Strange game, football. Swedish centre-back Patrik Andersson plays a pivotal role in Bayern Munich’s double triumph in the Champions League and Bundesliga last season and before he has time to reflect on producing the best football of his career, his club promptly sell him to Barcelona for œ5million.

No wonder Bayern’s Stefan Effenberg spoke out when he heard the club were open to offers for Andersson. ‘I wouldn’t offload him,’ he said. ‘I was amazed. He showed his high class last season.’

The case for retaining Andersson’s aerial power, physical strength and organisational qualities should have been irresistible. After all, Bayern’s rearguard had been seriously under-achieving before the Swede was incorporated on a regular basis during the second half of the campaign. He also entered Bayern folklore as scorer of the injury-time free-kick equaliser at Hamburg which clinched the Bundesliga title on the last day of the season.

Andersson was at his peak and a logical choice as the best libero in Germany when Kicker magazine compiled its rankings.

Effenberg was not the only Bayern player to recognise the Swede’s contribution. ‘Andersson turned things around for us,’ said defender Thomas Linke. ‘It’s unbelievable how well he can read a game and choose the right option. He knows exactly what has to be done.’

Bayern general manager Uli Hoeness claimed that the move was prompted by Andersson, who was one of the club’s lowest earners. But many believe Bayern could have done much moreto retain him.

The fact remains that they have gambled in letting him go. Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld may have a number of options for the role of defensive co-ordinator but none looks foolproof. Jens Jeremies, Ciri Sforza and Pablo Thiam, the new signing from Stuttgart, are all arguably better in midfield, while ex-Leverkusen defender Robert Kovac does not have Andersson’s authority or strategic feel.

After turning Bayern’s defence around, Andersson now has the task of plugging a porous Bar_a rearguard. But the Swede insists he will not be overawed by the challenge.

‘I’m used to coping with pressure,’ he says. ‘Everyone at Barcelona wants the team to return to its rightful place at the top of Spanish football and I will do all I can to help make it happen.’

Club Barcelona (Spa)
Country Sweden
Born August 18, 1971, in Borgeby
Previous clubs Bjarreds IF, Malmo FF, Blackburn Rovers (Eng), Borussia Monchengladbach (Ger), Bayern Munich (Ger)
International debut January 1992, v Australia
International caps 88 (2 goals)
Honours German League 2000, 2001 (Bayern); German Cup 1995 (Borussia Monchengladbach), 2000 (Bayern)