Bayern Munich is the best team in the world. Or the second-best team in the world. One of the two. Whichever it is, it is very, very good, which is especially impressive because it doesn’t have any defenders.
Anyone who used to be a defender is now a midfielder for Bayern Munich. This is under the rule of Lord Pep Guardiola, ruler of soccer and reinventor of the sport. Everyone is a midfielder and everyone will play like a midfielder. And when that doesn’t work out, part-time goalkeeper, part-time midfielder Manuel Neuer will save the day.
Even if that is only partially true, the Bayern Munich defense did its best to make it wholly true on Wednesday against FC Porto.
First, Xabi Alonso managed to be the deepest field player on the field for Bayern Munich. That is: actual midfielder Xabi Alonso.
Jackson Martinez stripped the ball off Alonso’s foot, then Neuer clattered into Martinez, conceding a penalty and saying a few Hail Marys while waiting for the referee to show him a deserved red card that never came.
One minute into the match, Xabi and Neuer had already made mistakes. If only it stopped there.
Dante then managed to take an absurdly heavy touch to put himself in big trouble with Ricardo Quaresma bearing down on him. His solution was to panic, fail to clear the ball and let Quaresma go in alone on goal for a second tally.
Bayern had played 10 minutes and it had three colossal mistakes. Basically, everything that could be considered “defending” was going poorly.
But there was more! Like a long ball over the top that Jerome Boateng tracked easily. All it took was a simple header away to snuff out any danger until, whoops, it went over his head and onto Martinez’s foot. The Porto man rounded Neuer, and Bayern had conceded three.
In the middle, there was Neuer trying to make the referee look bad for keeping him on the pitch with a few great saves, including one off the foot of his own defender, Boateng. So all around, there wasn’t much in the way of defense from anyone wearing a Bayern kit.
Maybe everyone shouldn’t be a midfielder. Or defenders shouldn’t defend like midfielders. Either works.