On the surface, it comes as no great surprise to see a selection of youth team players making the trip to Doha for FC Bayern München’s annual winter training camp on the Persian Gulf, but scratch a little deeper and there is one surprise, albeit conspicuous, inclusion.
Standing at 1.90 metres and with European size 50 feet, 15-year-old goalkeeper Christian Früchtl is the gentle giant no one expected to see passing through check-in at Munich airport on Wednesday morning.
Learning from the best
Born on 28 January 2000, Früchtl is a regular between the posts for the Bayern and Germany Under-16s. He has already represented the Bayern U-19s in the UEFA Youth League and even made the substitutes’ bench in the A- and B-Youth Bundesliga.
For one so young, those are some impressive achievements, but it is rubbing shoulders with Bayern No.1 Manuel Neuer and reserve custodians Sven Ulreich and Tom Starke in Doha, that could help propel his nascent game to the next level.
Glimpse into the future
“They’re going because Mario Götze, Medhi Benatia and Franck Ribery won’t be able to train in Doha,” replied Bayern head coach Pep Guardiola when asked about why he has opted to include six youth team representatives in his 29-player party. The aforementioned star trio will travel, but will only be able to take part in rehabilitation exercises following injury.
Otherwise, it is a case of all present and correct for the record German champions. Just remember to keep a close eye on USA international Julian Green (l., 20), Bayern reserves forward Milos Pantovic (19), Germany U-17 midfielder Niklas Dorsch (17), promising attacker Fabian Benko (17), Austrian left-back Marco Friedl (17) and, of course, Früchtl. You cannot miss him.