Bayern Munich didn’t have the greatest of performances in the brief preseason tour in the United States, losing to Juventus 2-0, and then Manchester City 3-2. New manager Niko Kovac traveled stateside without the majority of his first-team players, as the World Cup participants were finishing their collective extended holiday. In all of the friendlies thus far, including the 3-1 win over Paris Saint-Germain in Austria, Kovac gave a lot of younger players in the squad a chance to make a name for themselves.
While the results were the least bit flattering, there were some bright spots as far as the younger players are concerned. 19-year old midfielder Mertian Shabani was quite arguably one of the most impressive “kids” on the tour, highlighted by the goal he scored in the Manchester City match. For what it’s worth, too, he looked energetic and positive during his 45-minute shift against Juventus and was a part of the second half unit that completely changed the match vs. PSG en route to a 3-1, come-from-behind win.
Shabani’s headed goal vs. Manchester City:
Speaking on the 19-year old after the tour concluded (via AZ) club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummeigge urged Shabani and all of Bayern’s younger players to continue to work incredibly hard:
It was the right way for Niko. He’s giving the young players a chance and the experience of showing what they’ve got on this tour, but also to realize that they have to work hard over the next few years to get a chance of joining the first-team squad.
Of all the younger players that were on the preseason tour, Shabani’s no stranger to first team action, as the midfielder made an impressive appearance in Bayern’s 4-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt back in April, starting and playing 56 minutes. His performance drew praise from [then] manager Jupp Heynckes, who called him a “great talent.” He signed his first professional contract with the club just one week after making his first team debut that’s set to run through the summer of 2020.
What makes Shabani especially lovable, too, is the fact that he’s a Munich native. Born in Munich to Kosovo-Albanian parents, Shabani joined Bayern’s youth academy at the age of seven, where he spent 12 years before working his way up to the U-17s by 2015. In his three seasons with the U-19s, he reeled in a total of 15 goals and 12 assists from 69 appearances (A-Junioren Bundesliga Sud/Sudwest), prompting his call-up to the first team this past spring.
With his impressive performances in preseason under Kovac, he’s got a bright future, where he’ll likely split time between the reserve team and the first team, at least for this season. Many are already pegging him to become the new Thomas Muller and he adds to what’s an already impressive list of youth players that Bayern have recently signed; Chris Richards, Alphonso Davies, Oliver Batista Meier, and Lars Lukas Mai to name a few. The future looks bright for Bayern Munich and, in particular, Meritan Shabani.