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Bayern Munich 2020: Projecting the Team of the Future

An attempt to look into a crystal ball better than the producers of "Back to the Future"

Johannes Simon/Getty Images

Bayern Munich is experiencing an historic run of form, building on their already impressive pedigree of dominance and trophies. Their success has not stopped them from solidifying their foundation, however, spending more transfer euros on teenagers than ever before.

Those investments could lead to a very robust, self-developed squad in the coming years, one that will maintain the trajectory into the footballing stratosphere. Bayern also have several personnel decisions that they will have to make, some that depend on whether Pep Guardiola is at the helm or if another manager relieves him.

Here is just a glimpse in to what a 24-man Bayern's squad could look like in the future:

Squad in 2020

Goalkeepers (3): Manuel Neuer (33), Pepe Reina (36), Raif Husic (23)

Defenders (7): David Alaba (27), Holger Badstuber (30), Jérôme Boateng (30), Mehdi Benatia (32), Juan Bernat (26), Javi Martínez (31), Mitchell Weiser (25)

Midfielders (8): Gianluca Gaudino (23), Mario Götze (27), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (24), Joshua Kimmich (24), Sebastian Rode (29), Lukas Scholl (23), Bastian Schweinsteiger (35), Thiago Alcântara (28)

Forwards (4): Julian Green (24), Sinan Kurt (23), Thomas Müller (29), Robert Lewandowski (31)

The Projected XI (3-4-3):

Sinan Kurt – Thomas Müller – Mario Götze

Juan Bernat – Joshua Kimmich – Gianluca Gaudino – Mitchell Weiser

David Alaba – Jérôme Boateng – Javi Martínez

Manuel Neuer

Bench: Pepe Reina, Mehdi Benatia, Holger Badstuber, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Thiago Alcântara, Julian Green, Robert Lewandowski

This squad is riddled with several contractual, tactical, and developmental assumptions, most prominently the system that is in place. Guardiola has used more of a three-back system this season, but considering his contract expires at the end of 2016, there could be another manager that brings a starkly different brand of football with him. That said, the ever-changing nature of football could trend back to a three-back system, and Bayern would certainly have the pieces in place to keep pace with this evolution.

The glaring weakness appears to be at the right back position, where Weiser (whose contract is about to expire), appears as the only option. Several other players could fill the need, including Kimmich, Højbjerg, and Rode, but a long-term position change comes with its own conjectures. The solution is probably on another team at the moment, and Bayern will not realize it until 2020 is closer timeline to project to.

With so many moving parts, here is a breakdown of where current and possibly future players will be in five-years time.

The Core

David Alaba (27) – Even as a youngster entering his manhood, he has been a critical piece to Bayern under both Heynckes and Guardiola. His move to midfield opens a whole new set of possibilities of where he can play. He already has a contract through 2018, and his development at this rate will make Bayern strongly consider offering him another deal sooner rather than later.

Juan Bernat (26) – His €10 million transfer from Valencia seemed like a dubious endeavor, but he has already shown how menacing is on both ends of the pitch. His impact has gone so deep that Guardiola is already having trouble leaving him on the bench. He is just another example of a wise Bayern investment, and he will quietly develop into the best left back in the world.

Jérôme Boateng (30) – Based on his Champions League and World Cup performances over the past two years, Boateng is undoubtedly already one of the best center backs in the world. As the older guard – Giorgio Chiellini, Vincent Kompany, Sergio Ramos, Thiago Silva – begin their decline, he will become the most valuable defensive commodity in the world. His pace might not be the same at age 30, but his defensive acumen will improve as he continues to win at the highest levels of the sport.

Mario Götze (27) – The potential oozing from his cleats is already apparent, and if pushed the right way, he will become a Ballon d'Or contender. He will be the fixer elixir that allows the Bayern fanatics to get over their Robbery hangover, providing a smooth transition and a longterm solution in attack. The type of player he develops into will be fascinating to watch, for he has the quickness and dribbling skills to last on the flanks, but also possesses terrific playmaking potential as well.

Thomas Müller (29) – By 2020, people could be looking back at Müller's career and grasping for honors he has not achieved. He is Bavarian through and through, perhaps a reason for his contract extension until 2019. With Philipp Lahm likely onto the next chapter in his life, Müller will be the poster child of the club. At age 29, he could possess a skill set that makes him a forceful-finishing phantom forward, but whether he can lead the line will depend on if he can flourish despite continued attention in the penalty area, an attribute he does not yet have. He will be one of the leaders in the boot room, and could be a candidate for captainship.

