Robert Lewandowski, Alphonso Davies, Joshua Kimmich, Thomas Müller and Serge Gnabry might be the best five-a-side team in the world. They're also a big part of Bayern Munich's climb from seventh in the table in November to 2019/20 Bundesliga champions with two games to spare.
bundesliga.com shines the spotlight on the cornerstones of the red ballet's march to an unprecedented eighth successive league crown…
It's pure guesswork, but Bayern might have been in the region of 12 points worse off and still jockeying for supremacy alongside Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig without Lewandowski's input. The Poland international set the tone with an opening-day brace against Hertha Berlin - one of seven games dependent on his clinical touch for a positive result. Smashing through the 30-goal barrier for the second time in his career, Lewy's had Gerd Müller's long-standing record of 40 single-season strikes in his crosshairs for much of the campaign, only failing to fire in six of his 30 league appearances. A third successive Torjägerkanone beckons - a laudable feat achieved only by the legendary Müller himself - providing further confirmation, if it were needed, of Lewandowski's standing as the baddest sharpshooter in the modern business.
Lewandowski in numbers
- Climbed from fifth to third on the Bundesliga’s list of all-time top scorers (233)
- Became the first player to score in each of the first 11 matches of a season, with a record 16 goals
- Has found the net against all 18 of the Bundesliga’s current clubs
Watch: Robert Lewandowski's full house
What they’re saying
"Robert is the complete striker, if not the most complete striker in the world. As a No.9, you have to score goals. That’s what he does. For me, he is the best No.9 in the world." - Bayern coach Hansi Flick
"Robert Lewandowski's a top, top striker. He can finish anything you give to him, inside or outside the box." - Davies
Davies furnished Lewandowski on more than one occasion. Had that sentence cropped up a year ago, it would likely have been in the context of a cameo on the left or right wing - but football is a rapidly changing world when you move like greased lightning. The 19-year-old Canadian has used his speed on his conversion into the world's best left-back to devastating effect, sparking some incendiary attacking forays and putting out fires in equal measure. Credit goes to coach Hansi Flick and left-sided defender turned centre-back David Alaba for easing the transition, but the execution - not least for one so young in his first full Bundesliga campaign - speaks of a player destined to run with - if not outrun - the very best.
Davies in numbers
- Had only played as a left-back in six competitive matches prior to 2019/20
- Started 28 competitive games in a row between 26 October 2019 and 13 June 2020
- Clocked a Bundesliga record speed of 22.7mph against Werder Bremen on Matchday 32
Watch: Find out what makes Alphonso Davies so effective
What they’re saying
"Alphonso is doing brilliantly. In addition to his speed on the pitch, he's very adept defensively. He's setting up goals in attack and has scored some himself. Despite his young age, he's currently one of our best players." - Flick
"Alphonso is a player with a lot of heart and a lot of power - extreme power. He doesn’t always not have the best position on the field, but makes the opponent think, 'I have time, I have time', and then: 'meep meep, meep meep!' The Bayern roadrunner comes ahead and steals the ball!" - Müller
Davies' are not the only pair of Bayern ears that must be burning. Every man and his dog has jumped on the Müller bandwagon in recent months, not that it should ever have had an vacant seats to start with. No one preys on the positional limitations of opposition defenders quite like the self-titled Raumdeuter (space interpreter), who enjoyed arguably his most effective season to date as a lifetime Bayern pro. Reinstated in the No.10 role and given free rein under Flick, Müller produced seven goals, 20 assists and a raft of intangibles, leaving Barcelona loanee Philippe Coutinho to applaud his efforts from the bench. The 2019/20 season's top provider and now a nine-time Bundesliga champion: all that's missing from his CV is an honorary PhD in Spatial Science.
Müller in numbers
- Seven goals and 20 assists is a joint-best personal record
- Broke Kevin De Bruyne’s Bundesliga record for single-season assists
- Smashed through the 500-appearance mark, aged 30
Watch: 'The Raumdeuter' under the tactical microscope
What they’re saying
"Tactically, he has a real feeling for the game. He’s a very important player to have on the pitch - the coach’s right-hand man. No one holds a candle to Thomas." - Flick
"Thomas doesn’t just play the ball blindly. He always knows how to find and play in a teammate." - Bayern midfielder Leon Goretzka
Likewise sworn to live by the old adage that there is no 'I' in team, Bayern pocket rocket Kimmich put the 'e' in explosive and the 'u' in success over the course of another notable phase in his development. The Bundesliga's best right-back last season, Kimmich made the full transition to midfield fulcrum in 2019/20, aided and abetted by summer signing and 2018 FIFA World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard's accomplished displays on the right-hand side of the Bayern back four. The 25-year-old's match-winner against Dortmund on Matchday 28 effectively wrapped up the title, but that was a mere taster of what Kimmich the midfielder brings to the party. Packing more testosterone than the entire field at an Arnold Classic, it is surely only a matter of time before he lifts the Bundesliga title as Bayern captain.
Kimmich in numbers
- Completed 92 per cent of his attempted passes
- Had more touches (3003) and covered more ground (231 miles) than any player in the league
- Made the most appearances of any outfield Bayern player (31)
Watch: Joshua Kimmich's May Goal of the Month
What they’re saying
"Joshua can be loud, and even a bit snappy, but you could never accuse him of being all mouth and no trousers. He always delivers." - Bayern honorary president Uli Hoeneß
"Joshua is always focussed, always ready and always knows what to do. He’s always involved defensively and in attack. He’s a player who can make a real difference." - Bayern and Germany legend Lothar Matthäus
5) Serge Gnabry
Gnabry shares the same game-changing strand of DNA as his former VfB Stuttgart academy teammate, even if his ex-coaches at Arsenal and West Bromich Albion - Arsene Wenger and Tony Pulis respectively - didn't recognise it. After being voted Bayern's official player of the season for 2018/19, the Germany international more than lived up to the hype in his second campaign on Munich soil. Be it in the Bundesliga or UEFA Champions League, Gnabbers ran roughshod over opposition defences, making and taking chances by the bucket-load. He scored four against Tottenham Hotspur and put two past Chelsea in continental fare, but it was his autumn-through-winter form domestically, when he had a direct hand in 15 league goals between Matchdays 11-25, that had a decisive say in Bayern unseating mid-season pacesetters Leipzig.
Gnabry in numbers
- Posted a career-best 10 goals and 11 league assists in 2019/20
- Is averaging a goal or assist every 1.46 league games across his two seasons in a Bayern shirt
- Has now scored 10 or more goals in all four campaigns in the Bundesliga
Watch: Serge Gnabry starred against Cologne on Matchday 22
What they’re saying
"Serge is an exceptional player. I’ve scarcely seen a player that drives towards the opposition goal with such purpose." - Kimmich
"He’s world class. There’s nobody else with his abilities in the Bundesliga. He can shoot with his left or right foot, but he could exploit his pace better in the final third and go deeper every now and again, as he’s a real weapon there." - former Bayern coach Niko Kovac