By now, Bayern Munich are well into their preparations for the long-term future, once the likes of longstanding stars of the club Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben retire. So far into their squad planning are the Bavarians that German tabloid Bild has even speculated about their starting lineup in the year 2020.
The Bavarians' projected first team includes several first-team stars, but also current reserve Gianluca Gaudino, loanee Pierre Hojbjerg, recent signings Joshua Kimmich and Sinan Kurt, and prospective signing Martin Odegaard.
In Wednesday's print-only edition of Sport Bild (h/t German source TZ), there was a report that Bayern were set to renew efforts to sign Julian Brandt. The player's father and agent claimed (via Bild) in May of 2013 that the Bavarians were monitoring his son, and Chelsea (via Metro) were also linked with the talented attacker later that year before he opted to leave Wolfsburg for Bayer Leverkusen last January.
Since his move to the BayArena, Brandt has continued to develop. Only used at under-19 level at Wolfsburg, he was immediately promoted to Leverkusen's first team. The Bremen-born starlet ended last season with three assists and two goals in his final eight matches and won the under-19 European Championship with Germany last summer.
Since Roger Schmidt's tenure as Leverkusen coach began in the summer, and following the signing of Hakan Calhanoglu as further competition for a starting role, Brandt's minutes have declined sharply. He played (per Transfermarkt) just 468 minutes in all competitions during the first half of the season, and could be ripe for a loan move, perhaps to his native Bremen following fellow 18-year-old Leverkusen-contracted midfielder Levin Oztunali.
Whether Brandt makes such a move as a Leverkusen or Bayern player makes little difference. And if the Bavarians were to scoop him up, he'd be a huge signing; bigger even than the acquisition of Kurt last summer.
The 1996-borns in Germany are a group of exceptional talents, including Brandt, Oztunali, Kurt, Timo Werner, Donis Avdijaj, Gianluca Gaudino and Jonathan Tah. Among them, Brandt is arguably the brightest starlet. He and Werner were the only 1996-borns representing the German under-17 national team at the 2012 European Championship; the former had celebrated his 16th birthday only two days before the tournament began. At no point in recent memory did another German player represent the under-17 team a year ahead of his age group.
Again last summer, Brandt was ahead of the curve as he and Oztunali started for the under-19s in their championship-winning team, playing alongside a team of 1995-borns. The winger's rapid progress at international level, coupled with his solid displays with Leverkusen's senior team, prove that he's already a very mature, well-developed footballer who can play well above his age group.
According to a recent report by Bild (h/t Mirror), Brandt is even on Joachim Low's radar as a possible candidate for his Euro 2016 squad. The Leverkusen man is the only player born in 1996 listed in the report, which includes Emre Can, Davie Selke, Bernd Leno, Johannes Geis and Jonas Hofmann.
In terms of playing style, Brandt is the latest in a growing number of athletic, powerful yet very technical German attacking players that includes Thomas Muller and Andre Schurrle. Listed at 1.85 meters (per Transfermarkt), Brandt is just one centimeter shorter than the Bayern Munich man and two taller than the Chelsea forward. But he also has technical and dribbling skills that could well exceed either of the Germany internationals: When he fully develops his musculature and explosiveness, he could have the combination of power and skill that would make him resemble a left-sided Robben.
Whereas Kurt, more an undersized striker than an out-and-out winger, may not have a clear position to fill at Bayern in the coming years without the club changing to accommodate his qualities, Brandt is the kind of player who would be perfect to take on Robben's function as a fast, physical winger with good one-on-one abilities and a deadly shot when cutting inside from the wing. The only difference is that he'd move in from the left side, an area that more likely than not will be up for grabs in the coming years as Ribery enters the twilight of his career.
Both Brandt and Kurt are far from being the finished product, and neither is likely to play a big role at Bayern in the near future, not without a loan spell or a blight of injuries to bring them forward in the pecking order. Nonetheless, Brandt in particular has stood out in his early years, more than Kurt and more perhaps than any other German player in the 1996-born age group (Werner is still a close rival). He still has a long way to go if he is to fulfill his potential, but as of now, he's a hugely exciting player. Bayern would do well to sign him.