The curious case of Kirchhoff

Posted by Susie Schaaf

Boris Streubel/Getty ImagesWill Jan Kirchhoff return to Bayern Munich after his loan spell at Schalke?

When Jan Kirchhoff signed a pre-contract with Bayern Munich during the 2012-13 winter transfer window -- coming over on a free at the start of the current season -- there were smiles all around from Bayern supporters. Munich would be getting a very talented young defender/defensive midfielder from Mainz 05 to add strength and depth to Bayern's back line.

But the German U-21 international failed to get any real minutes on the pitch, so, as a surprise to no one, is now loaned out to Schalke 04 for a year-and-a-half, eligible to come back to Bayern for the final year of his contract.

Said Bayern CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge: "I think that this is the best decision for all three parties. Jan will certainly get the match practice at Schalke that he has not been able to get so far in Munich. We wish him all the best and hope that he develops well there that he will then return to FC Bayern in 2015."

Kirchhoff was always going to find it difficult going coming in to a talented, treble-winning side; especially considering that he had not seen playing time since April the previous season. Kirchhoff told Bayern's website in July: "I'm delighted the club is giving me a certain period of time to settle in. Working with this coach and this team is unbelievably enjoyable."

Matthias Sammer warned of Kirchhoff needing "physical stability" saying: "We're not expecting miracles overnight."

Those miracles, sadly, never came. Limited to 11 short appearances through all competitions this season, Kirchhoff found himself far down Pep Guardiola's pecking order at centre-back or defensive midfield. With Dante and Jerome Boateng being Guardiola's top two choices in Bayern's back four, and Daniel van Buyten a capable back-up, Kirchhoff was settling as, possibly, fourth-choice. But, as a shock to many, Guardiola would choose to use Diego Contento in Bayern's two legs against Viktoria Plzen, telling tz: "I have another great left-footed player for the position of centre-back in (Contento)."

It was never going to get any easier in defensive midfield, either, as Guardiola had famously reduced Jupp Heynckes' double-pivot to a 4-1-4-1. With injuries to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez, the Bayern trainer elected captain Philipp Lahm to the single pivot to great effect. Unless, of course, your name is Jan Kirchhoff. Kirchhoff fell behind the aforementioned trio, and adding insult to injury, Thiago Alcantara.

It's a good deal for both squads as Schalke have lost Dennis Aogo and Marco Hoger to cruciate ligament injuries, meaning Kirchhoff will definitely see regular playing time. Said Schalke's sporting director Horst Heldt: "We're delighted to have been able to complete this loan deal because I'm convinced that Jan can help us. He can play both in the centre of the defence and in defensive midfield. Jan is particularly strong in the air, with his passing and with his tackling."

Recent loan deals include Emre Can at Bayer Leverkusen -- which looks to be permanent (although Bayern have a buy-back clause), and Nils Petersen at Werder Bremen for good. So it begs the question: Will we ever see Jan Kirchhoff in a FC Bayern kit again?


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