When it comes to the playing staff, signings are a great way to improve the squad, both in terms of quality and depth, and indeed, are becoming the most common way. However, onlookers, especially fans of a club tend to derive great joy when a product of the club’s academy makes it through to the first team, and gains importance in it. With this in mind, we will look at some of the best youth academies across the world of football.
This part of the series looks at the best players to emerge from the academy at Bayern Munich.
Founded in 1900, Bayern Munich had to live in the shadows of local rivals 1860 Munich for the larger part of the century. Everything changed in the late 1960s with the trio of Sepp Maier, Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer. Not only did Bayern overtake their Munich counterparts, they also scaled new heights during the 70s with three consecutive European Cup victories being the pinnacle of their success. Since then, they have been a dominant force at both national and international level. A big credit for this goes to the ‘FC Bayern Munich Junior Team’, their youth academy founded as early as 1902. With events like ‘Talent Day’, they have been scouting and developing future superstars for years. Its productivity has increased tenfold since its restructuring in 1995. The result was evident in Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup victory, with as many as five academy graduates starting in the final against Argentina.
10 BEST PRODUCTS
Note that these are professional footballers whom have played in or after 2000.
PHILIPP LAHM // SENIOR DEBUT: 2002
Since the dawn of the millennium, there hasn’t been a more reliable and influential player in German football than Philipp Lahm. To support this statement, let’s just put a simple fact. Lahm has represented Germany in three FIFA World Cups and two Euros, and he made it to the ‘Team of the Tournament’ on each of those occasions. Technique, speed, precision, stamina and intelligence are just some of the attributes that make him arguably the greatest fullback of the 21st century. Born and bred in Munich, Lahm joined Bayern at the age of 11. He went through the youth ranks and made his senior debut in the 2002 UEFA Champions League against RC Lens alongside fellow academy graduate Bastian Schweinsteiger. Besides a loan spell at VfB Stuttgart, Lahm stayed loyal to his childhood club till the end of his career. There is a reason why he has a special place in every fan’s heart even though he wasn’t the first person to win a multitude of accolades with Bayern Munich and Germany. He might be small physically, but his mental strength is second to none. Bayern lost two UEFA Champions League finals in three years. Between 2006 to 2012, Germany made it to the semi-finals of every major tournament they participated in, yet never won it. While his teammates would bemoan their destiny, he would stay firm as ever. Like a true leader, Lahm would inspire them and ultimately lead them to glory in the form of the 2013 UEFA Champions League and the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER // SENIOR DEBUT: 2002
Bastian Schweinsteiger is certainly one of the more underrated footballers, something that stems from him playing as a defensive midfielder. At the beginning of his career, Schweinsteiger’s dribbling skills and powerful shots made the coaches use him as a winger. He first made an impact during the 2005 Confederations Cup and further enhanced his reputation during the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Factors like the arrival of Robben and Ribery and the absence of Michael Ballack allowed Schweinsteiger to move into central midfield at club and country level respectively. That’s when he found his biggest trait: the ability to read the game. With perfectly weaved passes and thunderous shots, we also saw him make crucial tackles and interceptions. His new role helped Bayern achieve unprecedented success as they won the treble in 2013. Schweinsteiger’s most instrumental performance came during the final of the 2014 FIFA World Cup 2014, as he continuously recovered the ball from Argentines to initiate attacks. Since then, injury problems steadily led to his decline. After a disastrous spell at Manchester United, he now plies his trade with Chicago Fire in MLS. Schweinsteiger, who joined the academy in 1998, remains the greatest midfielder that came through it.
TONI KROOS // SENIOR DEBUT: 2007
Toni Kroos belongs to the rare breed of players whose market value skyrocketed since they left Bayern Munich. After spending much of his youth career at local clubs, he joined Bayern in 2006. Since his senior team debut at the age of 17, Kroos secured a permanent spot in the starting eleven within a few years. He was a key member of Bayern’s treble winning side in 2013 where he combined with Javi Martinez and Bastian Schweinsteiger to form a formidable midfield. Kroos was in the best form of his life during the 2014 FIFA World Cup as Germany demolished teams like Portugal and Brazil to win the tournament. In the same year, he made a shocking move to Real Madrid for a mere 25 million euros. With the Los Blancos, Kroos amassed numerous individual and team accolades, including back to back UEFA Champions League victories. Though despised by Bayern fans, very few can deny the fact that Kroos is one of the best midfielders in the world at the moment.
MATS HUMMELS // SENIOR DEBUT: 2007
Among some of the biggest blunders made by the Bayern board was the decision to sell Mats Hummels. Hummels, who joined Bayern before the age of seven, was destined to reach great heights. During his developmental stages, he started showing qualities like good positioning, aggressive marking and aerial dominance. But his spot in the side was taken away by Holger Badstuber, another upcoming centre-back preferred for his ability to adapt as a fullback. Foreseeing the lack of opportunities he would get, Hummels left his boyhood club. Bayern’s loss turned out to be Dortmund’s gain as the once prodigious youngster developed into one of the finest defenders in the world. Hummels was the backbone of Jurgen Klopp’s side that achieved far beyond everyone’s expectations. Hummels’ success with their rivals was a bitter pill for Bayern to swallow, which sorely missed a world class defender during games like the 2010 and 2012 UEFA Champions League finals. The inevitable finally happened in 2016, when Hummels returned to the club where he once dreamed of becoming what he has become today.
