Shanghai - Having recently joined 24-time Bundesliga champions FC Bayern München, it’s only natural Joshua Kimmich should feel a little overawed.
Not many 20-year-olds get to spend their days rubbing shoulders with the likes of Thomas Müller and Arjen Robben, but as the Germany Under-21 international told club website www.fcb.de, he hasn’t moved to Munich just to spend the next five years stargazing.
“The level is really impressive,” the former RB Leipzig midfielder explained during the Shanghai leg of Bayern’s Bundesliga World Tour excursion to China. “I still can’t believe I’m out on the pitch on a daily basis with players that have won everything. The tempo in training is really high. You quickly realise how much work you still have to do.”
Notice the emphasis on ‘work’. Bayern’s relentless will to improve is the stuff of legend, but it’s not something Kimmich has learned overnight; he was born that way. He left boyhood club VfB Stuttgart in search of first-team football in 2013 and that’s exactly what he found at Leipzig. After helping the ambitious Saxony outfit gain promotion to Bundesliga 2 in his first of two seasons at the RB Arena in 2013/14, it was clear a star had been born. Why else would Germany’s most successful club tie up a player without any previous Bundesliga experience?
“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Kimmich explained, acutely aware that he will have to move heaven and earth to dislodge Bayern’s old guard in the years ahead. “You never know when another offer like this will come along. During the discussions with Bayern, I got the impression that they believed in me. They gave me a really, really good feeling. I’m going to learn a lot. There’s nowhere better than here right now. To start with, I just have to settle in and integrate. I want to play to the limit in training, so that step-by-step I reach the level of the big boys.”
Bayern, of course, have long been a playground for football’s finest, but Kimmich says he has been impressed by two players in particular: Thiago Alcantara and David Alaba. “He moves so effortlessly,” he said of Spain international Thiago. “There aren’t many who can do what he does with the ball. And David is the complete player, the likes of which I have never seen before. He can pretty much play anywhere, is quick, has a brilliant passing game and a phenomenal shot.”
Evidently, Kimmich is in the best of company at his new club and as it turns out they’re all top blokes. “It was a completely normal meet and greet,” he recalled after shaking hands with household names such as Manuel Neuer and Philipp Lahm for the first time. “I spend a lot of time with Gianluca [Gaudino]. And Sebastian Rode has been a massive help. I heard beforehand what a great guy he is. That became pretty apparent straight away.”
Where, then, does Kimmich fit in in a football sense? “I like playing in central midfield best, as a No.6 or No.8,” he revealed. “That’s where I’ve been used so far in the friendlies. I’ve also played on the right-hand side of defence for the national team.” So that's three big ticks next to hard working, receptive and versatile. No wonder Pep Guardiola had to have him.