Milos Pantovic Becomes a Role Model for Bayern Munich Academy Prospects in Debut

Clark Whitney@@Mr_BundesligaFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2015

Bayern's Philipp Lahm, Robert Lewandowski, Thomas Mueller, goalkeeper Manuel Neuer and Bayern's Joshua Kimmich, from left, walk from the pitch after the German Bundesliga soccer match between Werder Bremen and FC Bayern Munich in Bremen, Germany, Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. Bayern won with 1-0. (AP Photo/Joerg Sarbach)
Joerg Sarbach/Associated Press

On Saturday, for the first time this season, Bayern Munich had two players born within the city limits in their matchday squad.

Pep Guardiola named Philipp Lahm in his starting lineup to face Werder Bremen. And on the bench was a new face, that of Milos Pantovic. The 19-year-old made his Bundesliga debut in injury time, replacing Arturo Vidal as the Bavarians looked to run out the clock against their resilient but trailing hosts. A few ticks later, he had completed his first game as a professional footballer.

Having developed at an academy known for producing Thomas Muller, Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger, Pantovic is an unlikely name to emerge from the Bayern youth ranks. The son of immigrants from Arilje, in modern-day Serbia, who fled for Germany during the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, Pantovic is nonetheless a native Bavarian and a symbol of the club's commitment to developing local talent.

Whereas Copenhagen-born Pierre Hojbjerg was signed from Brondby shortly before his 17th birthday and Vienna-born David Alaba joined from Austria Wien as a 16-year-old, Pantovic was raised in Munich and joined Bayern aged 10 years, younger even than Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Muller did.

Pantovic's debut comes during a season in which he's become a key player for the Bayern reserve team. An attacking player who prefers to operate on the right wing, he has a good combination of strength and skill that have made him a formidable player in the Regionalliga Bayern (fourth division). In fact, he's scored or assisted in seven of his 13 appearances for the Bayern reserves this season.

His five goals and two assists earned interest from Pep Guardiola, and the youngster was drafted into the senior squad as Bayern returned to action with an injury crisis following the recent international break.

Guardiola could have brought on any of his substitutes, including Gianluca Gaudino, whom he blooded over a year ago but who has yet to make an appearance for the senior side this season. In fact, the Hanau-born midfielder may have been more deserving; he is a capped Germany youth international, whereas Pantovic has yet to be given a call by either the German or Serbian associations.

Instead, the Catalan trainer opted to introduce a new face. The decision was another symbol of the club's renewed interest in their academy development.

Bayern's last talent to truly make it in the first team is Alaba, who has been a regular starter since returning from loan with Hoffenheim in the spring of 2011. Having struggled to assert dominance in youth football anywhere near that they've enjoyed at senior level, the club is in the process of developing a new, state-of-the-art youth training center in the north of Munich with aims to compete with academies like those of Barcelona and Schalke and produce a continuous stream of real talent.

Part of Bayern's renewed commitment to youth development is investment in facilities, but part of it is giving real hope to their young players, to encourage them that they can indeed overcome the enormous challenges at as competitive a club as Bayern and indeed succeed as professional footballers.

This is especially important given Bayern's recent policy of signing young players, such as Kingsley Coman, Joshua Kimmich and Sinan Kurt, who can effectively block the path into the first team for longstanding academy players.

Following Gaudino, Pantovic is the next Bayern player to debut who has been at the club from an early age. His few seconds on the pitch were a reward for his good efforts thus far, and when he returns to the reserves, his example will be an inspiration to those around him. And maybe, just maybe, the motivation of making his debut will push him to take the next step in his career and become a senior player.

@Mr_Bundesliga

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