Malik Tillman. Remember the name. I’m sure Rangers fans will for some time to come with the way he’s been balling lately. The Nuremberg native might even be a potential pick for the 2022 World Cup squad for the USA — that’s how good he’s looking right now.
Bayern Munich has an excellent campus and its youth system has been producing some gems lately. In fact, this has been happening for a while, but since it is always going to be incredibly difficult to break into Bayern’s world-class first team, most campus talents who develop beyond the Bayern II level head to other clubs on loan or permanent transfer.
Enter Rangers, the most successful club in the history of the Scottish Premiership. This club has a range of striker and wing options but lacked a versatile attacking midfield presence. With Malik Tillman not getting much time with the first team, but clearly having way too much talent to be playing in the Regionalliga, Bayern reached an agreement with the Scottish club for a one-year loan deal with an option to buy.
Interestingly, according to the Scottish Sun, Malik Tillman was strongly recommended to Celtic’s Euro scout by former Celtics and Freiburg player Mark Fotheringham. Yes, the very same Celtic who have been Rangers’ long-standing top rivals. They were urged to sign him “blindly” since he is a “brilliant player”. However, the Rangers won big in the end, and their rivals are undoubtedly kicking themselves now.
Tillman thrives as an attacking midfielder or false 9 but is an incredibly versatile offensive weapon who can also play as a pure no. 9, and as an inverted winger. His imposing frame and 6’2 height enable him to be a menace in the box, and his aerial abilities seem to be improving every game. At Rangers, he fit like a glove, instantly breaking into the starting eleven and taking on a right half-space playmaker role.
Fast forward to the present day, and he’s already scored and assisted twice in just four appearances for the club. Both the goals were super decisive: the first against Union Saint-Gilloise in the UCL play-in tournament, putting the Rangers up 3-2 and on their way to securing a group stage spot; the second in the league opener against St. Johnston just three days later. In the Rangers last match against Hibernian, Tillman was rested.
Tillman’s also proving to be a great ball supplier to fellow forwards Ryan Kent and Tom Lawrence. The fans love him, and so do his teammates. What surprised many was the maturity in his game, as well as how quickly he can swap nimbleness for tenacity. Tillman has developed into a player who can dribble his way out of situations when required, and also steamroll his way past defenders even when well-marked.
The player’s performances might prompt Rangers to sign him permanently, as the loan deal includes an option to buy. Of course, this would be a bit of a bummer for Bayern, and it’s conceivable that he’ll have progressed well beyond the likely agreed fee. It is a relief, however, that the Bayern front office has managed to secure a buy-back clause, which now seems like such an important decision. If he achieves his potential as a top attacker this season, who knows? He could well be a starting XI-caliber striker/false 9 option for the Bavarians.
Not every Bayern talent needs to be a Jamal Musiala or a Paul Wanner. Some can choose the slightly longer route of going elsewhere on a loan. In the end, if more campus talents can develop like this and possibly return to the club down the road, Bayern Munich will undoubtedly be the winners.