In the mold of Mats Hummels, Lars Lukas Mai has incubated at Säbener Strasse as he seeks a definitive breakthrough into the first team. Having already impressed at the highest level of German football, Mai may be the most developed prospect plying his trade with Bayern II.
Lars Lukas Mai
Originally from Dresden, Mai made the move to Munich from hometown club, Dynamo Dresden in 2014 on a free transfer. The towering German has operated mainly as a center-back in his blossoming career, which his size and skill set fits perfectly.
The German youth international has featured for the Bayern U-16s, 17s, 19s, and was most recently promoted to Bayern II, which competes in the fourth-tier of German soccer— Regionalliga Bayern. During his time in the youth ranks, he captained the U-17s to a B-Junioren Bundesliga crown, and a second place finish in the U-19 A-Junioren Bundesliga. In addition to his rapid rise up the ranks, he has also featured for the German youth national teams from U-15 through the U19s—competing at the U-17 World Cup and European Championships.
The young defender has already been there and done that in the youth ranks, but his ability to cement his place as a first-choice center-back for Bayern II cannot be understated. As the youngest central defender on the roster, Mai was promoted from the U19s and faced competition from the likes of Nicolas Feldhahn and Maxime Awoudja, in addition to Kilian Senkbeil who was brought in from RB Leipzig in the summer and Theo Rieg who was also promoted form the U19s.
Despite intense competition for places, Mai has racked up the third most appearances behind Senkbeil and the 32-year-old Feldhahn, who has about a zero percent chance of making the jump to the first team. Mai would likely have the most appearances, if it were not for a period recovering from injury in the offseason, as well as stints with the first team as a substitute or travelling with the squad. His performances have justified a sustained place in the team and even justified a role in the first team during cup matches.
Most recently, Mai saw out Die Roten’s 2-1 victory over Werder Bremen as an unused substitute. He can add this first team call to two Bundesliga starts last season when the Bundesliga crown was in hand. Mai went the full 90 in each, causing a stir of excitement with his composed defending and confidence on the ball.
Despite rumors that the 18-year-old may seek minutes elsewhere, he signed a contract extension in April that will keep him at the club until 2021. If things continue to progress at this rate, Mai may just be a pillar of the club for the next 10 to 15 years.
Lars Lukas Mai— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) July 18, 2018
Captain of the U17s, captain of the U19s, this 6'2" natural born leader is now ready to push for first team football with the German champions ✊ #BundesligaYouth pic.twitter.com/X00AkEyRfK
Basic statistical output is perhaps less significant for central defenders, whose performances are better understood through advanced metrics, but alas, such advanced metrics for the Regionalliga are out of my grasp. So, apologies for an abbreviated statistical review.
Let’s begin where there is readily accessible data on the promising defender’s performances. In his two Bundesliga appearances in the final stages of the 2017/18 campaign, Mai featured prominently in a 3-0 win at Hannover and a 4-1 rout of Eintracht Frankfurt.
Against Hannover he partnered with Jerome Boateng, contributing a tackle, two clearances, and a blocked shot, along with a solid display with the ball at his feet, including 86.3% pass accuracy, one long ball and a dribble. In the following match, Mai was able to assert himself more as he grew more comfortable with the level of play. On the afternoon the youngster picked up a 93% pass accuracy, three tackles, two interceptions, one clearance, and one blocked shot.
It is significant to not that each of these were solid displays against teams who still very much had something to play for, one of whom trounced Bayern weeks later in the Pokal final.
At the youth level, the prodigious defender has racked up 15 appearances for Bayern II, 27 for the U-19s in one season and 49 in two years with the U17s. He’s contributed five goals and three assists during this time, but goal scoring isn’t a part of his game to be too concerned about.
Mai fits the mold of a prototypical German center-back. Tall, powerful, and composed with the ball at his feet.
Physically, the 18-year-old is a giant. Standing at 6’3’’ and 195 lbs. he is already on par with Bayern’s current crop of first choice defenders. His strength is on full display as he muscles attackers off of the ball in dangerous situations.
Despite such an imposing figure at such a young age, his pace and mobility are what make him an exciting prospect. Mai has demonstrated an ability to close down pacey forwards and utilize his range and flexibility to make acrobatic challenges. Similarly to Niklas Sule, the young German has deceptive pace that allows him to play in a high defensive line and cover ground against opposition counter attacks. He rarely gets turned around by shifty play makers and rotates his hips well in defense. This allows the youngster to avoid over extending himself and getting into trouble in one-on-one situations. For a team that utilizes a possession-based style and has a history of susceptibility to counter-attacks, this is vital.
The youth international also has impeccable timing on his challenges and demonstrates a defensive awareness that is uncanny for his age. Mai reads the game wonderfully, breaking up attacks high up the line and intervening in dangerous moves with well-timed interceptions. His anticipation allows him to organize the back-line and dominate through intelligent positioning. He very rarely over-extends, but is capable of executing those lunging, last-ditch challenges Bayern fans have come to love. In keeping with comparisons to Bayern defenders, the German prodigy utilizes his flexibility and timing similarly to Jerome Boateng, who has bailed out the Bavarians oh so many times.
Finally, Mai’s ability on the ball is perhaps his most undervalued asset. the towering youngster loves to utilize long diagonal passes to break down pressing teams and plays line splitting passes to midfielders hoping to link play. His range of passing is quite impressive considering his physically imposing figure. Even though he has a diversity of passes in his arsenal, he is also comfortable dribbling out from the back and dealing with pressure.
The best example of his ability on the dribble was a sequence against Hannover in the Bundesliga, where he chipped the ball over a pressing attacker, chested it down, and dribbled out of pressure and played a ball to a waiting midfielder with grace and composure (See 2:15 mark). He did all of this as the last defender, with no support in sight. If that is any sign of his style of play, this prospect has ice in his veins.
To put it simply, this guy is a Bayern player and he must be utilized in the Rückrunde if the Bavarian giants plan to challenge across three competitions and remain healthy. Expect to see him in domestic cup matches and to feature more prominently in 2019/20. If reinforcements are brought in at center-back, he may be loaned out in order to prove his worth, much like David Alaba did at Hoffenheim. Out of all the prospects in the academy, Lars Lukas Mai is the furthest along in his development and seems like a sure thing.
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