Niklas Sule has proven to be a solid replacement for the likes of either Mats Hummels or Jerome Boateng in the center of Bayern Munich’s back line each and every time he’s been called upon this season. Since joining the Bavarians from Hoffenheim over the summer, Sule has made a total of 11 appearances for Bayern across all competitions, including 4 starts in the Bundesliga, and has scored twice (once in the DFL Supercup final, and once in the league).
Speaking to Kicker (via Fox Sports Asia), Sule spoke about how his game has been taken to the next level from training week in and week out with his Bayern teammates:
The level of the sessions at Bayern is sheer madness. When you have to deal with the likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben — two of the world’s best players — every day, then you must constantly be on full alert during practice. But I’m getting better at it. It was one of the reasons I decided to come here so that I would improve.
In football, especially at a club as massive as Bayern Munich, the pressure to perform can often times cause players to fold quite easily, but Sule believes that the immense pressure helps him perform at his best:
At a certain time, pressure in football is good and for me it acts as a spur. I wanted to take this step [moving to Bayern] and must prove to myself that it was the right one. I’m happy to be learning from the likes of Hummels, Boateng and [Javi] Martinez.
Ironically enough, too, Sule wasn’t always a natural center-back, and spent most of the early part of his career at Hoffenheim as a striker. Speaking with Munich-based media outlet Abendzeitung (via Bundesliga), Sule spoke about making the switch to defense:
I initially moved to Hoffenheim as a striker, but soon afterward, the club’s Under-17 coach said that as I was relatively fast and big and had decent technique, that I would play well as a central defender. From then on, I have done so.
He comically alluded to the fact that Robert Lewandowski is, without a doubt, the main man up front for Bayern, despite his background as a striker:
Lewy is judged on his goal-scoring exploits, but I’m measured on my defensive duties; keeping clean sheets is also a lot of fun.
Sule has only started once under Jupp Heynckes, but that’s likely to change with the heavy fixture congestion Bayern are set to experience up until the next international break in November. The 22-year-old has been a more-than-ample option for Bayern when Hummels, Boateng, and/or Javi Martinez are unavailable or need to be rested. In fact, the 3-0 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain back at the end of September was the only match that Bayern lost when Sule had been in the starting XI. In his other 5 starts across all competitions, Bayern have won and have cumulatively boasted 12 goals for, and only 5 against.
Two encounters with RB Leipzig, a trip to Glasgow to face Celtic in the Champions League, and a trip to the Westfalenstadion to take on Borussia Dortmund in Der Klassiker lie in between now and the international break.