Miroslav Klose is back. Seven years after his move to Lazio Rome, the former striker is back at FC Bayern and took the helm of the Under 17 a few weeks ago. Why you can’t expect too much from the team in the table and why it will still be a very interesting season, you can read now.
Let’s go back two years. FC Bayern’s 2002 age group only finished fifth in the South Regional League. A disappointing season for Peter Wenninger’s then under-15s. The champion VfB Stuttgart declassified the Bavarians not only in the table with 22 points ahead, also in the direct duel in the 0:3 home defeat a class difference was recognizable. A season that no longer met the requirements of FC Bayern. The sporting management tried desperately to strengthen the age group. But too late, the good players of the competition were already bound by contract.
Thus, even before last season 2017/18, a fundamental decision was made to give up the 2002s with regard to external newcomers and to give younger players the chance to do so. Because if you look at the 2003 year of FC Bayern in ten years’ time, you will probably discover not only three and not just five, but rather around ten players who later made it into the Bundesliga. In the summer of 2016, FC Bayern strengthened for the first time this age group, which until then had been below average by Bayern standards. Seven players changed from FC Augsburg to Munich. This was the start of the aggressive transfer strategy that FC Bayern has now continued to develop in the youth sector.
In their first season, the 2003s celebrated the Bavarian championship and were already regarded as the strongest German team of the year. But those who had expected that the youth department would rest on its laurels were wrong. With Luca Denk from 1 FC Nürnberg and Torben Rhein and Nemanja Motika from Hertha BSC one could win further absolute top talents for the club. Instead of underchallenging the team in the new under-15s Bavarian league, the sporting management decided to promote eight players early to the under-16s. In detail these were Roman Reinelt, Leon Fust, Micha Bareis, Christos Evangelou, Luca Denk, Torben Rhein, Angelo Brückner and Lasse Günther. These also formed the heart of the B2 juniors under coach Danny Schwarz, mainly as regular players in the past season.
The undisputed regular goalkeeper is captain Manuel Kainz, who has every reason to hope to be nominated for the junior national team in the long term. As his replacement Lukas Brandl switched to FC Ingolstadt at short notice in June, Moritz Knauf joined the team from local rival 1860. In the final test against Sturm Graz (4-1), the tall Jamie Lawrence and Yannick Oberleitner, son of the legendary Markus Oberleitner, who scored for SpVgg Unterhaching against Bayer Leverkusen in 2000 and thus shot FC Bayern to the title. Especially for Lawrence this came as a bit of a surprise, as he hardly played a role under Danny Schwarz last season. However, Roman Reinelt should have a very good chance of regaining his regular position from last season. Benjamin Hofmann is a fourth central defender.
The 2003s Angelo Brückner and Leon Fust have the best chances in the full-back positions, even though Fust played on the 6 against the Austrians in the test match. Dejan Ignatic and Micha Bareis, who can be used both offensively and defensively, will probably have to stand in the back for the time being, but Benjamin Hofmann can also be used in the left-back position. The absolute showpiece of the team, however, is undoubtedly the centre of midfield. And just because many readers read some names in the Under-17 for the first time ever, the assessment turns out to the following players somewhat more detailed.
Luca Denk, who moved to the FC Bayern Campus in 2017 from FC Nuremberg, combines not only unbelievable athleticism for his age, but also outstanding game intelligence. Mostly used in defensive midfield he captivates with his shooting technique, his diagonal balls and his goal instinct, which sometimes remind a little of Michael Ballack. In the second half of the season, Denk would have already played more often in the under 17 as a under 15 player if he had not suffered a cruciate ligament rupture at the beginning of January. This injury also prevented him from playing in the first matches of the Under-15s national team, in which he was reportedly planned to be captain. Luca Denk hasn’t fully recovered yet and such a serious injury at this age has already cost several youth players their entire careers. But Luca Denk was so outstanding that he can be trusted to make us forget this lost half year. Where his position will be in the senior game one day is still one of the big questions for the coming years.
Some might have read the name Torben Rhein already, also because of the rumours about the sum, which FC Bayern transferred for him to Hertha BSC. His professional contract is a foregone conclusion, but cannot yet be officially announced due to his age. The two-footed playmaker impresses with an excellent overview on the field, his strength in standard situations from all positions and his passing accuracy. Toni Kroos is an often mentioned name when it comes to a comparison for Torben. Hermann Gerland already predicted that one day he will prevail with the pros of FC Bayern and with that the tiger should really have good chances if the player remains clear in the head and spared from serious injuries. Physically, he’s gonna have to put on a little weight. Nevertheless: Seldom were so many observers so united as with Torben Rhein that he will make it into the Bundesliga.
In the offensive absolutely set is Malik Tillman. Timothy’s younger brother might eventually prove to be the better Tillman, his latest development is undoubtedly impressive. Somewhat surprisingly, he played his way into the defensive midfield of the Under-17s under Holger Seitz as a youngster last year and has made enormous physical gains in recent months. This year he will have to lead his young team offensively with his experience in the Under-17 Bundesliga. It will be exciting to see how he can deal with this responsibility. Other players for the centre include Moritz Mosandl, who almost completely missed last season due to a shin fracture, Christos Evangelou, Pipo Skodic and Tizano Mulas.
Lasse Günther on the wings is another top talent from the 2003 age group. His greatest strengths are his dynamism and speed, but he can still improve, especially in front of the goal. In one preparation match, for example, he disassembled the back team of FC Augsburg one after the other, but missed all the chances of scoring. Sandro Porta started on the opposite right wing against Sturm Graz. The small, dribbling player once came to FC Bayern from Unterhaching. However, he could be replaced by Alex Bazdrigiannis, who missed much of the preparation and was a regular in the Under-16s last season. David Halbich is one more player for the depth of the squad.
Trainer & Tactics
No question, a trainer without any experience in the daily work with youth players can’t deny a certain scepticism at the beginning. But with his performances in the preparation Miroslav Klose managed to leave a good first impression with all observers. His coaching style can be described as very active, he participates continuously in the game and makes corrections in the positioning of the individual players. He attaches great importance to the right angles for passes into the deep.
In the preseason test games, the team usually relied on midfield pressing, but also struck more offensively with pressing traps when the opportunity arose. Nevertheless, the league matches over the full distance against stronger opponents will of course show how much the current tendencies are in line with Klose’s long-term vision. He can undoubtedly still work on his posture during coaching, which often seems a bit nervous. But apart from that, chances are good that the record scorer in World Cup history could turn out to be an excellent choice for the coaching position.
Outlook & Forecast
There is no doubt that the team has absolute top talents in its ranks, especially with the players who have been introduced more closely. But this quality does not apply to all positions and with the five or six younger players, most of whom will be in the starting line, the team will undoubtedly have to pay a lesson or two against older and more physically mature opponents. The public will hang up the grapes for Klose, as the Under-17s have reached the final of the German championships in the last two years. But it would be bold to measure Klose by this.
This Under-17 season will focus even more than before on the development of the individual top talents and less on the position in the standings at the end of the season. All in all, a place in the top 5 of the league should be realistic, other teams will play for the championship this year. When players like Torben Rhein or Luca Denk play with our pros in a few years, this season has been fully worth it.