5 Bayern Munich Youngsters Who Could Taste 1st-Team Action in 2015/16 Season
The 2014-15 campaign provided plenty of evidence that Bayern Munich will experience a changing of the guard sooner or later, with the squad divided between the aging "old guard," comprised of the likes of Philipp Lahm and Franck Ribery, and a younger corps that includes players such as David Alaba and Thomas Muller.
The summer transfer window will offer the German giants a chance to add reinforcements to areas where aging stars are on the decline, but in any case, there should be opportunities for up-and-comers from the academy to assert themselves in the first team.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a look at five of the best young Bayern players who are either yet to debut or played a minimal role last season looking to make the jump into Pep Guardiola's senior squad next season.
Trained in Stuttgart before joining Leipzig two years ago, Joshua Kimmich isn't the typical Bayern academy product. He moved to the Allianz Arena this summer following an €8.5 million transfer from Stuttgart, who activated his buy-back clause to force Leipzig to sell.
Kimmich will join Bayern only after the European Under-21 Championship, in which he'll participate as one of three 1995-born players in Germany's team—Max Meyer and Serge Gnabry are the others. Among a talented squad of players who won the European Under-19 Championship last summer, he is the only member of that outfit to be nominated to the under-21s for this summer's tournament.
Kimmich's promotion was deserved after a strong season with Leipzig, during which he was a regular starter despite his young age. He's an energetic and hard-nosed defensive midfielder who isn't shy to go into a challenge and whose aggression and quickness to the ball makes him an imposing force in central midfield. But despite all his strength and defensive qualities, he is also more than adept on the ball and can dribble and distribute.
Overall, Kimmich is not entirely different in style from Bastian Schweinsteiger during the Germany captain's prime. The youngster has a long way to go, but the under-21 Euros should be a good platform for him to garner attention from Pep Guardiola. In time, he might just have a chance to impress at senior level.
Sinan Kurt joined Bayern from Borussia Monchengladbach late in the transfer window last summer and struggled to adapt. He had an explosive start to his career with the under-19s, scoring five goals in his first four games, but he only found the net twice more before season's end.
On the other hand, Kurt did make his first-team debut in a 45-minute performance against Hertha BSC in April, and he was on the bench for the senior side on several other occasions. Bayern believed in his potential when they signed him, and it's clear they remain confident that he will make the senior-level jump.
Kurt turns 19 this summer and will benefit from having a full preseason at Bayern in which to learn to work with his teammates and Pep Guardiola. He's a versatile forward who can play out wide or in the center, with the technique to dribble on the wing and a blistering shot. They are all good qualities for a footballer to have, and he could develop to the point that he becomes permanent member of the first team in the near future.
Gianluca Gaudino was a surprise star of preseason last summer, the midfielder earning high praise from Pep Guardiola and even featuring in a few first-team games in the fall. Gifted with fine ball control and an excellent passing range, he fit very well into the German giants' system.
However, he spent the majority of the season—until Bayern won the Bundesliga—with the under-19 side, with extreme competition and his diminutive size proving major hindrances to his aspirations of becoming a first-team regular.
Next season, Gaudino will be larger and more physically mature, perhaps enough to play a bigger role in the team. It seems he has the technical and mental skills, and the last part of the puzzle is simply a matter of time and athletic training. He'll turn 19 in November, when he should have a bit more bulk and strength.
If Niklas Dorsch is to play a role in Bayern's 2015-16 campaign, it most likely won't be before the winter break. The 17-year-old is still very young and recently suffered a fracture that saw him miss all but the opening minutes of the European Under-17 Championship. He'll spend the next few months recovering and preparing for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which will run from October 17 to November 8.
Despite his injury and young age, Dorsch has the potential to taste first-team action next season. He could well have been the best midfielder at the aforementioned Euros and may well be at the World Cup. If he imposes himself there and is called to train with the senior Bayern team for their winter training camp, during which time he'll celebrate his 18th birthday, he could yet follow in Gaudino's footsteps and make his senior debut.
Along with Kurt, the other young Bayern attacker making waves in youth football is Marco Stefandl. The left winger, who can also play on the opposite flank and at center forward, scored 19 goals for Bayern's under-17 team last season. The final four goals came in a blowout against Hoffenheim, but the youngster's day lasted just 36 minutes, as he was hauled off with a tibia fracture.
Next season, Stefandl will face an uphill battle to regain fitness and form. Still, he may be the most exciting attacking prospect to play for Bayern from a young age since Thomas Muller. In 12 months' time, he might even have had a taste of first-team action.