Out with the old and in with the new.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery have been two pillars at the forefront of Bayern Munich’s success over the past decade, marauding their way down the right and left wings, respectively, en route to several Bundesliga titles, German Cups and one priceless Champions League trophy in 2013.
But both have confirmed their departures from the Bavarian club at the end of this season, and with the defence of their league title in peril and Champions League glory also questionable, 2019 looks the time to breed the young talent that could potentially usher in a new successful era.
On this side of the Atlantic, Alphonso Davies is the name at the tip of everyone’s tongue, the 18-year-old Canadian export by way of Ghana and Liberia who officially completed his move to Bayern in January and was highly sought after thanks to goals like this:
Bayern is Bayern, though, and you don’t create the storied history of a European giant by putting all your eggs in one basket. Like a well-planned financial portfolio, Munich have a diverse set of young players waiting in tow to show their worth to manager Niko Kovac and sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. Here’s a look at those who will provide some stiff internal competition to Davies as he aims to make himself a regular starter at Bayern.
Arguably would be the incumbent already if not for the slew of injuries he’s suffered, Coman has averaged 21 domestic league appearances over his previous three campaigns with Bayern –he’s made just six appearances thus far this season.
Coman has teased the potential for being one of the best wingers in the game when healthy, but doing so week-in-week-out is what truly separates the best.
The biggest concern over the France international is his health. Entering his fourth year with the club, the 22-year-old has already missed 332 days due to various foot injuries and they have taken such a heavy toll on him mentally, to the point where he recently revealed in a television interview on Telefoot that he might not be prepared to deal with another one.
“I will not accept another operation,” Coman said. “I hope I do not have to relive what I’ve been through, enough is enough … Maybe my foot is not made for it [professional soccer], I will then lead another, anonymous life.”
Misery for one is opportunity for another.
On loan with Hoffenheim a year ago, Gnabry has made 14 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern this season collecting four goals and three assists.
While the 23-year-old usually plays on the right, Gnabry has seen some time in Davies’ customary left-wing position this season. At a club such as Bayern, flexibility in positioning is critical, and so while the Canadian may be best suited to play the position he’s played all his life, showing that he can slot in on the right wing and be interchangeable with whomever he’s partnering on the other wing could create a huge advantage for not only himself, but the team as well.
In fact, in Bayern’s recent friendly match against Borussia Mönchengladbach, Davies spent the majority of his time on the pitch attacking from the right side and pulled off some impressive take-ons from that side.
— FC Bayern US (@FCBayernUS) January 13, 2019
Add the fact that he has a legend in Robben who made a career of attacking from the right side despite — like Davies — having a stronger left foot, there may be many tricks to the trade Davies could pick up from the Dutchman before he’s gone.
The 19-year-old South Korea winger is every bit as enticing a prospect as the Canadian.
Seen as someone who is supremely gifted technically and legs that can run for days, Jeung offers a different dimension than Davies, with more feints and deft touches than overwhelming physicality. In 18 matches for Bayern Munich’s junior squad, he has an impressive tally of nine goals and four assists in the Regionalliga.
Davies will have to win this battle on the pitch, since, off the pitch, he may not possess a karaoke game than can measure up to Jeung’s performance in the video below.
— FC Bayern Campus (@FCBjuniorteam) June 28, 2018
One of Bayern’s own. Shabani has been with Bayern since the age of seven and scored six goals while providing four assists for Bayern Munich II this season. The 19-year-old was given his senior team league debut just before Christmas, and looks to be building momentum at every stage.
Like Gnabry, Shabani will provide Davies with competition in an area that wouldn’t be considered the Canadian teen’s area of expertise. Shabani is an attacking midfielder in the centre of the pitch, the type who unlocks defences in the final third with his vision and creativity.
While Davies’ strength currently certainly lies in his ability to take on defenders out wide, the skill he possesses to navigate through the middle presents another area in which he could get Kovac to consider his usefulness on the pitch, especially if Coman and Gnabry are healthy and firing.
This deserves an asterisk, as Hudson-Odoi is yet to actually become a member of Bayern.
Salihamdzic has confirmed that talks are ongoing with Chelsea and that there is a serious interest in acquiring the player, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he were to make the move before the January transfer window closes.
If he does indeed come over, Hudson-Odoi, like Davies, is 18-years-old and also prefers to play on the left wing. He has represented England at the U-19 level and is rumoured to have a price tag of almost double the Canadian.
It must be said that while Hudson-Odoi’s preference is to follow in the footsteps of Jadon Sancho and leave for Germany, Chelsea have every intention of keeping one of their prized prospects.