FC Bayern Youth: Outlook on 2017
In 2006, Bayern purchased part of Fürst Wrede Barracks in Munich; an area that was originally destined for all non-footballing departments of the club. Various buildings were going to get created, including a 5,000 seater for the first team basketballers. But the planning stage turned out to be challenging.
For one, the previous use of the area as barracks meant that the ground was contaminated and had to be cleaned. The city borders between Munich and Oberschleißheim also run right across the grounds, so that all red tape processes had to be completed twice, to make sure both authorities were on board – not an easy task in bureaucratic Germany. The long-winded approval processes meant that the original plans had to be revised and updated to fit the current needs several times.
When Bayern bought the grounds in 2006, the extension building at Säbener Straße that today includes, among others, the Service Center and fan shop, was still in planning stage. Besides, Bayern’s NLZ was Germany’s undisputed #1, both sporting and infrastructural. However, over the past 10 years, the club has been growing relentlessly, with both turnover and membership numbers increasing threefold.
At the club’s headquarters, various offices for employees have had to be moved into makeshift container offices, and Bayern have lost ground with the NLZ in more than one way. Fuelled by TSG Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig, who both not only attracted youth players by paying previously unheard-of sums, but also invested hugely into infrastructure, a number of Bundesliga clubs have improved their own NLZs.
This increasing infrastructural gap was one of the first things that Matthias Sammer noticed during his first months at FC Bayern, and he was the driving force behind making the newly-purchased area an exclusive NLZ, without other departments. This lead to further delays, since plans had to be revised and get approved again, but will eventually make sure that the new grounds are perfectly suited for the now defined needs.
In the end, only one hall (B) from the original plan has remained, and on top of that, two pitches with artificial turf and five pitches with natural turf will be built. To compare: the Säbener Straße complex offers three pitches for training.
The big academy buiding (C) will hold not only changing rooms and offices, but also the boarding school and canteen. According to the plans, a total of 35 rooms will be available for boarding, that’s 20 more than at Säbener Straße. The club house (D) will be home to a restaurant with beer garden, a fan shop, the caretaker’s flat, as well as more offices. The area marked (E) will turn into an artificial turf pitch for technical and conditional exercises.
To take care of the grounds, there will also be a greenkeeper yard (F). Next to the youth stadium (A) will be plenty of parking spaces (G). In the stadium – with room for 2,500 visitors – the Under-19s and Under-17s will play their home games. Pitches 2 and 3 are also part of the “public area” and intended for games, they share small stands.
The Reserves will continue to play their home games in the stadium at Grünwalder Straße, lovingly nicknamed “Hermann Gerland Arena”. There has been no definite communication about where the Reserves will train, and it’s possible that plans will change in the future, but according to my information, they will stay at Säbener Straße. The geographical split of the two training locations means there will have to be a cut at some point that will make it difficult for young players to simply train with the next team up on the same grounds. That is a problem that will have to be faced with two sets of grounds located at opposite ends of Munich. The final decision about the cut-off line will be a difficult one that will have to be thought through thoroughly.
Building the NLZ means that FC Bayern has invested some 70 million Euros in bricks, but even the best academy won’t work unless there’s a good concept behind it. We showed that Bayern is on a fairly good track there, in our half-year analysis. The countless changes made over the last years are resulting in more and more almost constantly good age groups.
Going forward, the people in charge will have to work on the details some more in this area and make sure to consistently improve the teams every year. This will likely have to include more aggressive demeanour on the transfer market, where Bayern has been very reserved in recent, not just compared to newcomers Hoffenheim and Leipzig, but also other traditional clubs like Schalke or Dortmund. This new behaviour will have to mean transfer fees, more often than has been the case before; however, these usually pay off, if not with a well-performing player at the own club, then at least with a training compensation once the players transfer to another club.
It seems a given that Wolfgang Dremmler won’t stay head of the NLZ forever; he jumped in on short notice in 2012 to replace Jörg Butt, but mentioned quite some time ago that his time was limited, while talking to fans. Dremmler managed to get Bayern three stars, the highest possible ranking for an academy, for the first time. He’s working very long hours, including weekends – there’s hardly any Junior Team game at Säbener Straße without him in the crowd.
This is in contrast to Heiko Vogel, Sports Director, who’s a rare guest at games of the teams under his responsibility, Under-16s, Under-17s, and Under-19s. In an interview with bfv.tv, Uli Hoeneß recently mentioned that Heiko Vogel had realised that working as both the Reserves’ coach and as Sports Director for the Junior Team wasn’t an ideal solution, and it seems likely that Heiko Vogel will hold only one of these positions next year, to ensure he can then work on that with all his focus. Two other frequent visitors at youth games are Jürgen Jung and Michael Tarnat, both of whom left Bayern’s youth department last year at their own wish.
The executives will examine the coaches as well and analyse whether each position is occupied by the best suitable coach. Not all teams play according to the general style of play: dominantly, with high percentages of possession, and high pressing. It will be important to keep hold of the good coaches, which is particularly true of Under-17s coach Tim Walter, who has been doing an excellent job ever since moving to Bayern from Karlsruhe 18 months ago. He will complete his coaching license in spring and will, in the long run, undoubtedly receive offers to work in senior football.
