Winter training camps often provide a chance for young players to get a taste of just what is required to succeed in the professional game and things are no different at Bayern Munich. The Bundesliga champions have long taken talented youngsters to train abroad with them, with this winter no different.
Indeed, Jupp Heynckes has called up five teenagers from Bayern's youth ranks to join the first-team squad in Doha, Qatar. Allow bundesliga.com to introduce them...
Date of birth: 11 February 1998
From fine footballing stock, Felix Götze is, you guessed it, the younger brother of Germany’s FIFA World Cup winner Mario. Genes they share, though the two have a radically different footballing DNA. Where Mario is an attacking midfielder, Felix’s job is to stop his brother’s ilk at the other end of the pitch.
A natural left-footer who has also played left-back and defensive midfield, Götze has progressed into a ball-playing centre-back who took the winning penalty when Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund to the Under-19 Bundesliga title in May. A pro contract tying him to Bayern until 2019 soon followed and he is now often spotted in the first-team squad - most recently in the DFB Cup last-16 tie against his brother's BVB.
Date of birth: 16 March 1998
Bayern have a long and successful history with Austrians; given the proximity of the Bavarian capital to the Alpine republic, it isn’t too hard for the Munich giants to tempt talented youngsters across the border. The latest off Bayern's Austrian production line is Marco Friedl, 19, described by David Alaba as his "little brother," who will often go and have a sleep over at David's Munich mansion.
He is a little brother growing up fast, though: Friedl, who has been with Bayern since summer 2008, was involved with the first team for seven Bundesliga games in the first half of the season, as well as being handed a full debut in the 2-1 win against Belgian champions Anderlecht in the UEFA Champions League. Alaba might not be sleeping quite so soundly at present, with his younger brother gunning for his place sooner, rather than later.
Date of birth: 15 January 1998
Position: Defensive midfielder
“Niklas has all the qualities of a central midfielder,” says former Germany youth coach Marcel Lucassen “When he picks up possession he already knows where he’s going to send the ball. This is a rare quality, and in his position, indispensable.” If there are echoes of former Bayern midfielder Toni Kroos in that description, that's because there are meant to be: “Kroos was the first player I learned from by watching him,” Dorsch told Goal. “After moving to Bayern [from Nuremberg in 2012], I went to the youth club so I was able to watch him live in training."
Dorsch has long been tipped for the very top and regularly trains with the first team, but also possesses the steel to match his silky passing game. He broke his leg in May 2015 and was back playing that September. The 19-year-old boasts a tattoo which is a German translation of NFL great Jerry Rice's “Today I will do what others won't, so tomorrow I can do what others can't”. It would seem the sentiment runs more than just skin deep…
Date of birth: 4 April 1998
There were general looks of bemusement when the team-sheets were handed out at Eintracht Frankfurt on Matchday 15 and Ron-Thorben Hoffmann was named on the Bayern bench. Injuries to Manuel Neuer, Sven Ulreich and Christian Früchtl had forced Bayern's hand and sent the press pack scrambling for their laptops. It was an accidental first-team introduction for Hoffmann, but an introduction nonetheless.
Those journalists would have discovered that Hoffmann's has been an itinerant career: the 18-year-old began at hometown club Hansa Rostock at the age of six, before moving to Hertha Berlin, RB Leipzig and then Bayern in June 2016. He has impressed since arriving, his towering displays as the Bavarians topped their UEFA Youth League group this term apparently catching the eye of scouts from Juventus, Roma, Sporting Lisbon and Feyenoord. Their visits are likely more in hope than expectation: local media reports indicate that Bayern's long-term, post-Neuer plan is to have Hoffmann and Früchtl battle it out for the coveted No1 jersey.
Date of birth: 31 March 2000
Lukas Mai, 17, also hails from good footballing stock. His brother, Sebastian, is a centre-back for third-tier Preußen Münster, while Mai's father, Lars, is on the board at Dynamo Dresden, the club Lukas spent his entire youth career with before joining Bayern in 2014.
A commanding centre-back, who often captains Bayern's U19 side and won the Fritz-Walter-Medal last summer, Mai has represented Germany at U15, U16 and U17 levels, playing every minute of his nation's FIFA Under-17 World Cup campaign in India last year, starring alongside better-known teammates Jann-Fiete Arp (Hamburg) and Elias Abouchabaka (RB Leipzig). Handed a start against Napoli in pre-season and now at a Bayern training camp with the pros for the second time, it won't be long until Mai follows in family footsteps.