When Thomas Müller handed Joshua Kimmich the captain's armband during Germany's 5-1 FIFA 2018 World Cup qualifying win over Azerbaijan last October, he may as well have been placing a crown on the head of one of the new members of German football royalty.

Kimmich may be just 22, but he is already regarded as the finest right-sided defender of his generation - the present and future of the German game.

Watch: All of Kimmich's Bundesliga goals and assists for Bayern Munich

"Joshua is one of the greatest talents I have seen in the past decade," said Germany head coach Joachim Löw. "He's got that bite and hunger to push himself to the limit in every training session. He's going to have an amazing career."

Some may say he already has had an amazing career.

His position on the pitch, for both club and country, has drawn comparisons with Bayern and Germany legend Philipp Lahm, who retired last season, and though those comparisons are unlikely to go away, Kimmich has himself said how he does not wish to be perceived as "a Philipp Lahm clone".

Germany’s record appearance-maker Lothar Matthäus, in praising his versatility, also appears to be fuelling the comparisons with Lahm, but while there are similarities between the two, there are differences too.

Lahm may have been one of the great attacking full-backs, comfortable on either flank, but he was a defender by trade. Kimmich, meanwhile, has gradually been converted into a right-back - especially when playing for Germany - after originally breaking through at Stuttgart and RB Leipzig as a defensive midfielder.

As such, it could be argued he has a more natural instinct to get forward than his predecessor, and in actual fact his tactical intelligence when going forward almost marks him out as having more of a striker's instinct than a defender's. He scored seven times in a little over a month at the start of last season, a run that included four goals in five Bundesliga matches.

Kimmich in action for Germany against Norway during the September 2017 international break.
Kimmich in action for Germany against Norway during the September 2017 international break.

Indeed, some of the attacking positions he takes up are reminiscent of another Bayern and Germany team-mate: Thomas Müller. Like the long-serving forward, Kimmich is extremely intelligent and versatile, while perhaps lacking in the technical skills of others. Nevertheless, even as a defender he occupies spaces on the pitch in attacking positions that opposition defenders seemingly cannot track, enabling him to score the type of goals Müller has made a career out of scoring.

In the below clip, taken from a 1-1 draw at home to Cologne last season, Kimmich played in defensive midfield, while he was back at right-back for his country. Each goal was expertly taken, but consider the position he found himself in to score them. Then consider which goal might have been scored by Müller and which by Lahm, and the extent to which Kimmich resembles not just one of them but both becomes that much clearer.

Watch: Kimmich scores for Bayern against Cologne on Matchday 6 in 2016/17

Kimmich has attempted to distance himself from the Lahm comparisons, emphasising his desire to "go his own way" in his career. Unfortunately for him, it appears the comparisons will not go away in a hurry, but there are few greater compliments than being mentioned in the same breath as one of the game's modern legends.

It could be argued he can do more than Lahm going forward, scoring goals as well as assisting them. He has seven goals in 71 Bundesliga appearances for Bayern; Lahm scored 12 in 332. Kimmich also has three goals for Germany in 25 appearances since May 2016, while Lahm managed five in 113 caps, spread over 11 years.

Kimmich broke Berti Vogts' record of 23 successive appearances for his country in autumn 2017.

So perhaps Kimmich is less a Lahm clone and more of a Lahm-Müller hybrid, a concoction of traditional German toughness and modern tactical flexibility, able to attack, defend, score and create. He can also lead, and since he appears to be a fixture for Bayern and Germany for years to come, he could even be a future captain of club, country or both. Indeed, why not throw a dash of Franz Beckenbauer into the mix too?

Kimmich might count each of those players among his influences, but make no mistake: he is treading his own unique path.

Bernie Reeves

Click here for more Bayern Munich news, views and features!