Youth players in first team training

Traditionally, pre-season is the ideal time for youth team players to show their skills while training with the first team. While the U23 was away for their training camp and will begin filling in the ranks for the first team in the upcoming week, Carlo Ancelotti had a number of freshly-crowned U17 German champions available to him for the first days of practise. Author: Martin • Translator: Bettina

A short introduction for these youth players:

Ron Thorben Hoffmann (born 1999)

Hoffmann joined Bayern’s junior team in 2015 from Leipzig. After playing a half season with the Under-17s team, he was promoted to Under-19s in January 2016. Since Christian Früchtl was promoted to Under-19s at the same time, Hoffmann was only second goalkeeper for a while, but reclaimed his position as number one after Früchtl’s syndesmosis injury, and came second in the Under-19s German championship. Hoffmann played two games for Germany’s Under-18s national team last season but wasn’t called up again in the second half of the season. After Früchtl’s promotion to the Bayern reserve, he will be first-choice goalkeeper for Bayern’s Under-19s.

Lars Lukas Mai (born 2000)

Lifted the Under-17s champions’ trophy first as the team’s captain. The centre-back joined Bayern in 2014 from Dynamo Dresden and played with the 2000 year until summer 2016 due to his physical development. Under coach Tim Walter, Mai developed into a well-rounded, strong-suited centre-back over the course of last season, and managed to reduce his errors in build-up play to almost nothing. “Lasse”, as his team-mates call him, is a fixture in the Under-17s national team, too – missing the decisive penalty in the semi-final of the European championship this spring. All this only makes his performance during the final phase of the race for the domestic title all the more impressive, with him and his defensive team-mates allowing only one goal against in three games.

Christian Früchtl (born 2000)

The Bavarian-born goalkeeper has made the news more than once already. He’s had a first-team contract for a good year and has been training with Toni Tapalovic, the first team goalkeeping coach. The plan of making him first-choice goalkeeper for the Bayern reserves failed because the rules set by the Bavarian Football Association BFV won’t allow players his age to take part in their games in Regionalliga Bayern (fourth-tier league).

After injuring his syndesmosis during training in April, he missed out on the championship races for the Under-19s and Under-17s teams, both of which he was still eligible to play for. He also missed the Under-17s Euros, for which he would have been number one in goal. He will likely be back for the Under-17s World Cup this autumn, however. Früchtl is back in training at the moment, with limited intensity. His starting for the Bayern reserve’s season opener in two weeks is doubtful.

Marcel Zylla (born 2000)

Zylla has made a name for himself amongst Bayern fans during the Under-17s season finale. The midfielder was the pivotal point in the centre and scored the important 1-0 both in the semi-final first leg against Schalke, and in the final against Werder Bremen. 14 goals and 12 assists in his 29 games last season show his quality both in scoring and in assisting goals. Marcel Zylla is the player who’s been at Bayern the longest time, joining the junior team when he was still a true junior.

He currently has one international game to his name, but hasn’t been called up to the national team lately. A street footballer who needs a certain amount of freedom to perform, he is exactly the kind of player Oliver Bierhoff recently found missing in the youth national teams. With his performances in the decisive late-season games, he’ll be difficult to ignore for Germany’s Under-17s national coach Christian Wück ahead of the Under-17s World Cup in October.

Franck Evina (born 2000)

The Cameroonian was last season’s Under-17s top scorer with 22 goals and 12 assists. While he played mostly as a centre forward, his future will probably lie on the wings, where his qualities will be able to come through better. “Franky”, as his team-mates like to call him, learned how to play football at SV Neuperlach in Munich. During the regular season, the team usually had high percentages of possession and Evina scored plenty of goals from within the box. In the final games against Schalke and Bremen, he had to change his playing style somewhat, having to handle and distribute balls with his back to goal more than he was used to. But Evina did well and was involved in both goals in the final against Werder Bremen.

Depending on whether Wintzheimer stays with the Under-19s team or gets promoted to the Bayern reserves, Evina might find himself on the wing next season. It’s to be expected that it will be his only season at Under-19s, with direct promotion to the Bayern reserves in 2018.

Oliver Batista Meier (born 2001)

Those Bayern fans who saw the Under-17s for the first time during the final will surely name Batista Meier as the most noticeable player – which would be slightly unfair to the rest of the team, since all of them went above and beyond. But even so, Batista Meier proved that as the youngest regular starter in the team he has developed by leaps and bounds over the course of the season. Last summer, he joined Bayern from 1. FC Kaiserslautern, where he played in their Under-17s while still a Under-15s player.

Not versed enough in matters of tactics, he was obviously struggling with his coach’s guidelines in the beginning of the season. He wasn’t used to working defensively, or to counter pressing, which lead to him not starting the second game of the season after a bad week in training. On top of that, an operation threw him back somewhat during autumn. By the beginning of the season’s second half, however, Batista Meier was back to being a dependable part of the Under-17s offense, finding his slot in the team effortlessly both offensively and defensively. In the final games, he shone with his calmness on the ball, dribblings that created space, and even as a scorer in the semi-final when he slotted in the decisive 2-0 in the first leg. Over the next years he’ll have to prove that he can find his way even in physically more challenging senior football. He won’t be eligible to play for the Bayern reserves until summer 2018, but – with an exceptional permission – could play for the first team from his 17th birthday in February 2018.



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