Watching players at this level from the perspective of someone trying to place them — in a few years time — in the Bayern starting line up is not easy.
That said, I really enjoy watching talents. Although this short article will focus on the impressions I got from the players on Bayern’s youth team, I also want to look at who else is interesting and could be a potential starter in the Bundesliga, and potentially even a transfer target for Bayern in the future.
Bayern vs Leipzig 2:0
It has to be said that Bayern went into this game with a 3:0 lead and then scored within the first 5 minutes through Batista Meier. With such a lopsided result, it’s a bit difficult to assess the players’ performance, because you can’t blame them for taking their foot off the gas a little.
However, Bayern dominated the game and frustrated Leipzig, which was very nice to see. Even when Leipzig made some pretty nasty tackles, the Bayern players stayed professional and there were no revenge fouls or anything like that.
Leipzig received several yellow cards and finally lost a player to a tactical foul, which resulted in the 2:0 by Bayern captain Angelo Stiller. Bayern will host the final against Dortmund to determine who wins the U17 league.
I have to say that I have not watched this team enough to assess it in the context of the season. My comments will therefore all be quick and related to the game alone. One thing that definitely stood out, however, was the strength of Bayern’s wings both at the front and the back, as you will see in the players that I have picked out. The centre (defence and midfield) was decent, but not on the same level.
Joshua Zirkzee, Striker - Dutch, 17 years old
Zirkzee was the player that stood out to me the most, and pretty much from the beginning. He joined Bayern from Feyenoord’s youth academy and has a good record for the season so far: 15 goals and 9 assists in 20 games.
What I like about his play is that he is very mobile, physical and has a great right foot. I saw some very strong passing, but not as much shooting, since he was not brought into the game by his colleagues up front. He often drifted to the sides and also dropped deep into midfield. He was very physical but fair in his tackles. He was able to win the ball and flip the field to put others into play.
After the game I honestly had to confirm whether he really is a striker. He is, unfortunately—because in my opinion he is wasted there. I do not believe he is an elite talent as a striker, but if you pull him back into midfield as a CM, he could develop into a player who could start for Bayern in 7-9 years when he is in his prime.
Ryan Johansson, RB/CM - Luxemburg, 17
While he didn’t shine or have as many wow-moments as the guys above and below him on this list, he is perhaps the only player whom I would be happy to place in the Bayern first team now (as a backup, naturally) and trust him to do a really good job if called upon. Not in CM, where he is listed and played most of his games this season, but at RB where he played this game and five others.
Johansson joined Bayern from Metz at the start of this season and has played five different positions, from RB to CM all the way to LW. It is hardly surprising that he has done it with ease, because he is regarded as the most intelligent player in the squad. He speaks five languages and is only 17!
I haven’t seen him play any other position than RB, but if he never plays any other position I think he will reach a level that could see him shine as a Bayern starter. He didn’t just work the wing, he played some really high-level passes; and when the CBs were pulled out of position, he made the runs back into the box to clear on two critical occasions.
I can see why that intelligence and awareness could translate into a pretty good midfielder, but there is no reason why he shouldn’t start his career at RB and then move into the centre when he has a more mature body to keep up with the physicality in the centre—in a way similar to how Schweinsteiger went from LW to CM.
Oliver Batista Meier, LW - German/ Brazilian, 17 years old
The most mature player on the Bayern team in terms of his playing style, and said to be the biggest talent of the side, Batista Meier joined Bayern from Kaiserslautern in 2016. This season played for multiple teams in Bayern’s youth system, scoring 32 and assisting 18 goals in 40 games.
Batista Meier works back all the way to the defence and has a good sense for pushing into the box up front. He has great balance and awareness, good burst of speed, and he makes scoring look easy. I would really like to see him come in behind our starting wingers and get some game time with Bayern’s first team.
The reason why game time with the first team would be so important for him in particular is because I think the he needs to be pushed. For one, it is important to make sure that he does not reach or hasn’t reached his ceiling, meaning that he can rise to a whole new level of play when he reaches the pros. Secondly, he should continue to be challenged and develop, and not get lazy.
He is a great talent, but I also think he has a lot of hard work ahead of him to become elite, especially because he is currently playing against other kids, whereas in the Bundesliga he would be playing against men. I would really like to see his skill set put to the test in a more grown-up setting rather than hype him too much.
Jonas Kehl, RB/LB - German, 17 years old
I almost included him in the top section because I really like his play: tough but calm, good awareness of what is going on behind him, and capable of good tackles. Kehl can play on both wings defensively and at times reminded me a bit of Philipp Lahm. I am not saying he is that good, or that he will be the next Lahm, but I am saying that he has some quality. If he keeps developing, I could see him become a top talent playing for Bayern.
