Chameleons change their colours for a variety of reasons.
In some cases it’s to blend in with their environment, although chameleons’ camouflaging skills aren’t as wide-ranging as Disney films and fake YouTube compilations would have you believe.
In other cases it’s to show strength and dominance when territorially challenged, or to indicate a willingness to mate.
As far as Bayern Munich’s team of chameleons are concerned, changing colours is a necessary step in dominating German football and crushing yet another promising wave of hope cascading out of Dortmund.
If chameleons change their colours to adapt, then Bayern are football’s ultimate clade of Old World lizards (h/t Second Mentions).
Take the XI fielded by boss Hans-Dieter Flick, himself in his first season since changing colours from Bayern’s assistant manager to first-team coach, in the 1-0 win over Borussia Dortmund.
The star of the show was Alphonso Davies, a flying winger plucked from the footballing outback of British Columbia who has found a home in Bayern’s starting XI as a left-back, despite never having operated in defence during his time at Vancouver Whitecaps.
Common sense says a winger with just 65 Major League Soccer appearances to his name prior to arriving in Europe should struggle in his first season at FC Hollywood, but the 19-year-old has changed his colours to such an extent that he’s now in the conversation around the world’s best left-back.
On the opposite flank to Davies was Benjamin Pavard who, despite earning global attention as a right-back during France’s 2018 World Cup campaign, spent virtually his entire Bundesliga career at Stuttgart playing as a centre-back.
Only since joining Bayern has Pavard adapted to play regular club football at right-back in the Bundesliga, aside from four run outs at centre-back last year and 90 minutes at left-back against Hoffenheim.
Marshalling Davies and Pavard from centre-back was David Alaba, a converted left-back who started his Bundesliga career in midfield while out on loan at Hoffenheim.
All this is happening in front of Manuel Neuer, a flamboyant no.10 disguised as a goalkeeper.
It’s not just in defence that all is not as it seems.
Joshua Kimmich, who produced the moment of the game when he chipped (lobbed for the Germanophones) Roman Burki from the edge of the box, has spent most of his Bayern career at right-back, although Pep Guardiola briefly converted the German into a mobile centre-back during his reign in charge at the Allianz Arena.
The former RB Leipzig man has clocked up 210 appearances for Bayern, but more than half of those have come while operating at either right-back or centre-back.
Leon Goretzka, Kimmich’s midfield partner, is only 25 but has already played in six positions, ranging from left-back to attacking midfielder, during his time at Bochum, Schalke and now Bayern.
Then there’s the ultimate chameleon, Thomas Muller, who will retire at the end of his illustrious career with at least one World Cup medal, one Champions League trophy and eight Bundesliga titles to his name but no fixed position.
Muller has played as a centre-forward, second striker, right winger, left winger and attacking midfielder for club and country, always fulfilling multiple roles within 90 minutes, but his preferred position is still anyone’s guess.
Of the 10 outfield players that started against Dortmund, six have spent significant periods of their career operating in a different position.
When Flick turned to his bench, he brought on Lucas Hernadez, who has yet to decide whether he wants to be a ball-playing centre-back or a rampaging left-back, and Javi Martinez, whose time at Bayern has been split between centre-back and defensive midfield.
The way Bayern’s players chop and change with such fluidity, Robert Lewandowski just might be lining up alongside Serge Gnabry in the heart of defence come next season.
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