There will always be a certain amount of rotation in coaching positions, which will have to be filled with young, talented youth coaches who are full of passion for their task at FC Bayern.
For the fifth year in a row, Bayern’s reserves aren’t going to make the jump from the Bavarian regional league into the third division. There’s been a different story in every campaign to explain just why they haven’t managed it in the end, with the most well-known being Lukas Raeder’s blunder in the 93rd and final minute of the 2013/14 season.
Regardless, it would have been questionable anyway whether the reserves could have held their own in the third division in the following years. The classes of 96 and 97 have offered very little quality to promote so far. Another ingredient required for the basic recipe is consistently promoting high quality from their own ranks, so that occasional external reinforcements are sufficient to play a good part in the third division. In this respect, FC Bayern is doing well.
There are concerns over the clearly-growing difficulty of keeping Bayern’s own talents at the club. Indeed, of the class of 1996, Michael Eberwein and Marco Hingerl have left to Borussia Dortmund and SC Freiburg respectively, while of the 1997 group, Dominik Martinovic has departed for RB Leipzig, with 1998 graduate Marco Stefandl joining VfB Stuttgart. These are four players who have left in the past few years who would have boosted the reserve side. And now it seems that the next high-class talent, Adrian Fein, is considering an exit from Bayern; according to reports, he’s negotiating with Hoffenheim.
For me personally, the reasons for almost all of these players leaving aren’t clear. Only with one of them did it seem to be about wage demands, going by reports. Here we need a thorough analysis into why we’re losing reserve reinforcements from our own youth ranks almost by the dozen. We’ve already seen how this route has been a stepping stone to the big leagues of professional football.
The best example of that is undoubtedly Alessandro Schöpf, who was playing for the reserves two years ago and is now a key player for Schalke 04.
The demands from some fans to simply do away with the reserves, as some other teams have done, aren’t going away. Instead, the idea would be to rely on loans to develop the youngsters. In spite of that, FC Bayern has always decided against getting rid of the reserve team. Loans are by no means perfect in every situation.
Finding a team where a player can develop optimally while gaining enough playing time is tough. The example of Julian Green shows how, with how quickly the managerial merry-go-round spins, the next man in charge might want nothing to do with the player. Having an amateur side in the third division as their own team, practising Bayern’s way of playing, seems to be the clearly superior solution.
A solution where young players have to learn early on and at a high level how to take on responsibility. And a solution that makes sure that the best talents can regularly train with our senior side at the highest level. Last but not least, the reserve side is always a key criterion when signing young talents. In the Sky documentary about Leipzig’s youth development, for example, Gino Fechner, who plays for Germany at youth level, explained that VfL Bochum’s dissolving of their reserve side was a decisive factor in his decision to leave the club.
Here at Bayern we of all clubs shouldn’t lack the money to take every chance to promote young talents, even if in some seasons there aren’t really any players in the reserves who would be candidates for our own senior side.
Uli Hoeneß set it out in an interview with bfv.tv: In the long-term, we’ll expect that the new academy brings results. This goal was defined by Hoeneß as “bringing through a player for the senior side every three years”. That was certainly a reassuring statement and should at the very least demonstrate certain expectations.
In actual fact, by 2030 it would be nice if we could have brought four or five players right through to the top since the opening of the new academy, like in the last 13 years with Alaba, Müller, Badstuber and Kroos. The basic conditions for that, namely much higher, consistent quality in the specific year groups, seem to be coming along well. The strengthening of these groups between U16 and U19 with top talents at home and abroad should be accelerated much more too. For these talents to then start learning their trade early at a high standard of football in the third division, implementing Bayern’s style and taking on responsibility in a team, would be ideal.
For a home-grown talent to make it into our senior side, we need to fulfill another requirement. No player can force themselves through a locked door. Those in charge need to make sure to constantly leave the door ajar for the youngsters, and not to sign experienced professionals as replacements for the replacements. Of course, that requires a certain compromise to be made, and one or two fans will point at this as leading to a weak link in the squad. But this compromise will be necessary to be able to bring through our own youngsters in the future. So it’s important that the expectation levels of fans are adapted to the young players.
In March 2010, one David Alaba was torn apart by Frankfurt’s Fenin and was held responsible for Bayern’s eventual 2-1 defeat, leading to those very fans loudly declaring he lacked the necessary quality. The rest, as they say, is history. Playing a young player whose talent you’re convinced of is indeed a risk, but it’s worth the risk. These players will then, and only then, grow to become world-class, when they are given the time for that development and supported in that, too. That goes for club and fans both.
The expectations are just as big as the excited anticipation of the future of the academy’s work. For me, there’s no more exciting topic at FC Bayern in the next few years than following along with these developments. The outlook is right, the infrastructure will be right in June/July – time for a Bavarian motto: “Pack mas o!/Let’s do this!”
That was the second-last part of our winter series on our academy. In the final part, we’d like to answer all of your questions. The best way of doing this would be to send your questions via Twitter to @miasanrot with the hashtag #Nachwuchsfragen. If you don’t have Twitter, post your question as a comment below this article.