
The rebuilding has begun at Bayern

Tim Keeble, Soccer Editor

Stoppage Time Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - When you're Bayern Munich and you are coming off of a fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga, something needs to change and it must change fast.

The German giants have won seven of the last nine league titles, and are a fixture in the Champions League, Europe's premier club competition. However, things did not go so well for Bayern this past season, and after that disappointing fourth-place finish, Bayern will now be forced to take part in the UEFA Cup, which is Europe's second-rate club competition.

There is nothing second-rate about the Munich club, so with that in mind, club chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has promised his supporters that the team will undergo a significant rebuilding plan in order to return the squad to its lofty status.

Rummenigge has not disappointed so far, making five signings since the team's season concluded just over two weeks ago.

Chief among them is former Fiorentina striker Luca Toni, whom Bayern brought to Germany for nearly $15 million. Toni has scored 49 goals over the past two seasons for the Serie A club, and also played a big role in Italy's run to the World Cup title last summer.

Luca Toni
Bayern Munich brought Luca Toni to Germany for nearly $15 million.
He will join the other four signings, Jan Schlaudraff, Marcell Jansen, Hamit Altintop and Jose Ernesto Sosa on a revamped Bayern squad.

Schlaudraff joins Bayern after scoring eight goals in 27 appearances for Aachen, and will join Toni up top. Altintop and Sosa both provide quality in the midfield, with Altintop having played at Schalke and Sosa coming over from Argentina where he played for Estudiantes. Jansen is a nice signing for the club because he provides a youthful presence along the back line after signing from relegated Monchengladbach.

Although Bayern finished the season 10 points behind league-champions Stuttgart, the gap is really not that big to close, and the club is already headed in the right direction.

Bayern already has a nice collection of youth and experience, and has the necessary pieces to put together another title run next season.

Bayern has always done well in terms of keeping German talent at home. Most of the German national team's key contributors play their club soccer in Germany, which is rare for most countries. Bayern already has Germany's best young players on its roster, a trio of youthful talent that helped to carry the Germans to the semifinals of the past World Cup. Defender Philipp Lahm, midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and striker Lukas Podolski are all under the age of 25 and will be counted on to lead Germany's next generation.

All three players burst onto the international scene at the World Cup, but showed varying signs of fatigue and suffered injuries throughout what was for the most part, a disappointing season. Expect all three players to bounce back with stronger years, giving the club a big boost.

In addition to all of Bayern's quality young players the team has good veteran leadership to guide it, and all of that starts with the man between the posts, Oliver Kahn. The 37-year-old goalie has showed no signs of slowing down, although he did show a whole lot of frustration throughout the season.

Oliver Kahn
Bayern's veteran leadership begins with goalkeeper Oliver Kahn.  
(Photo by John Walton/PA Photos)
In addition to Kahn, 32-year-old striker Roy Makaay will be back to run the attack. Makaay led the club with 16 goals this past season and will make a nice running mate up top with whichever striker he is paired with.

With all of the additions to the club, subtractions became necessary, and the team already has lost two players who have been key contributors in past seasons. Midfielder Owen Hargreaves got his wish to return to England, where he will be playing for Manchester United next season. Hargreaves missed much of the season with a leg injury, but his contributions in the middle of the pitch will be tough to fill. Also gone is striker Claudio Pizarro, who joined Chelsea after the additions of Toni and Schlaudraff made him expendable.

The club is reported to be in talks with Marseille midfielder Franck Ribery, and even more moves could be made depending on how much money the club feels like throwing around.

One thing the team is not expected to do is lure a marquee name player to Munich with a huge contract. In recent years English and Spanish league clubs have moved to the forefront of the transfer market, gobbling up any high- priced players with massive transfer fees and contracts. Chelsea, Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona have all benefited from huge television contracts and owners with incredibly deep pockets.

The English Premier League as a whole will have upward of three billion dollars to split in television money, making England an attractive destination for any potential transfers.

Many Bundesliga teams simply do not have the cash to compete in the transfer market with those giant clubs, and Bayern now seems to be favoring signing quality, less expensive talent to add to the team instead of overpaying for one player.

Expect a few more signings from the German giants, and also expect them to be back on top of the league next season.

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