Manuel Neuer (33) – Given the more casual aging of goalkeepers, Neuer's run as the No. 1 will not end before 2020. His agility may fall, his reflexes may diminish, but given the divine form he is in currently, he will still be a top goalkeeping option. Already one of the high-ranking players on the field, it is not out of the realm of possibility to see a long captainship run from him.

The Up-and-Comers

Gianluca Gaudino (23) – His tactical acumen and his passing ability are already at professional levels, and he is currently just a teenager. When he stepped in at the beginning of the season, he filled a glaring playmaking need, implying his passing skill set could be the what his staying power feeds from. With such a skill set, however, his ceiling might be lower than some other prospects, but he still has the potential to be a reliable player for a very long time.

Joshua Kimmich (24) – One would think that if Bayern are willing to give a five-year contract to a teenager and pay €7 million for his services, he must be pretty good. He is already a precise-passing, strong-tackling midfielder that will only get better with age, and could be at the tip of a diamond defense should Guardiola consider that tactic a long-term solution. He has taken the fast-track up the Germany youth system, and that track could also lead him to become an integral Bayern player.

Sinan Kurt (23) – Bayern clearly believes in his potential, paying Borussia Mönchengladbach the highest fee for a non-professional player to secure the teenage talent. Mentioned in the same sentence as Marco Reus, he gets into scoring positions and has a potent finishing touch that will only improve over time. He signed a three-year deal upon his transfer, so Bayern will need to acclimate him quickly into the first team, which just means he can start contributing even sooner.

Martin Ødegaard (21) – He is perhaps the most sought-after professional teenager in football history, and if the sorting hat sends him to Bayern, the club's reputation could go onto a whole other level. Quick, explosive, and skilled with the football, Ødegaard will add to an arsenal of attacking midfielders that no other club will be able to trump. Still sampling with clubs on the training ground, his move to Bayern is anything but certain, but the mere potential will make any Münchener salivate.

Youngsters on the Edge

Michael Eberwein (23) – He got a taste with the first team in the preseason, and he has proven himself a prolific poacher at the U19 level. He is a big kid who makes astute runs, but he appears as a penalty box roamer. The player he becomes might not be the player that Bayern is ultimately looking for, but he could be very productive in the right situation.

Lukas Scholl (23) – He participated extensively with the first team in the preseason, even making the trip to the United States, but Scholl is approaching a real trial period. He has not shone through his comrades often enough thus far, and he could be destined with a long reserve-team spell before eventually garnering interest elsewhere. Several above-average playmakers have come through the Bayern system and did not play more than a handful of minutes before moving to another club. He still has several opportunities to release glimpses of potential, but at 18, he might be running out of time.

Philipp Walter (23) – As any center back trying to make it at the top level, Walter has much to learn on the tactical side of the game. He has already featured in the reserve team, and he could be ready for the next step. He will likely have a hard time elbowing his way into the current Bayern defense, a group arguably better than the one Mats Hummels tried to break into. If he does not find a way into the reserve team over the next 18 months, he will eventually find his way to another club.

Current Bayern and Germany Academy Players: Fabian Benko (22), Nicolas Dorsch (22), Michael Strein (22), Marco Hingerl (23), Manuel Winzheimer (21)

Uncertain Future

Holger Badstuber (30) – His importance and skill set is undeniable, but one has to wonder if his body can hold up consistently over a long campaign. Bayern have already showed their commitment to him, signing him to a new deal after his knee injury.

Mehdi Benatia (32) – He came on a big transfer fee in the prime of his life, but his contract runs until 2019. The player he is now might not be the player he is when his contract is set to expire, leaving the possibility to follow in the footsteps of Martín Demichelis or Lúcio. On the other hand, central defenders have a bit longer of a shelf life, and continuity with Jérôme Boateng could make him a defender that Bayern cannot surrender.

Julian Green (24) – With just one start as a professional, it is certainly too early to punt on Green's potential. At the same time, the fact that he is not playing consistently as a 19-year-old is disconcerting. His raw potential is still a spectacle in itself, and his ability to make diagonal runs will fit well in a team like Bayern, but potential fades fast in the wrong situations. He will have two years upon his return to Bayern, which could lead to a more desirable destination a second time around.

Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (24) – He has achieved more than most 19-year-old footballers, but his spot in Bayern's team is nonetheless uncertain. He has sampled the fullback position, but he admitted that he expects to end his career as a No. 6. Rumors of a contract extension and a loan come as good news, but even that is a short time for him to prove he can supplant the current Bayern players. He has the potential to be a great box-to-box midfielder, but he has to earn it first.

