As per usual, Bayern Munich have wasted no time locking down a few new signings to their roster this summer. French defensive duo Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard will reinforce the Bavarians’ back line, while 19-year-old Hamburg-academy graduate Jann-Fiete Arp comes in as the understudy to Robert Lewandowksi and Thomas Müller in attack. Another recent arrival in Munich, however, has turned heads not for a tremendous price tag or big name, but rather for the oddity of his career’s origins.
Sarpreet Singh, a full international for the New Zealand National Team, arrived in Germany earlier this month after Wellington Phoenix accepted a transfer fee between $750,000 and $1 million from Bayern. The 20-year-old creative midfielder joins Die Roten after starting in all three of New Zealand’s three matches at this year’s U-20 World Cup, scoring one goal in his side’s run to the Round of 16 and their highest-ever finish in the tournament at 11th place.
Left-footed and nimble on the ball, Singh is an exciting and enjoyable player to watch. Though the Auckland native is far from the finished product in his preferred position behind the striker, he brings a potentially prodigious upside if Bayern can foster his talents correctly.
On the ball, Singh dribbles and passes with the silky-smooth air of confidence that natural tens always seem to play with.
His ability to progress the ball forward relies heavily on his tidy touches, as he often works in tight pockets of space to thread passes through small gaps. Singh shifts his posture very well and is capable of hitting hit the perfect pass into the run of a teammate immediately after receiving the ball.
The Kiwi tends to draw fouls often on the dribble, but these fouls are products of both good and bad habits in his game. Singh is aware that his eagerness to get on the ball and his ability to turn the momentum of a match on its head will make him a target for the opposition’s defenders. He draws them in with a tempting extra touch or convincing feint, then takes full advantage of the ensuing contact to get the referee’s attention.
At the same time, the 20-year-old lacks the understanding of when and where winning a foul for his side is appropriate. It is an feature of his game that increases the likelihood that he might sustain an unnecessary injury, something Bayern are too familiar with and would preferably avoid if he made the transition to the first team. Seeing as the plan is to have him play with the reserve side to start the 2019/20 season, this wrinkle in his game should be ironed out in due time.
Exceptional Vision and Passing Ability
The highlight of Singh’s game is his ability to thread through-passes from any distance. At times, he is capable of breaking two defensive lines with one pass, and the aesthetic of the midfielder’s passes is incredibly pleasing to the eye when they reach their intended target.
Singh’s passing ability was clear at the U-20 World Cup, where he played an instrumental role in New Zealand’s high-octane counter-attacks. But Singh also leaves the A-League having established himself as one of its best in through-passers.
As mentioned above, Singh’s dribbling ability often draws defenders hoping to slow his progress. However, by displacing those defenders in transition, Singh opens gaps for his teammates to run into to whom he can play a pass. In this quality, Bayern have struck gold with a player who possesses a natural ability to create space not only for himself, but also for his supporting teammates in the final third.
These through balls, however, do not always lead to direct goal contributions, which explains why Singh’s production in the assist column is not as high as his ability would lead one to assume. His decision making in the middle third is questionable at times, but the jump in quality Bayern’s squad will provide Singh will undoubtedly help his mental growth and intelligence.
Thrives in Possession
Playing for a side that will dominate possession in nearly all its league matches will be a substantial boost to Singh’s development. He is the type of player who will wander throughout midfield to see more time on the ball and instigate progressive passing sequences to create opportunities for his team.
Singh’s style of play is reminiscent of Mesut Özil in that both players possess a dangerous passing skillset as well as a magical left foot, but the two creative midfielders also possess a knack for popping in and out of spaces to help bring their side forward. If Singh can scratch the surface of Özil’s ability in his prime, Bayern will look back on their acquisition of the youngster as a steal.
The caveat to having a similar skillset as Özil’s, however, lies in Singh’s ability to contribute goals of his own. Though he scored at the U-20 World Cup, his goal came from a bit of good fortune, as the goalkeeper’s initial save was not enough to deflect the ball over the bar. Singh’s general composure seems to go up in flames at the top of the box, and he is often caught in three minds as to whether he should shoot, dribble, or pass the ball.
In Sarpreet Singh, Bayern have themselves a project player with a high floor and a conservative ceiling at worst. The Bavarians do not necessarily have a ton of depth in terms of natural tens, so it is possible that their newest acquisition will see Bundesliga minutes this season once injuries and rotation become factors in the team sheet. If Singh performs well in the opportunities given to him, he will either do enough to win a permanent spot on the first team or earn himself a move to a mid-table Bundesliga side and deliver Bayern a pretty penny on their investment.