Outgoing Bayern Munich and future Germany head coach Hansi Flick thinks that Joshua Kimmich can become the world's best player. bundesliga.com explains why that's far from an outlandish claim.
In his farewell interview as Bayern boss, Flick predicted that his successor Julian Nagelsmann will have "a lot of fun" with the team he's left behind. That seems fairly obvious, given that the new man in charge will get to work with Germany captain Manuel Neuer and record-breaking goalscorer Robert Lewandowski among others.
Another Bayern stalwart who is a dream for coaches, however, is Kimmich. While 2014 FIFA World Cup winner Neuer and reigning World Player of the Year Lewandowski have reached incredible heights already, Flick feels that Kimmich is determined to be spoken of in the same terms.
"I think if he manages to channel his extraordinary ambition a little better and steers it in the right direction, then he can become the world's best player," Flick told 51, the official Bayern Munich magazine. "He's already a world-class player in several positions but he can take another step - and I hope he does."
A constant focus on the task at hand is what sets Kimmich apart, according to Flick, something that is clearly paying off for the 26-year-old Germany international.
An integral part of Bayern's sextuple-winning squad and already a six-time Bundesliga champion, Kimmich is showing plenty of signs that suggest he has the potential to meet Flick's prediction.
Having initially starred as a right-back with Bayern, the former VfB Stuttgart and RB Leipzig player has now made the No.6 role his own. He's only featured once at full-back in the Bundesliga since the start of 2020/21, and his influence in a central role for both club and country is increasing all the time.
Watch: Analysis: Kimmich the Boss
Helping Bayern to win a ninth consecutive title in 2020/21, Kimmich touched the ball an average of 101 times over 90 minutes. That was the best total not just at the record German champions but among all the midfielders in the top flight.
A Germany international with over 50 caps to his name, Kimmich has a career passing accuracy of over 90 per cent. He's well able to mix it off the ball too, though, winning over 50 per cent of his challenges both on the ground and in the air in the 2020/21 Bundesliga.
Kimmich's energy is hugely impressive. In 2019/20 he covered more ground than anyone else in the league (247 miles) and he might have topped that ranking again the following season had he not missed seven games through injury. As it was, he ran an average of 7.8 miles per game during 27 league appearances in 2020/21 - more than anyone else at Bayern.
Endurance is one of the Bayern No.6's obvious strengths. The knee injury that kept him out for six weeks from early November to late December 2020 was a rarity - and Bayern briefly slipped from the top of the table when he was missing. Since arriving at the six-time European champions from Leipzig in 2015, he has otherwise missed a maximum of two competitive games in succession.
"The No. 6 role that Joshua is playing for Bayern Munich and for the national team has become like the quarterback role in American Football," the former Bayern, Germany and USA head coach explained to bundesliga.com in May 2021.
"Joshua plays that to perfection. He is not only feisty in terms of winning the ball back, he knows right away what to do with the ball and who to connect to. He keeps the tempo of the game in place."
From Rottweil in the southwest of Germany, Bayern's midfield dynamo regularly produces an end product as well. He has 30 goals and 71 assists in 261 games across all competitions for the record German champions, statistics that he improved upon again in 2020/21.
In total Kimmich contributed directly to 14 goals in another successful Bundesliga season for Bayern - scoring four and making 10 more. Five corners he took led to goals - second in the league only to Borussia Mönchengladbach's Jonas Hofmann and Freiburg's Vincenzo Grifo (both six).
The manner in which Kimmich has been getting on the scoresheet, meanwhile, has showcased the full range of his ability. Few Bayern fans will forget his delicate chip over Roman Bürki late in the 2019/20 campaign, for example, a decisive strike that all but made certain his side would be German champions yet again.
Six of Kimmich's eight Bundesliga goals since the summer of 2019 have come from range, showing that it's highly dangerous to leave him unmarked even outside the area.
Of the four Bundesliga goals he got in 2020/21, two came from distance, one was smashed home from right on the edge of the box, and the other was a close-range header. His first - a carefully placed curler into the top corner at Hoffenheim - won him September's Goal of the Month award. His last - a thunderous strike from outside the area in the final day success against Augsburg - suggests that he's hungry for more.
It's been an impressive rise to prominence for Kimmich, who was with Stuttgart to U19 level where he played alongside the likes of future Germany teammates Serge Gnabry and Timo Werner. He dropped down to Leipzig - then a third-tier side - in 2013 before his tenacity and talent got him a move to Bayern.
While at Leipzig Kimmich worked under fitness trainer Tim Lobinger, who previously won multiple medals as a pole vaulter for Germany. For Lobinger, like with Flick, it's no surprise that the Bayern midfielder has got to where he is today.
"He leaves no stone unturned because he always wants to know how he can get even better," Lobinger told German site Spox.
That attitude has served Kimmich well, and little by little he has been adding to his game. A good passer, he also takes set pieces. A combative midfielder with a great engine, he scores goals as well as makes them. He rarely misses a match, and has become an indispensable player for club and country.
Can he become the best one in the world? Flick doesn't get a lot wrong.