Raif Husic (23) – His buy-back option that came with his Werder Bremen transfer is the only thing still linking him with the club. With Neuer in the prime of his career, it is unlikely that Bayern will activate that clause over the course of Husic's three-year contract. Sammer was not thrilled to let him go in the first place, but even as a reserve goalkeeper, his time with Bayern probably was short.

Robert Lewandowski (31) – He is one of the best strikers in the world, and yet it is hard to ignore the history that is associated with Bayern strikers. Even prolific poachers such as Mario Gómez and Roy Makaay wore out their welcome, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that Lewandowski could as well. He does fit the tactical creativity that comes with Bayern's current system, but whether that will last five more years is yet to be seen.

Sebastian Rode (29) – He is in his prime years, and yet he could not get a sniff at the starting XI until a smorgasbord of injuries swept through Bayern's squad. His abilities are similar to Schweinsteiger's, making him the logical successor, but whether or not he will wait for that to come about is worth following. He presents himself as a team player, but it is only natural for him to get frustrated when he cannot see the field. He signed a four-year contract in the summer, and an extension will come if the playing time does.

Thiago Alcântara (28) – He has been unable to show much for Bayern, but his the efforts he put in when he was on the pitch were laudable. He showed a proficient ability to play in several midfield positions, and combine with Toni Kroos and Philipp Lahm to create the best passing attack in Europe for a stretch last season. He is another player whose injuries could define his career, but he is young yet. Still, his future could be continually linked to Guardiola, and if the gaffer departs, he might as well.

Mitchell Weiser (25) – He is clearly not the player that Bayern invested €800,000 in two-and-a-half years ago, and he is in danger of becoming an irrelevant, disappointing part of Bayern's history. He is, however, one of the future options as a right fullback, a position that Bayern currently does not have an answer for. If he manages to hang around for a contract extension, he could be the viable, low-cost option Bayern would require on the right flank.

Hanging Around

Dante (36) – He is only signed up to stay two and a half more seasons, and there is a high likelihood that Dante will be phased out of the team by then. By the same token, he has already publicly relayed his desire to stay in Germany, and he could become a senior member that could be playing above replacement level. Bayern's depth at center back could change for better and for worse, so until there is a definitive direction, one cannot rule out Dante's future with Bayern.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (35) – With health issues already, he body could possibly not last when he reaches his mid-30s, but his style of play is one he could maintain for a long time. Bayern appear to have several young players that will be ready to replace the Fußballgott by 2020, but his consistency and leadership could keep him in the side.

Rafinha (33) – He has found new life under Guardiola, but how long that life will last could depend on how much Bayern need him to stay around. Philipp Lahm will have long since retired, and even if he is just a transitional piece, his presence could be necessary to hold the side together. If Bayern find a solution however, he will probably end his career in a different country, possibly a return to Italy or Brazil in the cards.

Pepe Reina (36) – His contract runs until 2017 as well, and how long Reina will stay in Munich will depend on what he wants his career trajectory to be. Has he already made the transition from above-average European starter to an aging backup? Is he trying to fend off a move to a lower league? Is he hoping to attain managerial acumen as a Guardiola player? The answer to those questions will provide a better timeline for his tenure.

Long Gone

Xabi Alonso (38) – Only on a two year deal, Alonso might be preparing himself to manage five years from now rather than continue his playing career.

Claudio Pizarro (40) – There are already murmurs of Bayern planning life without Pizarro, and his play will be trapped in the history books by the time 2020 rolls around.

Franck Ribéry (36) – Retired from the national team and dealing with more injuries now than before, Ribéry has already revealed his interests when his contract expires in 2017.

Arjen Robben (35) – It would be no surprise if Robben could be wheeling and dealing at an advanced age, but he is more likely to be at his home club of Gronigen than in the Allianz at this point.

Tom Starke (38) – He has a goalkeeping skill set that could stand the test of time, but he will not be suiting up for Bayern (if he suits up at all).

Front Office Fellows

Philipp Lahm (36) – When he signed his contract extension over the summer, Lahm stamped an expiration date on his career. That does not necessarily mean that he will no longer be part of Bayern's club. His football intelligence alone could land him a managerial gig, maybe even with the first team, and his integration with the club could tempt him to consider a front office position.

Miroslav Klose (41) – The former Bayern and Germany striker is in his twighlight years in Italy, but he has expressed a desire to sit under Pep Guardiola as a coach. Whether the club will grant his wish is another question, but he is a name to watch as potential Bayern managers for the future.

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