Football Features

Forgotten Bayern Munich players: Shortlived spells and unfulfilled potential in Bavaria

By Chris Smith

Published: 15:55, 8 December 2021 | Updated: 15:56, 8 December 2022

Bayern Munich have played host to some of the greatest talents the game of football has ever seen. 

From Gerd Muller to Michael Ballack, some absolute legends of the game have mopped up titles in Bavaria over the years, while the current crop of Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer and Co are following in their illustrious footsteps.

However, not every player who turns out for the perennial German champions writes their name into Bayern folklore. Some still manage to forge fantastic careers for themselves but have to do so away from Munich, while others simply fade into obscurity.

With that in mind, here are 12 players who you may have forgotten ever played for Bayern Munich.

1. Xherdan Shaqiri

Years: 2012-2015

Appearances: 81

Current club: Chicago Fire

After impressing for FC Basel in his native Switzerland, Xherdan Shaqiri moved to Bayern Munich in 2012 for a reported €11.6m. However, and despite his famously gargantuan leg muscles, he was never able to fully cement himself in the Bundesliga side’s starting line-up, 

An effective spell at Stoke City finds itself wedged between further bench-warming at Inter Milan and, Liverpool. He did pick up Champions League and Premier League winners’ medals at the latter, though, before joining Chicago Fire earlier this year.

2. Ivan Perisic

Years: 2019-2020

Appearances: 35

Current club: Tottenham Hotspur

The 2019/20 season was a strange one so it wouldn’t be hard to forget certain parts of it, particularly who was playing where. For Bayern, it was the season in which they won the Treble, securing the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League. Part of that Treble-winning squad was Ivan Perisic, who signed on loan from Inter Milan in the summer of 2019 with an option to buy.

Across the campaign, Perisic eight goals in 35 games across all competitions including three in the Champions League – netting his side’s second in the 8-2 win over Barcelona. However, Bayern decided against triggering the option to buy and Perisic returned to Inter.

3. Emre Can

Years: 2009-2013

Appearances: 7

Current club: Borussia Dortmund

Emre Can came through the Bayern youth system but despite being very highly rated by teammates and coaches alike, he had to move to Bayer Leverkusen to make a first-team breakthrough.

The Germany international has since turned out for Liverpool, Juventus and Borussia Dortmund and although he’s never quite been the first name on the teamsheet, Can is a very reliable utility man, able to line-up in defence and midfield. Those qualities often made him very useful at national team level for Germany too.

4. Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg

Years: 2012-2016

Appearances: 25

Current club: Tottenham Hotspur

Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg looked all set to be a world-class box-to-box midfielder for Bayern after a successful period in the club’s reserve team, but had to go out on loan to Schalke and Augsburg to get the majority of his early first-team football.

Things haven’t been too bad for the Denmark international since then, though, establishing himself as a key member of Ralph Hasenhuttl’s Southampton side before moving back up the footballing ladder to Jose Mourinho’s Tottenham Hotspur for £15m in the summer of 2020. He has since become one of Spurs’ most important players, and has been adding more goals to his game this season.

5. Julian Green

Years: 2010-2016

Appearances: 4

Current club: Greuther Fürth

With blistering pace and incredible directness, much was made of Julian Green’s rise through the Bayern youth ranks, especially back home in his native United States. However, despite a hugely impressive 25 goals in 51 games for Bayern II, the winger was never given a real chance, having to try and make an impression on loan at Hamburg.

Green joined Stuttgart in 2016 but was again reduced to sporadic appearances. A 2017 loan spell with Greuther Fürth was made permanent in 2018 and he remains with the 2. Bundesliga club to this day. He hasn’t added to his 15 USMNT caps since 2018 but did score in their famous 2-1 defeat to Belgium at the 2014 World Cup in which Tim Howard made 15 saves — a tournament record in a single match.

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6. Serdar Tasci

Years: 2016

Appearances: 3

Current club: Retired

Despite insisting he would remain in Russia with Spartak Moscow, Serdar Tasci sealed a loan move to Bayern Munich in January 2016 as Pep Guardiola sought to ease a defensive injury crisis. The Germany international never did remedy Pep’s problems, however, suffering a concussion in an early training session and finding himself sidelined for weeks — he subsequently made just three appearances for the club.

