It’s a transfer that spent almost a year in the open public knowledge before it was confirmed that FC Bayern would sign a player for free from another German Bundesliga club. Perhaps lower profile than the Robert Lewandowski, that in a similar nature was fairly obvious to outsiders before it was confirmed, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Sebastian Rode has been linked fairly closely to Bayern Munich for the past year, with several “contracts” allegedly signed. However, last week the official confirmation eventually came, with Rode linking up with the Bavarian giants on a free transfer in the summer. But just who is Sebastian Rode, and why do Bayern covet him, anyway?
Born in Seeheim-Jugenheim in 1990, the 23 year old midfielder broke through at third tier club Kickers Offenbach – the club who also helped turn current Augsburg winger, André Hahn, soon of Mönchengladbach, into a Bundesliga player – before signing for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2010, only a couple of years after his first team debut in the 3. Liga for the Hesse outfit. Rode had also been in the academy of a few local clubs, notably Darmstadt’s, but it was in Offenbach where he played through the key years of his development, joining at 15 and staying until he turned 20. Rode plays mainly as a central midfielder, but can also play wide – in both defence and midfield – or, if needed, in central defence. This versatility has been useful for him during his time at Eintracht and will no doubt be essential if he’s to get any semblance of game time in the current Bayern midfield.
This season Rode has missed a lot of games through injury – collecting 17 Bundesliga appearances from a possible 31 – but when he has played, he’s impressed, taking a central role in Eintracht’s run to the Second Round of the Europa League and the Quarter Final of the DFB Pokal. While he may not be expected to slot right into the first team of a midfield that includes some of the highest profile men in the game at the moment – Schweinsteiger, Martinez, Kroos, Thiago and Lahm all being direct competition for Rode’s favoured central midfield berth – Rode can hope for game time through the form of rotation and also his versatility. He is also a good passing midfielder, sitting on 84% accuracy for the season so far – slightly below most Bayern midfielders currently, but in a much more direct system, where longer passes are much more frequent. Rode tends to work better with the ball at his feet than without it. While his skills at tackling and heading aren’t exactly areas for concern, he has a much better success rate at actually taking the ball past people in the midfield, and so might be better partnered with the likes of Martinez or Lahm, who’ll take on the brunt of the defensive duties between the pairing, than the more creative talents of Schweinsteiger, Kroos or Thiago.
Whatever happens, Rode should be ready for Bayern; he received a baptism of fire in his first Bundesliga season, recovering from a serious injury in the first half of the season before being thrown into a struggling team who endured a horrible Rückrunde and eventually got relegated. Even so, Rode was one of the brighter spots for the club, netting twice – one of which came in a draw against future club Bayern Munich – despite dropping down to the 2. Bundesliga. He properly found his feet during the next season, a near-ever present, but for a bout of tonsillitis mid-season, as Eintracht returned to the top tier at the first time of asking. Over the course of the season, Rode was a solid part of the midfield, figuring with a hatful of assists – 10 all told – and two goals, in routs of Rostock and neighbours FSV Frankfurt. The season also saw Rode step up to Under 21 level for the German national side. Having appeared at every level from the Under 18s onwards, Rode was already pretty much a shoe-in as and when he was of the age to appear for the Under 21s, but it is in itself testament to his talent that he made the transition while playing in the 2. Bundesliga. If his move to Bayern is successful, it’s probably quite likely that he’ll be in the equation to feature in some full international squads in the future, even with the plethora of German midfield talent being as strong as it is.
His next season was what can really be considered a breakthrough, though. Rode received almost universal acclaim as Frankfurt stormed through their first season back in the big time, reaching Europe in the process. The youngster was one of die Adler’s key players in spite of his tender years, playing almost every minute of every game he played, almost all of which were played at a very high standard. It’s this that attracted Bayern to Rode, and is the main reason why he will finally swap his home Bundesland of Hesse for Bavaria this summer.
It will be interesting to follow Sebastian Rode’s development at Bayern Munich at least – if he gets the game time his performances in the past two or three seasons warrant, he’ll continue to impress Bundesliga followers and potentially viewers of the Champions League.