Benedict Hollerbach, RW - German, 17 years old
Jahn Herrmann, CAM - German, 17 years old
Hollerbach and Hermann also made a positive impression on me. They did not make any amazing actions, but it felt as if there was more there. I liked their attitude: they were both hard-working and hinted at greater talent lurking beneath the surface. Both seem to have had good seasons so far with a grand total of 32 goals and 23 assists between them. At the moment I see them as Gladbach/Frankfurt-level talent.
Angelo Stiller, DM - German, 17 years old
Stiller deserves mention for two reasons. First of all his 2:0 goal on a free kick sailed perfectly into the right hand corner and gave the goalie absolutely no chance. Beautiful. Secondly, he is the U17 captain, and he played like one. He was calm and collected in midfield and made smart passes, especially in the second half when the wind had been let out of the game. He reminds me a little bit of a slightly better Niklas Dorsch. He had a good game, but I have the feeling that his ceiling is 2. Bundesliga or a low-level Bundesliga side.
I was a bit disappointed with Leipzig. They never seemed to get in the game and couldn’t keep up. That resulted in frustration and unnecessary fouls. There was no one who really stood out, but there were two interesting players on the team.
Fabrice Hartmann, ST - German, 17 years old
Hartmann came on at half time and is mainly interesting because Bayern are rumored to be interested in signing them to their youth system, according to the commentator on Sport1. Hartmann has scored 26 goals and made 2 assists in 32 games this season (73 minutes per goal).
Hartmann had some really good movement and a great shot. I would have liked to see him on the pitch longer to see him a little more. From the little I saw he was definitely interesting. He seems like a real striker type.
Malik Talabidi, CB - German/Togo, 16 years old
I can’t say too much about him other than that neither of the goals were his fault. He seems very mature both physically and mentally, and he led the team as a captain. His defence was solid, sometimes against multiple Bayern players coming towards him. He seemed like a player who could move to a bigger stage faster than any of the other Leipzig players. He’s an intriguing prospect, and I would like to see more.
Dortmund vs Leverkusen 2:0
After a 1:1 in the first leg, this game was essentially one-way traffic. The 2:0 scoreline was deserved if a little low. Dortmund dominated the game and will now face Bayern in the final in Munich.
I do not think much of Leverkusen’s U17 team; they were definitely a class below Dortmund, and unfortunately not a single player for them really stood out to me. Perhaps that is because they are a younger team, with more 16 years old than on Dortmund’s side.
Negativity aside, let’s have a look at those who stood out for Dortmund:
Alaa Bakir, RW/LW - German/ Jordanian, 17 years old
Bakir was the best player on the pitch from the outset. He played like a Bundesliga player, not a youth team player, and he already has a pretty solid frame for his age. He captained BVB’s side with high energy and his playing style seemed very mature. He reminded me of a more explosive Mkhitaryan.
Youssoufa Moukoko, ST - German/ Cameroonian, 13 years old
Let’s talk about the non-issue of his age: many people believe that he is in fact older than 13. While this would suck for everyone who plays with or against him at the youth level, as soon as he gets to the pros it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 28; performance is key. That’s why on the one hand I can understand the frustration if you really believe he is older; on the other hand it doesn't make a difference to me. I am here to assess his skills.
And Moukoko definitely has skills. He is very fast without the ball, and can still outrun people with it. He dances through players even with contact because he has great balance. He also has a great shot. He he sometimes takes shots that he shouldn’t or misfires easy shots wide, but he also got off some pretty incredible shots with great technique. He scored 39 goals in 27 games this year, which is a lot even at youth level.
He definitely has a skill set that will translate into professional football and will become a player at the highest level. If he wants to become one of the greats, however, he needs to keep working and develop a hunger to keep improving year after year.
Immanuel Pherai, CAM - Dutch/ Surinamese, 17 years old
I had to give this guy a quick mention. Pherai seems very quiet and reserved on the pitch, but he was continuously involved in dangerous actions. He shows a good drive for goal and moves well in space. He reminds me a little bit of Emre Mor when he actually played well.
An exciting future
While I am most excited to see the development of the Bayern players, there are a bunch of guys here who are really exciting. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for them.
At the same time, we all know that there are always big talents who get burned out by the hype too early, because they can’t handle the pressure. Football is not all fun and games after all. Watching these games was also quite interesting for what you learned about the players along the way: the commentator mentioned one player who is doing an internship at a bank, and another player who is working to be a baker. It’s quite strange to wonder, “Will this player end up being baker or part of a professional football?”
Perhaps it will be easier for players who already stand out today to make it in professional football. The decisions that shape their careers will be interesting to follow.