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Bayern Munich’s Josip Stanišić shoots for the stars

The young defender talks fitting in, new transfers, and looking towards the World Cup in a wide-ranging interview.

Josip Stanišić closes down Bayern teammate Kingsley Coman as the latter tries to cut the ball back while attacking the left wing
A training ground battle brought to the UEFA Nations League (Croatia-France, June 13)
Photo by Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Josip Stanišić has enjoyed a fast rise at Bayern Munich. It was April of 2021 when he earned his first Bundesliga start under Hansi Flick. Fast forward to now, and he’s a full-time senior team man in Julian Nagelsmann’s side, with a professional contract to 2025. For the 22-year-old defender, this is just the beginning. In an interview with kicker this week transcribed by @iMiaSanMia, Stanišić reflected on how far he’s come — and how far he’ll go.

Where he fits at Bayern

Stanišić can play across the backline, or even in defensive midfield. That versatility may be a blessing or a curse for a player still hoping to find his place in the squad.

He’ll take the positive view. “It’s an advantage,” he explained. “As a young player, it helps me to be able to play in several positions. I want to get as much game time as possible — the position is secondary.”

His flexibility may serve him well this coming year in the wake of Niklas Süle’s departure. Though he won’t be expected to start, he may be called on to cover two positions regularly: the right fullback/wingback spot and the right-sided center-back in Julian Nagelsmann’s back three build-up.

On incomings

Of course, the first major signing of the transfer window was at Stanišić’s favored right-back position. “A good player” — speaking of AFC Ajax arrival Noussair Mazraoui. “A bit more attacking minded than me.”

Still, it’s total confidence from the incumbent youngster. “Nothing has changed,” Stanišić added. “There’s always competition at FC Bayern, I’m not worried [...] I’m certain that with the schedule, I will get my playing time.”

A very Mia San Mia attitude, if you will, and it’s abundantly positive to see a young player setting the tone.

Stanišić is equally welcoming of Sadio Mané — “a very good transfer” — the Liverpool winger and potentially Bayern’s new primary striker. “He’s difficult to defend as an opponent, so I’m happy he will be my teammate [...] I heard that he always wants to win and hates to lose. That fits us at FC Bayern.”

Spoken like a veteran!

Aiming for Men’s World Cup Glory

It was not quite the banner year he’d hoped after fully breaking into the first team. A promising start gave way to derailment by injuries and by COVID-19. There were rumblings that he was unhappy and headed for a loan.

Such talk is fast receding below the horizon now. Stanišić made a nice recovery late on for Bayern, including his first senior goal on the final matchday. Then he started — and starred — for Croatia against France on June 13, pocketing no less than Kylian Mbappé en route to a 1-0 upset and announcement to the world. Hey, who is this kid? What’s he gonna do?

“The last few games were definitely an encouragement and a happy ending,” he reflected. “The international matches showed me that I belong.”

After a tough season, this is the kind of success that can build upon itself. Performances like that could be a springboard for an expanded role at Bayern, and another leap forward at club level might be necessary to help him secure his ticket to Qatar. From there, who knows? World Cups have a way of being a special showcase for young talents.

As for Mbappé, who gave him a wry smile and hearty congratulations after the game?

“I’m up against quick players like Kingsley Coman in training. I knew what I had to do.”

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