Due to the league structure in Germany, Bayern Munich have an opportunity that most top European clubs do not have: a long, extended look at their youth players. The fixture list on these trips to Doha, Qatar and other spots in the Middle East might look daft and superfluous, but it has really transformed into a midseason springboard for several youth players.
The club took six players from the reserve and youth ranks last year alone – Julian Green, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Lukas Raeder, Ylli Sallahi, Alessandro Schöpf, Mitchell Weiser. Four of them made an appearance in the Hinrunde, and three (potentially four) are currently playing first-team football in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga.
With 12 players leaving the reserve team over the past six months – capped off by Sallahi's move to Karlsruher SC – Bayern Munich could be pilfering their prospects from a different source in 2015, the U19 team. A good amount of those players are already in the first-team picture, and based merely on the amount of players called up to their youth national teams, that is where a glut of Bayern's potential currently lies.
Bayern has three opportunities – two against middle eastern teams and one against VfL Bochum – to trail some younger players. Who has a shot to go this year? First, lets get the obvious ones out of the way:
- Gianluca Gaudino (Forward, Bayern U19)
- Sinan Kurt (Midfielder, Bayern U19)
- Mitchell Weiser (Defender, Bayern II)
- Leopold Zingerle (Goalkeeper, Bayern II)
Those four players have appeared on multiple team sheets for Bayern during the Hinrunde of the Bundesliga, some getting extended minutes in the first team. Several of their comrades in the Bayern academy system also deserve to go. Here are five that Pep Guardiola and Bayern should consider taking a long look at during the Winterpause:
1) Marco Hingerl (Midfielder, Bayern U19)
Bayern have yet to integrate him much with the first team, but Hingerl has performed phenomenally in the midfield of the club's U19 team. He has punched his way onto the scoresheet several times, including two goals and two assists in the UEFA Youth League, playing as an attacking and box-to-box midfield. The captain of the U19 squad and consistent Germany U19 call-up, he deserves his first look with the first team.
2) Michael Eberwein (Forward, Bayern U19)
Eberwein has already gotten a chance in club friendlies over the summer, playing in a couple friendlies and making the trip to the United Staes. He is the poacher among the prospects, scoring nine goals and assisting four others in the U19 Bundesliga, but came up empty in the UEFA Youth League. He may not be the type of striker Guardiola is looking for, but the only way for the manager to find out is to give him a minute or two in friendlies like these.
3) Steven Ribéry (Forward, Bayern II)
Coming in as a youth player trying to get his chance, Ribéry worked his way to one of Bayern II manager Erik ten Hag's most reliable players. His former gaffer Heiko Vogel compared him to Arjen Robben, and his older brother Franck has a feeling he could become a tenured pro. He is still fighting for a professional contract, and a modest showcase in the Middle East could be just what he needs.
4) Lukas Scholl (Midfielder, Bayern U19)
Of the group listed here, he is the most likely to get a ticket to Doha based on the fact he made a team sheet appearance that the others have not. He does have a strong playmaking skill set, but he is still extremely raw as an 18-year-old. He has a decent rapport with the current players in the senior team after appearing several times in the preseason, and he could get a few more cups of tea in January.
5) Angelos Oikonomou (Midfielder, Bayern II)
With so much depth in holding midfield, Oikonomou might not have the chops to compete with players such as Rode and Højbjerg at the moment. On the other hand, what he has done in 2014 with the reserves is hard to ignore. Bayern II has not given up more than two goals when he is in the team, and he has show the ability to play both fullback positions as well. His youth contract expires in 2016, but now would be a good time to see if the Greek can be part of Bayern's future.