Bayern Munich has been one of the most successful clubs in German football history with some of the best players around the world. However, that doesn’t mean that the club has been immune from making some pretty bad signings over the years. Today we’ll take a look at the five worst signings in club history, costing Bayern millions of wasted Euros. Before we begin the list, some of the “dishonorable” mentions include Marcell Jansen, Breno, Xherdan Shaqiri, Andri Herzog, and Ciriaco Sforza.
Polish native Lukas Podolski had been a fantastic player in his home country. The forward began his professional career with 1. FC Koln, making his debut in 2003. Over the next three years, Podolski shined as he netted 46 goals in 81 league matches, making him a hot commodity throughout Europe. Several major clubs put in offers to acquire Podolski, including Real Madrid and Liverpool.
Bayern Munich, however, won the bidding war as it was reported that the club sent €10 million to Koln for the transfer. Unfortunately, times in Munich weren’t as great for Podolski. His scoring dropped tremendously and he suffered a serious injury while training that derailed his development. At one point, Podolski couldn’t crack the lineup for Bayern and was part of the second squad. In 2009, the experiment was over and Podolski returned to his former club.
Being the greatest all-time American in most sports would easily translate to European success. For instance, LeBron James or Tom Brady would dominate in basketball and gridiron, but it doesn’t typically translate into football. Many thought Landon Donovan would be the one that proved everyone wrong and show that American players deserve to be on the biggest stages in European football.
As a member of Major League Soccer’s LA Galaxy, Donovan was sent away to Everton twice on loan. Prior to that, though, Donovan was loaned to Bayern Munich but made just six appearances without a goal. He did score four times in five friendly matches, but that wasn’t enough to justify the cost, which was estimated to be over €4 million, and didn’t extend the loan any further.
Midfielder Corentin Tolisso was one of the biggest up-and-comers in France when he was part of Lyon’s youth program. Tolisso started with the second squad in 2012, then the following year made his top squad debut. In 116 league matches, Tolisso netted 21 goals. There were plenty of teams that wanted to throw millions at Lyon to obtain Tolisso, and Bayern Munich spent €41.5 million plus bonuses for his talents.
Over the course of five years, however, Tolisso would appear in just 72 league matches and scored only 11 times. Tolisso suffered a serious injury in Bundesliga play during the 2018-19 season and never really recovered fully and his contract was seen as a massive overspend. In 2022, Tolisso’s contract wasn’t extended and he returned to Lyon. While he wasn’t bad, he didn’t live up to the hype.
Mario Gotze was considered to be one of those amazingly versatile players that would thrive with Bayern Munich for a very long time. Gotze, a Memmingen native, came up with Borussia Dortmund and made his professional debut in 2009. Over the course of 83 league matches, Gotze scored 22 times for his original club. In 2013, Gotze became the most expensive player in German history (at the time), costing Bayern Munich €37 million.
Like Tolisso, Gotze wasn’t downright terrible, but his contract proved to be worth more than what he was being paid to do. He matched his goal total of 22 with Bayern but tapered off in each passing year. The two sides became more frustrated with one another and Gotze returned to his original team. Gotze said that he regretted leaving Borussia Dortmund in the end while Bayern continued its success without him.
The final contract that really ended up disappointing Bayern fans was that of Renato Sanches, a Portuguese midfielder who dazzled while with Benfica. He made his top squad debut in 2015, and after just two dozen league matches had impressed enough people to make clubs want to pay his €45 million release with Benfica. Bayern Munich signed Sanches to a five-year deal worth a total of €80 million in bonuses, fees, and salary.
Bayern only got 35 league matches, one goal, and three years out of that massive five-year contract, though. Sanches became frustrated with how he was being used and couldn’t quite develop into the Bayern system. With that, Sanches joined Lille in the summer of 2019 with the French club breaking a club record for highest-paid salary.