Joshua Kimmich is the archetypal modern footballer. In a team of superstars like Lewandowski, Muller, Neuer etc, Kimmich has been able to carve a niche of his own for recently crowned Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Starting off as a right-back, Kimmich’s rise to become one of the best midfielders has been relatively quick.
It’s easy to forget he is just 26 years old. With more than 250 appearances already for the club, Kimmich’s influence on his team is exceptional. You have to understand that with him entering the peak of his career, the best is yet to come.
Kimmich was an integral part of Bayern’s treble-winning team under manager Hansi Flick last season. Playing consistently and dominating two positions, whether it was in midfield or deputising at right-back, the progress he has shown has been astronomical. So how did the German rise up the ranks and become one of the country’s biggest talents?
Kimmich began honing his craft at the very early age of 9 at the DFB training camp in Aldingen. It was here that the early seed of potential was spotted. The testament to potential was certain when a special permit was granted for him, to take part in the units despite being underage.
Martin Schneider, his youth coach, said in 2016 that “Kimmich was always intrigued and was keen to learn various tactics and footballing concepts”. This quality is evident to this day as his ability to read and understand the game has been praised by coaches like Pep Guardiola and Hansi Flick. Guardiola even referred to him as one of the most intelligent players.
His performances at the academy started making noise and slowly drew the attention of Stuttgart who wanted to sign the youth prospect. The Stuttgart academy was a renowned hub for young coaches and managers developing their trade. Over the years it has produced players like Sebastian Rudy, Mario Gomez, Serge Gnarby, and Timo Werner.
✨ #UCL Defender of the Season ✨
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) October 1, 2020
Every year the Stuttgart finishing school accepted just 18 entries, Kimmich’s undeniable talent and qualities made him an easy choice. It served as the ideal place where he could further develop as a player and as an individual.
In 2013 after being disappointed at not being promoted to the first team despite a string of impressive performances. Kimmich headed to the door of his boyhood club. Stuttgart’s sporting director Fredi Bobic said that “ Joshua had hoped to be able to start right away in the professional team. But he then realized that a player Rani Khedira who was two years ahead of him was playing in his current position. But there was no waiting for Kimmich”
Former Stuttgart coach Ralf Ragnick monitored the situation at Stuttgart and identified Kimmich as a player who fit the club’s philosophy of Capital, Concept and Competence and brought him to Red Bull Leipzig. Breaking down the philosophy Capital was the economic structure of the club, Concept was the on-field plan and Competence was the desire of the players which was the reason Kimmich was signed
Ragnick’s method focused on promoting youth and playing an attacking brand of football. Kimmich became one of the star names of the Red Bull project as he helped Leipzig get promoted to the 2nd division.
Joshua Kimmich in the Bundesliga & #UCL this season:
👕 25 appearances
🅰️ 13 assists
⚽️ 3 goals
⏰ 125 minutes per G/A
Unbelievable contribution from midfield. 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/Qx0IPNrxJH
— Statman Dave (@StatmanDave) April 7, 2021
His journey at the club however was no cakewalk. Kimmich struggled to adapt to the pace and physicality of the game. Still a teenager at the time Kimmich lost confidence and questioned his desire to cut it at that level. However, he persevered. The person instrumental in developing Kimmich was the athletic trainer at Leipzig a former professional pole vaulter Tim Lobinger.
Lobinger decided to spend time with Kimmich to improve his conditioning and physicality. He developed a nutritional plan for him and they often had conversations beyond the pitch. In a few months time, the results slowly began to start showing as Kimmich cemented a starting position and formed a lethal midfield partnership alongside Diego Demme.
ENTERING THE WORLD-CLASS BRACKET
Kimmich’s development attracted a lot of attention. You certainly know you are headed in the right direction when it’s Pep Guardiola’s eyes that you have caught. On a scouting trip, Guardiola went personally to watch Kimmich play in a league game against 1860 Munich. The visit ended up in Guardiola being hugely impressed and a deal was soon agreed.
Kimmich rise to the top level was quite a surprise when viewing from certain sections, as it was not too long ago when he was not promoted to the Stuttgart first team, and a couple of years later he was joining Germany’s biggest and most successful team.
10 – Joshua Kimmich created 10 chances against PSG, the most by a player in a single UEFA Champions League match at the quarter-final stage or later since Mesut Özil for Real Madrid v Tottenham in April 2011 (12). Supply. pic.twitter.com/FfDlGg6O4k
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 7, 2021
Guardiola knew exactly what he wanted to do with Kimmich and that was to make him the best player at his craft. In a 2016 game against Borussia Dortmund, Guardiola deputised Kimmich as a centre back. Guardiola praised Kimmich’s performance post that game, even referring him to him as his own son and his ability to play in multiple positions.
Pep Guardiola won the league title that year as Kimmich had a highly productive season. He was selected in the German team and started as the first choice right back at the Euros where Germany reached the last four.
MOVING TO CENTRE MIDFIELD
Guardiola’s departure in 2016 spelt the arrival of two other top managers that followed, Carlo Ancelotti and Jupp Heynckes both of whom understood the value of Kimmich. For a few seasons, Joshua was moved around the field a lot. Kimmich and everyone around him however knew that his best position lay in the middle of the park. His ability to dictate play with ease combined with relentless energy makes him the ideal pivot.
Javi Martinez and Thiago’s injury problems, Sebastian Rudy and Renato Sanches’ failure to impose at Bayern, and Xabi Alonso and Philip Lahm’s retirements eventually gave him the opportunity to move to midfield.
His rise continued to escalate as Bayern continued to win the league however the need for the Champions League is what the players yearned for which was achieved after the arrival of Hansi Flick. While Kimmich has only matured with age, his influence in Bayern winning the treble last year doesn’t hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Over the past two seasons he has formed an exceptional partnership with Leon Goretzka in front of the Bayern backline. The pair are arguably the best midfield duo in the world. Their tenacity and technicality, and an ability to pop-up with important goals, was instrumental in bringing European success to the Allianz Arena. Kimmich’s wonderful chip over Roman Burki in Der Klassiker last season was the cherry on top of a wonderful campaign.
ROLE FOR GERMANY
In recent times, Kimmich has been used in midfield by Joachim Loew. However, the outgoing German boss has a huge conundrum on his hands. Kimmich and Goretzka have been exceptional for a long time while Ilkay Gundogan and Toni Kroos have been in breathtaking form this season. All four of them cannot be fitted into the midfield and leaving any of them out will be a difficult choice.
Joachim Löw considers Toni Kroos to be undroppable and undisputed starter in Germany's midfield for the Euros. Löw is considering moving Joshua Kimmich to the right-back position in the tournament because with Goretzka and Gündogan's form, the midfield is well equipped [Bild] pic.twitter.com/Uuj7ancDEw
— Bayern & Germany (@iMiaSanMia) March 27, 2021
Loew might just opt to drop Kimmich back into his old role as as a right-back. The position has been troublesome for Germany with Lukas Klostermann and Matthias Ginter filling in. Both of them are primarily centre backs by trade and Kimmich will arguably be able to slot right back in given his experience in the positions.
Wherever he plays, Kimmich is en route to become one of the best players of his generation, with all the acumen and desired personality to emulate some of the great Bayern legends. He will be a future captain and mainstay for both club and country.