OWEN HARGREAVES // SENIOR DEBUT: 2000
One of the three non-German names on this list, Owen Hargreaves was born and raised in Canada. He joined the Bayern Munich academy in 1997 and made it to the first team within three years. Playing alongside the likes of Lothar Matthaus and Stefan Effenberg, Hargreaves moulded himself into a solid defensive midfielder. Impressive performances by him in the semi-final and final of the 2001 UEFA Champions League helped Bayern win the European title after 25 years. He remains one of the two English players to win the UCL with a non-English club till date. Hargreaves’ downfall started with a move to Manchester United in 2007 as his career post-transfer was plagued by injuries. His once illustrious and promising career came to a disastrous end with Manchester City in 2012.
MARKUS BABBEL // SENIOR DEBUT: 1991
Another local boy, Markus Babbel joined Bayern at the age of 9. He made his debut for Bayern in 1991, before spending a couple of years on loan at Hamburger SV. Since his return to Munich, he established himself as a key member of the backline alongside Thomas Helmer. Babbel was an integral part of the German side that won the Euro 1996. Though heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, Babbel moved to Liverpool in 2000 where he quickly became a fan favourite. The last club he played for was Stuttgart, where he won the third Bundesliga title of his career. Since then he’s had managerial stints at Stuttgart, Hertha Berlin, Hoffenheim and Swiss side Luzern.
JOSE PAOLO GUERRERO // SENIOR DEBUT: 2004
Guerrero only played a couple of years with Bayern, making his debut in 2004. The Peruvian forward left in 2006 for Hamburger SV, where low productivity and injuries restricted his playing time in the first season. After a while, he became the undisputed first choice striker for the German club where he spent six years. Guerrero moved to Brazilian side Corinthians in 2012 and helped then win the FIFA Club World Cup in his very first year, scoring the winning goal in the final against Chelsea. He currently plies his trade in Flamengo and holds the honour of being Peru’s all-time top scorer.
THOMAS MULLER // SENIOR DEBUT: 2008
One name that perfectly epitomises German football is Thomas Muller. He doesn’t appear to be an eminent sporting personality with a demigod-like status and an ardent fan following. But deep inside the lanky structure of Muller lies a prodigious footballing brain. While he does score a fair share of goals, his contribution on the pitch is far more than that. The fact that both Germany and Bayern Munich have had a better winning ratio when Muller takes the pitch can’t just be a coincidence. Since his senior team debut in 2008, Bayern have won 13 major domestic titles and reached UEFA Champions League finals thrice, winning the 2013 edition. Muller is third on the list of all time Bayern Munich top scorers, behind legends Gerd Muller and Karl Heinz Rummenigge. He top scored for Germany in FIFA World Cup 2010 and 2014, winning the latter one. While he has gone through a rough patch since Euro 2016, Thomas Muller remains a valuable asset for his club and country. He truly is the ‘Raumdeuter’.
DIETMAR HAMANN // SENIOR DEBUT: 1993
Making his debut in 1993, Dietmar Hamann struggled to find a regular spot in the team till a wave of injuries struck Bayern. Though he had a fair amount of success with the German side, Hamann spent the best part of his career at Liverpool. Joining the Merseyside club in 1999, he quickly established himself as an influential defensive midfielder there. Hamann made an astonishing 53 appearances in the 2000-2001 season when Liverpool won the treble. His most significant performance came during the 2005 UEFA Champions League final where he was the catalyst behind Liverpool’s emphatic comeback after half-time. After retirement in 2011, he has had an unsuccessful managerial career with sides like MK Dons and Stockport County.
DAVID ALABA // SENIOR DEBUT: 2010
David Alaba has won Austrian Footballer of the Year six times, and he’s only 25. The youngest name on this list, Alaba joined Bayern Munich in 2008. His name is synonymous with versatility as he has successfully played at every position in defence, midfield and wings. Since making it to the senior team in 2010, Alaba quickly evolved into the best left-back in the world, rivalled only by Marcelo. His partnership with Ribery in the left flank has yielded many goals for Bayern. While Alaba might have hit his peak early, he has shown no signs of stopping. Bayern Munich has been home to some of the best left-backs of all time, including Breitner, Brehme and Lizarazu, and David Alaba promises to carry their legacy successfully.
Two of the recent academy graduates who made a name for themselves are Emre Can and Mitchell Weiser. Unable to find playing time, both of them left Bayern after a lack of success. Weiser was signed by Hertha BSC and helped them qualify for the 2017-18 Europa League. He represented Germany in the U-21 Euros, scoring a delightful header in the finals against Spain. Emre Can went to Bayer Leverkusen, where his technical skills and physicality impressed Liverpool. Since 2014, he has been plying his trade at the Merseyside club, playing as a defender or a midfielder. He was also part of the young German squad that won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.
With the start of a new season, there are a few promising names that have signed a long-term professional contract with Bayern. These include defenders Felix Gotze, Marco Friedl and goalkeeper Christian Fruchtl. They join Fabian Benko and Niklas Dorsch, who joined the senior team last season. One young player we should keep our eyes on is Franck Evina. The 17-year old Cameroonian striker’s imposing physique has earned him the nickname ‘Bavarian Hulk’. He was impressive during the few pre-season matches he played with the senior team. With a unique blend of power and pace, Franck Evina is a star in the making.
Read the rest of The Academy Series here
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