Bayern Munich planning to keep Thiago Alcantara – Hasan Salihamidzic

Bayern Munich stalwarts Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben will figure in Niko Kovac’s plans, despite their restricted playing time.

Bayern Munich plan to keep Thiago Alcantara but he will face strong competition for a midfield place, sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic has said.

Spain international Thiago, 27, signed from Barcelona in 2013 and has won five Bundesliga titles and two DFB Pokal crowns.

“Of course we are planning with him,” Salihamidzic told Suddeutsche Zeitung. “It will be an interesting battle for places with nine midfielders.”

Sport Bild reported last month that Thiago was keen on a return to his old club but, kicker said Bayern wanted a €70 million fee and Barca would be reluctant to pay big money for a former player.

He has also been linked with Real Madrid and Manchester City, but Bayern have yet to received any substantial bids.

According to Suddeutsche Zeitung, the German champions are looking to offload at least one of their midfielders — Javi Martinez, Arturo Vidal, Sebastian Rudy, Corentin Tolisso, Leon Goretzka, James Rodriguez, Thomas Muller, Renato Sanches or Thiago.

While new coach Niko Kovac is said to be an admirer of Vidal’s combative qualities, the 31-year-old Chile international is tipped to leave if the right offer is made.

“It’s the club’s duty to the coach to put together a squad for where no discontent is pre-programmed, and at the moment we have — more or less — nine central midfielders for probably only three positions. Nine!” Salihamidzic said.

Vidal, linked with Manchester United and Chelsea in the past, is recovering from a knee operation.

Meanwhile, Bayern have received loan enquiries from Premier League clubs for Renato Sanches but want to keep him, and Salihamidzic said the task of turning around Sanches’ form had “stirred Kovac’s ambition.”

Mark Lovell covers Bayern Munich for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter: @LovellLowdown.