Tasci finished his career with Turkish Super Lig side İstanbul Başakşehir spending one season there before being released in 2019.

7. Nils Petersen

Years: 2011-2012

Appearances: 15

Current club: Freiburg

After impressing in the 2. Bundesliga for Energie Cottbus, Nils Petersen moved to Bayern Munich on a three-year contract in May 2011. Despite a respectable four goals in 15 games for the first team, Petersen never really had a chance of overhauling the likes of Mario Gomez and Muller up top.

The two-time Germany international moved to Werder Bremen in 2012, initially on loan, and was Freiburg’s main marksman, scoring 103 goals for the club, though they have become less frequent in recent times.

8. Landon Donovan

Years: 2008-2009

Appearances: 7

Current club: Retired

A USMNT and LA Galaxy legend, it often goes under the radar that Landon Donovan actually played seven games on loan at Bayern Munich in the 2008/09 season — a year before his first temporary stint at Everton.

Donovan scored four goals in five friendly matches for Bayern but failed to find the net competitively. As a result, the German champions declined to extend his stay at the club. He did, however, go on to win a further three MLS Cup titles with LA Galaxy, so it all worked out well in the end.

9. Alou Diarra

Years: 2000-2002

Appearances: 0

Current club: Retired

In a career that has taken in spells at Liverpool, Lyon, Charlton Athletic and just about everywhere in between, it’s easy to forget Alou Diarra once donned the red and white of Bayern Munich. The reason it’s easy to forget is that he never actually made a first-team appearance, sitting on the bench a few times but playing all of his football in the reserves.

Diarra left for Liverpool in 2002 but found yet more troubles with playing time. However, later in his career, he did have the pleasure of playing for Bordeaux in a 2-0 victory over Bayern Munich in the Champions League in 2010 — a feat Uli Hoeness described as a “wonder”.

“If somebody had told me [he would return for a UEFA Champions League game] five years ago and made a bet with me, I would have lost a fortune,” Hoeness said. “For me, it is like one of the seven wonders of the world that he is captain of Bordeaux and even plays for the national team.”

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10. Pepe Reina

Years: 2014-2015

Appearances: 3

Current club: Villarreal

Having made just shy of 600 appearances combined for Barcelona, Villarreal and Liverpool in his career, you couldn’t think of a better back-up goalkeeper than Pepe Reina, could you?

The Spaniard was signed by compatriot Guardiola in 2014 to play second fiddle to Neuer and didn’t make an appearance for the club until March 2015. However, in taking to the pitch in a 4-0 away win against Werder Bremen, Reina became the first goalkeeper to play in four of Europe’s top leagues: England, Italy, Spain and Germany.

The rest of his three-game stint in Bavaria resulted in a straight red card against Augsburg with just 14 minutes on the clock after bringing down Raul Bobadilla in the box.

Reina left Bayern for Napoli at the end of the 2014/15 season and has since represented AC Milan, Aston Villa and Lazio before returning to Villarreal – where he has played six times this season.

11. Paolo Guerrero

Years: 2002-2003

Appearances: 44 (senior)

Current club: Avai Futebol Clube

With 102 caps for Peru and four pieces of silverware in Brazilian club football, Paolo Guerrero is something of an icon in South America, while he’s also fondly remembered in Hamburg, where he made 181 appearances across all competitions between 2006 and 2012.

However, before moving Die Rothosen, Guerrero plied his trade with Bayern, even scoring 21 goals for their youth side during the 2003/04 season — he bagged 49 times in 70 appearances overall.

But the step up to the senior side proved to be too much and after just 27 Bundesliga appearances across two seasons, he departed for Hamburg.

12. Mark Hughes

Years: 1987-1988

Appearances: 23

Current club: Retired

More fondly remembered by Manchester United and more widely known now for his managerial work, few may know that Mark Hughes spent the 1987/88 campaign on loan at Bayern Munich from Barcelona after a disappointing year in the Catalan region.

However, with seven goals in 23 appearances, a spell in Bavaria was just want ‘Sparky’ needed to get back on track and the following summer, Manchester United brought the Welshman back to the club, where Hughes would go on to win two Premier League titles and three FA Cups.