Bayern Munich will get geared up for the 2018/19 season with participation in the International Champions' Cup this summer, and just like in recent years, it will provide an opportunity for some of their young prospects to shine.
The FIFA World Cup and ensuing holidays have ensured new coach Niko Kovac will be deprived of many first-team regulars until 25 July, when he has invited them to report for duty, meaning he will get the opportunity to take a closer look at some of the talent emerging at the record champions.
Bayern face Paris Saint-Germain (21 July, Klagenfurt), Juventus (25 July, Philadelphia) and Manchester City (28 July, Miami) in the ICC and these fixtures could provide an ideal stage to give them some game time.
bundesliga.com highlights five names who could get their break this summer.
The Portuguese midfielder is already a familiar name, having won UEFA EURO 2016 with his country after having sealed a move to Bayern. His first steps in Bavaria did not necessarily go according to plan, though, and a year out on loan at Swansea City in England's Premier League saw the 20-year-old vanish off the radar somewhat. He's back for a second chance, though, and ready to grasp it. "We were absolutely convinced of his qualities two years ago so we're not going to give up on him now," said Bayern's CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, who is as keen as anybody to see how the 2016 Golden Boy responds to working under Kovac – a coach renowned for reviving young talent. "Niko will try and bring him back to his old strength," Rummenigge added. "It's an exciting project."
As for Kovac, he has laid down the gauntlet to the midfielder. "I hope he accepts the fight, the battle and is motivated to work from day one," he said. "Then he can perform the way that we, and he himself, expects to perform."
Blooded by Bayern towards the end of last season, at the tender age of 18 years and 22 days, Lukas Mai is a product the Bavarian club's academy is particularly proud of. "Lukas is a super talent, a player the team supports and trusts," said fellow Bayern centre-back Niklas Süle following the 6'2" defender's 90-minute debut against Hannover on Matchday 31. "He worked very hard for this and it's just the beginning for him."
With Bayern particularly short in defence during their tour – with Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Süle among those due to arrive on 25 July – the imposing yet composed Mai can take his chance stateside to prove why the first player born in the new millennium to pull on a Bayern shirt in a competitive fixture has already been tied down to a contract through to 2021 in Munich.
Speaking of players with a presence, forward Franck Evina fits into that category with Mai, albeit at the opposite end of the field, and it would not be surprising to see them both occupying the same pitch during the ICC. "It's nice that guys like Franck can show what they can do here," said Hummels a year ago, when Evina showed the first glimpses of his talent ahead of the 2017/18 campaign. "Many of them, like Franck, can play an important role in the coming years."
Fast-forward 12 months and Evina is set to be given another opportunity to impress in the first team, having featured in his first two Bundesliga games towards the end of last season. Principally a left winger, Evina is equally at home on the right or up front – James Rodriguez, Thomas Müller, Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery beware. Skillful, pacy and powerful, whether providing for his teammates with crosses from wide positions, drifting inside onto his favoured right foot to go for goal himself, or holding up play as a target man - the man nicknamed 'the Bavarian Hulk' by local media in Munich looks to have it all.
Like Evina, Shabani was handed his Bayern debut against Eintracht Frankfurt last season, meaning Kovac has already taken a close look at a player he can now pick in his own team. And just like Evina, Shabani joined Bayern's youth academy at the age of seven and is now ready to break into first-team contention, backed by the eight goals he scored in 20 games, with a further five assists, for Bayern's under-19s last season.
"Meritan's a hugely gifted and promising player who's come all the way through the Bayern youth system," said sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic. "We're pleased to have him tied to the club long-term. He's already shown his potential in first-team training and in the game against Frankfurt." Where can we expect to see him? Well, think James Rodriguez or Müller: a flexible No.10, providing the ammunition up front.
Manuel Neuer may have a firm grasp on Bayern's number one jersey for years to come, but his foot worries last term could well accelerate the process of finding a man fit to fill his gloves in the long term, and that man could well be Christian Früchtl.
"His coordination is great," said Neuer, "The talent's there in any case, and he has good conditioning." This comes from having trained with Neuer already for several years, with something from arguably the world's greatest goalkeeper clearly rubbing off on him. "You observe the older experienced keepers that already are professionals," added Neuer. "I also did that when I was younger. Christian trains well, is very hungry, observant and listens well when someone is explaining something to him."
With Neuer absent during the ICC, Früchtl and Sven Ulreich will be competing for minutes, and with Kovac aware he has been brought in to oversee something of a generation change in Munich, opportunity is set to knock for the 18-year-old this summer.