Malik Tillman has been promoted to Bayern Munich's first team ahead of the UEFA Champions League final eight tournament and handed a new contract until 2023. What else is there to know about the young German-American who has gone from Paul Pogba-esque midfielder to goalscoring striker?
bundesliga.com has the lowdown…
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Striker/attacking midfielder
Country: Germany (U17 cap)/USA (U15 cap)
Born in Nuremberg in May 2002, the son of a German mother and a US military father, Tillman grew up in Fürth, a 20-minute drive west of Bavaria's second-biggest city. Having kicked a ball almost since he could walk, the youngster was soon in the youth system of nearby Greuther Fürth, and made the move to Munich with Bayern a few months past his 13th birthday in the summer of 2015.
Two short seasons later and Tillman - at this point still very much a midfielder - was captaining the record champions' U15 side. Fast filling out into his now 6'1"-frame, Tillman essentially bypassed the U16s and was given a central role in the U17 set-up when he was still only 15. One season later and he was leading that age group out too.
It was the 2019/20 campaign when Tillman really made the step up, though, leaving coaches throughout the Bayern academy with little doubt that he had the tools to progress into the full professional game. With his pace, strength, control and awareness, Tillman was soon put up front on a full-time basis, and the results were impressive.
With the No.9 jersey on his back, Tillman plundered 13 goals for Bayern's U19s before the coronavirus-enforced break in play, making him the top scorer league-wide in the Under 19 Bundesliga. Throw in his seven assists and Tillman had a hand in a goal every 70 minutes he played at that level.
Bayern II coach Sebastian Hoeneß's hand may have been somewhat forced when reserve team football returned following the DFL's Hygiene Concept - something that didn't apply to the underage levels - but he was richly rewarded for giving Tillman his chance in the third tier of German football. Fiete Arp may have had possession of that particular No.9 shirt, but the 18-year-old Tillman was unfazed, finishing the season with five goals in eight games as Bayern climbed from eighth to first in the Rückrunde.
At international level, Tillman first turned out for the USA at U15 just five days past his 14th birthday, even assisting Borussia Dortmund's Gio Reyna for the only goal in a 1-0 win over Montenegro's U16s at a tournament in Croatia. But he has since represented his native Germany, with whom he has two goals and 15 appearances up to U17 level.
Bayern have one foot in the Champions League's final eight tournament in Lisbon next month, meanwhile, having beaten Chelsea 3-0 in the first leg of their quarter-final tie back in February. Tillman's stellar form for the U19s and reserves this term has prompted Hansi Flick to promote him to the first-team squad as they look to wrap up a first continental treble since 2013.
A new contract until 2023 is another statement of the club's faith in the nascent talent.
Plays a bit like: Paul Pogba
It may seem strange to describe a player who ended the season just gone as an 18-goal striker as being similar in style to Manchester United and France midfielder Paul Pogba, but take it from the man himself:
"When I play as a No.8 or No.10 [in central midfield], my playing style is similar to Paul Pogba's," Tillman told SportBild. "I like him a lot. I really like how he plays. He's something of a role model for me."
It's true that Tillman has a similar combination of physical and technical brilliance that the French World Cup winner boasts - and his ability to find a teammate with a laser-sighted long ball forward is well worth a few minutes spent on YouTube. What Bayern spotted this season, though, was that Tillman was just as effective at getting on the end of such passes as delivering them.
Closer to the opposition goal, Tillman still threads neat through balls to better placed teammates when he's not tucking away chances coming in the opposite direction. Perhaps it is what Pogba would look like in attack. Lars Stindl - scorer of the goal that won Germany the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017 and captain of Borussia Mönchengladbach - is perhaps the Bundesliga player closest in profile.
Did you know?
Tillman is now on the cusp of an extremely promising Bayern career, but actually only ended up at the club at all because of his elder brother, Timothy. An attacking midfielder or winger, Timothy - three years Malik's senior - was regarded as one of the most promising prospects in world football back in 2015, and Bayern fended off reported interest from Barcelona to sign him from Fürth.
Being a two-hour drive from home as opposed to in a different country 1,000 miles away may have helped swing the deal, but so too did the fact that young Malik was also offered a place at the FC Bayern Campus.
Timothy, now 21, returned to Fürth at the start of this season after a fruitless spell on loan at Nürnberg; Malik, as we have seen, appears to be on a rather different trajectory.
What they're saying
"I started playing very early with my brother, a lot earlier than normal guys, probably aged three. It'd be fantastic if we could play together in the Bundesliga at some point, though our mum has said she'd rather see us play against each other!" - Tillman on his family ties
"In general, he's very good on the ball. He can create combinations, chances. He can also score. He's a good midfielder, a No.8 for us, who can work defensively. But he's better in attack. He has very good skills to spot the other players." - Germany U17 coach Michael Feichtenbeiner, speaking at the 2019 European Championship
"Malik's one of the younger lads in the U19s, but he's a beast physically. He has very, very good technique. He's difficult to nudge off the ball. He'll get even better if he becomes more dynamic. It helps him to play as a striker sometimes. He's got a very good tally for goals and assists." - Bayern's academy boss, Jochen Sauer
"I'm very happy to be able to continue wearing the Bayern jersey and will work hard to realise my dream of becoming a professional footballer at this club" - Tillman on signing his first pro contract