Before Bayern Munich’s humongous second leg clash against Paris Saint Germain, in which progression to the next round was on the line, most casual fans could have been forgiven for being surprised when Bayern’s team sheet for this Champions League tie was announced.
After all, most were expecting Bayern to name traditional, well known stars all over the pitch and yet there was this one guy few casuals knew, who goes by the name of Josip Stanišić. And this youngster would be playing on the right side of the defense, up against Kylian Mbappé. How could this kid, this newcomer, possibly do well?
Speaking to reporter Tobi Altschäffl, as captured by @iMiaSanMia, Josip Stanišić did admit that the occasion, his first ever start in the Champions League, was a real spectacle for him. “Hearing the Champions League anthem before the game is extraordinary for me, it gives me goosebumps. Against such an opponent, on such an evening, in front of our fans in this stadium - that’s what you dream of as a kid.”
And yet...while Stanišić understood the importance of the game, stating that “it was one of the most important games of my career so far”, he’s made a habit of not getting overawed by the moment. “I wasn’t nervous before the game against PSG. I’m actually never [nervous before a game].”
Of course, he’s not foolish. He knew facing Mbappé would be tough. “There was a lot of pressure because everyone knows what an exceptional player Kylian Mbappé is. So it was important to get to a good start. I swapped shirts with Mbappé after the game. I have it washed at home. It’s definitely a highlight in my collection.”
As we all know, he succeeded in stopping Mbappe and earned his side a clean sheet. While also letting the footballing world as a whole know just how good of a player he is.
Despite this success, playing time at Bayern has been limited for Stanišić across the entire season. A multitude of stars have forced him to take on a role as a squad player. But when asked whether he has considered leaving Bayern, Stanišić’s answer was firm. “I never intended to leave FC Bayern - not even after [January transfer] João Cancelo was signed. Of course, when such a top international player joins, the competition gets a lot tougher. But I know that I have my strengths too.”
“I just waited patiently for my chance. That worked well. I feel good at FC Bayern, I’m in the right place here.”
His struggles won’t stop now. Having proven himself to the casual fans and former boss Julian Nagelsmann, he will now have to prove himself all over again to his new coach, Thomas Tuchel. But Staniśić believes in himself, his qualities and the fact that he will get the chance to show what he can do. And when he gets his chance, who will bet against him showing no sign of nervousness and delivering an ultimately professional performance? As Staniśić always does.