"I know they call you 'The Body', but we all know who's fastest..." It's not just in the height department where Niklas Süle (r.) trumps Bayern Munich teammate Robert Lewandowski (l.). - © 2019 Getty Images
"I know they call you 'The Body', but we all know who's fastest..." It's not just in the height department where Niklas Süle (r.) trumps Bayern Munich teammate Robert Lewandowski (l.). - © 2019 Getty Images
bundesliga

Bayern Munich defender Niklas Süle: "I'm not buff like Robert Lewandowski, but I'm quick"

Niklas Süle isn't - in his own words - "buff like Robert Lewandowski", but that hasn’t stopped the Bayern Munich centre-back developing into what club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge recently described as "one of the best defenders in Germany", as well as one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga.

"I’m not getting involved in the debate, but I’m happy my performances have been acknowledged," Süle told German sports specialist magazine, kicker.

"If people say I’m a good defender, then I’m doing a good job."

An exceptional one, in fact. Süle joined Bayern from Hoffenheim in summer 2017, outwardly as back-up for Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels.

The 23-year-old nevertheless amassed 27 Bundesliga appearances under Carlo Ancelotti and Jupp Heynckes, before winning over current Bayern coach Niko Kovac last season.

"He’s first choice ahead of the other two," Kovac said midday through the 2018/19 campaign.

"They will have to battle it out."

"Carry on like this, and you'll be starting every week." Bayern coach Niko Kovac is one of Süle's biggest fans. - imago/Sven Simon

While 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning duo Boateng and Hummels jockeyed for a place at the heart of the Bayern defence, Süle turned out 31 times in the league - missing just three games of the record champions’ nail-biting Bundesliga title defence.

As well was winning the most tackles of any of Bayern’s central defenders (278), he hit the money with 95 per cent of his attempted passes - a league best shared with Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Nico Elvedi - and ranked fourth in the league for most touches (2,799).

"The way football is played nowadays, we’re not only the last line of defence. Along with the goalkeeper, we’re responsible for the build-up," Süle said.

Watch: Niklas Süle fired Bayern to a crucial 1-0 win over Bremen on Matchday 30 of last season

As well as boasting passing numbers befitting a deep-lying playmaker, Süle has the pace of a dyed-in-the-wool winger.

He hit a top speed of 21.62 miles per hour last season - that’s only 0.04 slower than the lean and lithe Kingsley Coman. Bayern’s French cruiserweight comes in at 5’9” and 165 pounds; Süle is 6’5” and almost 200 pounds.

"You can’t really train speed," Bayern’s No.4 said of a turbo-charged engine that almost defies the rules physics.

"There’s not much you can do with your build either.

"I’m not buff like Lewy [Robert Lewandowski], but I’m no lard-arse, I’m relatively stocky.

"In spite of my size and frame, I’m relatively quick, if not over the first five metres than over long distances."

Bayern were made to go the distance last season, only clinching the title on the final day before completing a domestic double in the DFB Cup.

Süle more than played his part, but is now focussed on elevating his game to the next level.

"I’m a pretty chatty guy off the pitch, but on it I’m more reserved - I need to change that," he explained.

"Joshua Kimmich has done it - he wasn’t always as vocal as he is now, but it doesn’t come naturally to me.

"Not everyone has to be like Jo, not everyone has to be like me, but I expect myself to step up. So do the club.

"Borussia Dortmund pushed us really hard last season, and it's going to be another tough one for us."