Things looked quite bright at the start for Fabian Benko at Bayern Munich.
Munich-born to Croatian parents, the young midfielder joined the club in 2005 at just seven years old. He progressed through the academy ranks, and in 2015 - shortly after turning 17 - was promoted from FC Bayern U19 to FC Bayern II and was rumored to have caught then-manager Pep Guardiola’s eye as a potential option for the first team in the coming season.
Just a few months later, in September of 2015, Benko (along with his teammate Niklas Dorsch) was offered a professional contract by Bayern Munich, and shortly after he found himself making the bench for both UCL group stage fixtures against Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb. Opportunities were difficult to come by, as Benko stepped into a loaded Bayern side that featured players like Javi Martinez, Xabi Alonso, Arturo Vidal, Thiago Alcantara, Joshua Kimmich, Sebastian Rode, Mario Gotze, and fellow youngsters Gianluca Gaudino and Julian Green as potential competition in midfield. Further, players like Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Douglas Costa, and Kingsley Coman made minutes hard to come by on the wings, as well. As such, Benko did not feature for the senior side at all in the 2015/2016 season. Nevertheless, he did feature fairly regularly for FC Bayern II this season, logging some 1,700 minutes.
Benko was again considered for the senior squad ahead of the 2016/2017 season but continued to face stiff competition for minutes. Ultimately his patience was rewarded when he made a substitute appearance against Carl Zeiss Jena in the first round of the DFB-Pokal, coming off the bench for Arturo Vidal in FC Bayern’s 5:0 win. Unfortunately, this would be Benko’s first and only appearance for Bayern Munich’s senior side. Still, Benko’s talent was recognized with a nomination to the 2017 Golden Boy shortlist.
It was also at this time (September 2016) that Benko elected to continue representing Croatia at the senior level. Though he was eligible to play for German - and had previously debuted for the Germany U17 side - Benko went on to play for Croatia at the U17 World Cup and chose to continue on with Croatia.
For 2017/2018, Benko spent the entirety of the season with FC Bayern II, where he was a regular starter for the team, but ended up seeing his contract expire without renewal in the summer of 2018. Fabian Benko ultimately spent 13 years at FC Bayern before leaving the club.
Out-of-contract, he ended up joining Austrian side Linzer ASK on a free transfer for a three-year deal. Benko had a difficult time carving out a role in the senior side at LASK as well, logging only 153 minutes while featuring heavily for LASK Amateure with nearly 3,500 minutes in three seasons.
Linzer LASK elected also to allow Benko’s contract to expire, and in August of 2021 he signed with SSV Ulm to play in the Regionalliga Südwest, before moving to fifth-tier side SG Sonnenhof Großaspach to play in the Oberliga Baden-Württemberg. To his credit, Benko has played nearly every available minute this season, so with any luck he may have finally found his footing. We have to admit that his trajectory has not went the way most of us would’ve hoped, but still being just 24 perhaps there is time yet to get things turned around.