Bayern Munich beat Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1 away to go into the international break with a perfect record of three league wins in as many games.

Off the pitch, however, the German champions suffered one of the most embarrassing results in the club’s history on Friday when their last-minute attempts to bring in players for two key positions in defence and midfield ended in a double failure. “We used to laugh about deadline day,” Bayern’s honorary president Uli Hoeness lamented in the newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Subtext: Now we’re the laughing stock.

How did a club known for getting its business done in good time get it so wrong this summer? Problems were partially anticipated on account of there being no sporting director in situ. Christoph Freund’s first day in the job coincided with deadline day, an inauspicious start that brought to mind Belgian goalkeeper Jean-Marie Pfaff flapping a throw-in into his own net on his debut in 1982.

By default, manager Thomas Tuchel had more power than Bayern coaches usually enjoy to determine ins and outs this summer, but the reality of working within a seven-man transfer committee — “Ausschuss Sport” — made for a slow and often convoluted process. While the 50-year-old was vaguely at the wheel, directing efforts towards signing a No 9 nine and a defensive midfielder, others were simultaneously stepping on and off the gas, changing gears, or pulling at the handbrake from the rear seat.

No wonder Tuchel looked like a man driven to distraction on Saturday. “It’s a gutsy squad composition,” he said with a heavy hint of sarcasm. “We will see if it’s enough for the club’s targets this season.”

The window had started well enough.

RB Leipzig midfielder Konrad Laimer was secured on a free transfer so early that the trees at Sabener Strasse were still bare when the Austrian midfielder put pen to paper. Borussia Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro, who can play as a left-back or in central midfield, was also brought in with no fee and minimal fuss. In Kim Min-jae, Bayern succeeded in buying Serie A’s best defender for €50million (£42.8m; $54m) from Napoli.

But then things were complicated by Bayern’s pursuit of Harry Kane.

Hoeness found Bayern’s deadline-day scramble in the market unedifying (Sven Hoppe/picture alliance via Getty Images)

The amount of effort and financial outlay required for the 30-year-old’s capture led to the committee putting Tuchel’s wish for a defensive midfielder on the back-burner. The champions neither had the money to target players such as Declan Rice, to whom Tuchel had talked, nor did everyone at Saebener Strasse fully see the need for a specialised “holding six”, as the coach characterised the player type he wanted.

“The question of the six does not arise for me because Konrad Laimer is a transfer that we will have a lot of fun with,” Hoeness said at the beginning of August. However, in Tuchel’s view, Laimer, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka were all natural “eights”, not sixes.

While that internal debate rumbled on without resolution, Bayern agreed to let right-back Josip Stanisic move to Bayer 04 Leverkusen on loan. The decision made plenty of sense in terms of the player’s development under a coach as good as Xabi Alonso. But the club soon came to regret it when it transpired that versatile defender Benjamin Pavard was not prepared to stay another year in Munich.

The Frenchman’s persistent unhappiness had Tuchel sanctioning a €32million sale to Inter Milan last week. Suddenly, Bayern were without a fourth-choice centre-back and a second-choice right-back. “We wouldn’t have let Stani go if we had known about Benji leaving,” Tuchel admitted.

The manager suggested Trevoh Chalobah, with whom he had worked at Chelsea. The club weren’t convinced of the 24-year-old’s qualities, however, and were only willing to entertain a loan deal. Chelsea preferred to sell. Their stance, combined with Bayern’s lack of enthusiasm, led to the deal never taking on any real momentum even though time was running out.

Bayern’s hierarchy only wanted Chalobah on loan (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images for Premier League)

It was a similar story with Southampton’s Armel Bella-Kotchap. Bayern’s inability — or unwillingness — to pursue the Germany international with real determination saw things peter out on deadline day.

Efforts to bring back Joao Cancelo were firmly in “panic” territory on Friday. The Portuguese full-back had already made up his mind to join Barcelona. The upshot of those half-hearted attempts was no defender coming in. With only three centre-backs and no natural replacement for Noussair Mazraoui on the right, Bayern have little scope to absorb injuries and suspension at the back.

It still got worse as the day progressed.

Fulham’s Joao Palhinha was already at the club’s headquarters having his photographs taken in a Bayern shirt. But the Premier League side could not find a replacement in time. The 28-year-old went home to London again, deeply saddened by his transfer’s collapse.

Nor was Tuchel best amused about the failure to secure his defensive midfielder. Now, after the departure of Ryan Gravenberch to Liverpool, there are only three players left to fill the two central positions; four if you count the more attack-minded Jamal Musiala. In the final minute of the win against Gladbach, Tuchel brought on Matthijs de Ligt as an emergency defensive midfielder as Laimer was helping out on the right.

In the days since, many have asked why Bayern did not negotiate much earlier with Fulham to avoid such a catastrophic outcome. The answer can be found in the slow workings of the committee once more.

It took until late in August before Hoeness, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Jan-Christian Dreesen agreed with Tuchel that a different type of midfielder would complement the existing roster, and more time still to zoom in on a contender upon whom both the club and the coach could settle.

Gravenberch is now at Liverpool (Andrew Powell/Liverpool FC via Getty Images)

Gravenberch’s sale to Liverpool also complicated matters.

For a while, Bayern were exploring a loan swap with Manchester United for Scott McTominay. Tuchel liked the player and spoke to him on the phone, but the club were doubtful the Scotsman would fit the bill. That door closed when Gravenberch chose Anfield, in any case. But Bayern had lost another few days in which they could have taken a more proactive approach.

“We ended up reacting and getting rushed into things,” a source at the club, granted anonymity to protect relationships, told The Athletic. A naive assumption that Fulham would have suitable replacements lined up when they agreed a deal to sell Palhinha for €65million in principle completed Bayern’s woes.

Tuchel accepts that a club like Bayern are well within their rights to disagree with a coach about players. But he will not pretend to be happy about the board leaving his squad this imbalanced and him holding the can.

It is not hard to fathom what he made of Dreesen’s suggestion in a television interview on Saturday that he should be “more creative” with the men at his disposal and look towards promoting youngsters. It’s the age-old manager-club schism when it comes to squad composition, albeit with the specific Bavarian twist of everything playing out in the open; Tuchel’s tangible frustration and Dreesen’s continued pretence that everything is just fine will lead to more flashpoints, picked over by a grateful German sports media after every poor performance or defeat.

Kane has at least made an encouraging start at Bayern (Oliver Kaelke/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)

Bayern must hope that there is still enough substance to make it to the winter break unscathed.

Freund, who will work more closely with Tuchel now that the transfer committee has been dissolved, is bound to revisit the transfer of Palhinha and the signing of a fourth centre-back well before the window reopens in January. Hoeness, deeply embarrassed by Bayern’s unsuccessful deadline-day scramble, has already decreed that his club need to go back to doing their homework early.

In the meantime, Tuchel cannot help but wait and improvise, being careful that his disappointment does not affect the mood in the dressing room.



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(Top photos: Getty Images)