Johannes Eggestein signed a three-year contract extension at Werder Bremen on Thursday, but not before attracting serious interest from within Germany and abroad. The striker, who turned 18 last month, is perhaps the biggest German striker talent in several years. But after allowing his contract to run down to its final weeks, he finally extended his stay in Bremen.
Manchester United (per Simon Jones of the Daily Mail), Bayer Leverkusen (per Andreas Willeke of Hannover Neue Presse, in German) and Borussia Dortmund (per Thorsten Waterkamp of Weser Kurier, in German) were linked with the shooting starlet earlier this year. And on Wednesday, Bild reporter Markus Balczuweit (in German) revealed that Bayern Munich were set to make a late swoop to sign the prodigy Eggestein.
Yet despite all of the many suitors lining up to tempt him away from Bremen, Eggestein decided to stay in the north of Germany and vie for a spot in the first team.
Despite being turned down, Bayern in particular should keep an eye on him in the years to come. Per Transfermarkt, he's scored a whopping 83 goals in 84 appearances for Bremen's youth teams, including 42 in 33 for the under-19 side. He also scored four in as many games for Germany's under-17 side at the World Cup last fall.
One can understand Eggestein's logic, and with all things considered, he probably made the right personal choice in turning down a move to Munich or another bigger club for the time being. With his decision, he stays close to his home city of Hannover and has the eternally classy Claudio Pizarro to look to as a mentor.
His only other competitors are Anthony Ujah and Aron Johannsson, players he could well surpass in the near future. And even if he doesn't immediately achieve promotion to the first team, Bremen's reserves compete one level above Bayern's in the 3 Liga.
Having utterly torn apart defenders at the under-19 level, Eggestein is ready for a greater challenge than the Regionalliga Bayern can offer.
It may be true that Bayern had some positive experiences with promoting younger players last season, with Joshua Kimmich (now 21) and Kingsley Coman (who turns 20 this month) earning considerable minutes and impressing Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.
Both benefited from the fact that either could play in a variety of positions: Kimmich not only in defensive midfield, but at right- and centre-back, and Coman on either wing. The former got his opportunity during a major injury crisis in central defense, while the latter filled in for Franck Ribery when the Frenchman was injured and later Arjen Robben when the Dutchman was sidelined.
Eggestein is not as versatile. He's a magnificent talent, but by no stretch of the imagination is he a playmaker or winger. He lacks pace for a role out wide and the creative passing ability needed for a No. 10. His only potential role at Bayern would be in the striker position, and with Robert Lewandowski in the very prime years of his career, it will be very difficult to displace the Poland international.
It helps that Eggestein would be Bayern's only backup for Lewandowski, but the striker position is a critical one, and one where rotation is less often used due to the massive effect that the one striker can have on a club's success.
There were only two games in which Lewandowski played no role last season, one of which was the result of a knock to his ankle. He's rarely ever been injured during his career, and although Guardiola benched him a few times during his debut season at Bayern, the former Barcelona trainer soon learned better than to let his prolific striker sit on the bench.
Eggestein just wouldn't play much in Munich—not for the time being. On the other hand, Lewandowski's contract expires in 2019, exactly the same year as Eggestein's. And the Bremen man will be 21 at the time, perhaps ready to make a name for himself at a big club.
If Lewandowski extends his stay in Munich, he'll turn 31 shortly after the beginning of the 2019-20 season, and his manager will be more likely to rest him to help prolong his career. If he is replaced with Eggestein brought in as an understudy, then odds are that the youngster will fare better in that scenario than he would as a teenager competing against one of world football's top-three strikers. So Eggestein's interests are much better served by staying in Bremen awhile longer.
Yet despite being turned down on Thursday, Bayern should not give up on signing Eggestein. He's a player with truly elite talent and has the potential to be a real superstar. The Bavarians would be wise to keep an eye on him and pounce when circumstances are a bit more favorable.