In his six years with Bayern Munich, Niklas Dorsch played exactly one first-team game. He made it count, scoring a goal against Niko Kovac’s Eintracht Frankfurt in April of last season. But after that, Dorsch bid Munich farewell. He declined a new contract with Bayern and opted instead to move to FC Heidenheim in the 2. Bundesliga, where he has established himself in the starting lineup — in addition to playing for Germany’s U20 team.
Asked why he played exactly one game with Bayern’s first team, Dorsch was frank.
I simply didn’t get a fair chance. No one paid much attention to young players. When you play a time and score a goal right away, then there’s a lot of talk again. Before that, nobody was interested in what I was doing.
Dorsch described a significant difference between his communication with his coach on Bayern II and the coaches of the professional team. Conspicuous by his absence, Carlo Ancelotti:
My coach from the second team spoke with me at length every day. But when you’re playing on the second team at Bayern, you also want to move up to the pros sometime. The contact for that wasn’t all too good. I didn’t have a super feeling until Jupp Heynckes came. Heynckes helped me immensely and gave me a chance. He and assistant coach also supported me, even though it was clear that I was leaving. Pep Guardiola was also a super coach who worked with the young players.
Even after scoring for the first team, Dorsch had no second thoughts about his decision to leave Bayern Munich. He had made up his nearly a year earlier:
I thought about what I wanted to do in the future a year before the end of my contract. It was clear to me that I wanted to try out something new.
Dorsch was nonetheless extremely grateful for the opportunity he had at Bayern to train with the first team, although only training with the pros left Dorsch ultimately unsatisfied:
It helped me a lot that I could train with the pros. I’m very grateful for that. There are world-class players there who have lots of experience. I tried to take away everything from every training session. Despite that I always wanted to play. If I only train, I’ll be training world champion, but not more.
Although training with Bayern’s stars helped Dorsch “learn to think fast” and develop as a player, he ultimately realized “it was the wrong way and I had to chance something.” At Heidenheim, he feels he has finally received a chance. But Dorsch was pessimistic about the prospects of the players still aspiring to make the leap to first-team soccer from Bayern’s reserve team.
I played with the amateurs for three years and only played in one Bundesliga game. Now new young players have signed professional contracts. It’ll go the same way for them as it did for me. When you don’t get the chance, you can’t prove your talent. At Heidenheim, I can finally play soccer again.
He explained his decision to transfer to Heidenheim and the 2. Bundesliga, and not to another top-flight team, in similar terms, but emphasized the importance of coaching stability:
At a first-league team, it probably would have been just like at FC Bayern. There you’re just one of many. If I only play in the Regionalliga, no club will be interested in me. Many coaches prefer to rely on experienced players, even if you play well. At Heidenheim the coach has been there forever and will stay there forever. So it was clear to me that a new coach wouldn’t come after three weeks and change everything. I wanted security and a coach who wanted to have me. I had a discussion and watched a game. After that I immediately made my decision.
Not all has been bleak for Bayern prospects, however. Niko Kovac gave South Korean Woo-Yeong Jeong his professional debut in the team’s 5:1 demolition of SL Benfica in the Champions League. Meritan Shabani also played in Bayern’s 2:1 win over SV Rödinghausen in the DFB-Pokal. Lars Lukas Mai, Jonathan Meier, Christian Früchtl, and Paul Will have all been included on the match squads, but none have yet seen the pitch.
Meanwhile, Dorsch debuted for Germany’s U20 team on October 12, playing all 90 minutes of a 1:1 draw against the Netherlands. He has since played in three further games, twice as a substitute and once more as a starter.