Crisis in Munich, as FC Bayern lose for the second time in a row. After the embarrassing home defeat against Werder Bremen, the German Rekordmeister lost 1-0 away to Hannover 96. Once again, young goalkeeper Michael Rensing looked insecure between the sticks.
Rensing definitely has the raw talent and potential, but he hasn't got a lot of first team experience for a 24-year-old, due to him being in Oliver Kahn's shadow all the time. The pressure of having to perform regularly in the first team appears to be getting to him, and I really wonder how he will cope with it.
Generally speaking, Bayern seems to have a problem when it comes to improving young players. It’s not just Rensing that has difficulties breaking into first team. There’s several other young talents that just don’t seem to be improving. For example, Toni Kroos.
Not long ago, Kroos was said to be the best young German midfielder, the star of the national youth teams and crowned one of the best players at the previous U-19 World Cup. Right now, others like Marko Marin and Mesut Özil seem to have surpassed him. I wouldn’t want to write off Kroos, but maybe it would have been better for his development if he had joined a different club.
This got me wondering about how a top club should nurture such talents and allow them to blossom. Surely FC Bayern are not the only club that is faced with difficulties like this—I think we can all think of some great talents that failed miserably at top clubs.
Let’s stick with Bayern for now. The problem with Bayern and their youth is simple. Bayern is a top club. They have to win, all the time, all season long.
Talents like Gladbach's Marko Marin and Werder Bremen's Mesut Özil are playing for relatively small clubs, there's less pressure to perform there and talents are allowed to have an off-day or make a mistake, without losing their spot in first team.
Young players need confidence, they need to play a serie of ten or more games to build their confidence and fine-tune their skills.
Look at how Bert van Marwijk treated young Turkish midfielder Nuri Sahin a few seasons ago. Good or bad, Sahin always played and in the end he rewarded his manager with strong performances.
Nowadays, Sahin isn't as good as he used to be for Dortmund. Last season at Feyenoord, again under Van Marwijk, Sahin performed quite well. Confidence can make or break a youngster.
Bayern, however, cannot give a player confidence and a lot of playing time. I think Bayern has to cope with almost surreal expectations every year. They have to win the title and they are pretty much the only really great German club. Looking at the amount of silverware they have accumulated over the years, there is no club in Germany that even comes close.
Bayern have to win, so they are more likely to chose a player that performs on a more constant level. Younger players are by nature more likely to have fluctuating form. A nine rating this week, a four rating next week.
Bayern prefer players that are reliable, so a six or seven every week. Talents like Kroos might benefit from a loan to a smaller side, where they can play every week.
As I said before, confidence can make or break a young talent. Everyone makes mistakes when they’re younger, it’s the way in which the manager deals with these mistakes that generally determines if a talent will succeed at a club.
Clubs like Ajax and Arsenal are famous for having young players from their own academies break into first team and reach stardom. Their secret? Confidence. A player isn’t immediately dropped when he makes a mistake of plays badly. He is given a chance to redeem himself and play a series of matches in which he prove his worth. That is how you should nurture a talented youth.
Talents like Van der Vaart, Sneijder, Babel, Heitinga, Chivu, Ibrahimovic, all were given a first team spot at a very young age. All of them made mistakes, played some poor matches, but all of them kept their spot in first team. In the end, they re-paid this trust by developing into (potentially) world-class players.
So my tip for Bayern and any other top side struggling with its young talents would be this, build their confidence and show some trust, even in bad times. In the end, they will re-pay your trust with stellar performances.