BERLIN: Joshua Kimmich started the season as Germany’s first-choice right-back after making the Team of the Tournament at Euro 2016 — yet now cuts a dejected figure warming Bayern Munich’s bench.
Should he face Borussia Moenchengladbach in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) Bundesliga clash, it would be his first Bayern start since January, yet Kimmich could still face England for Germany in next Wednesday’s friendly.
The 22-year-old rocketed into the Germany team last season after his career took off when he made his Bayern debut in August 2015 after signing a five-year contract from RB Leipzig.
His Bayern debut sparked a meteoric rise over the next 12 months.
The shy youngster caught the attention of Bayern’s then coach Pep Guardiola, who played the versatile Kimmich in midfield or defense.
“He’s perhaps one of the best center-backs in the world,” Guardiola said after Kimmich played the full 120 minutes of last May’s German Cup final when Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund on penalties.
“He’s got the desire, the will, the passion. He’s got absolutely everything.”
Kimmich started 15 times in 23 appearances for Bayern last season and outstanding appearances put him on the radar of Germany’s head coach Joachim Loew.
Kimmich made his Germany debut in a Euro 2016 warm-up match, then took World Cup winner Benedikt Hoewedes’ place at right-back for the final group stage game.
Kimmich kept his place throughout the knockout stages as Germany lost to hosts France in the semi-finals.
Along with Jerome Boateng and Toni Kroos, he was one of the three Germans included in UEFA’s Team of the Tournament.
When Carlo Ancelotti replaced Guardiola as Bayern’s head coach for 2016/17, Kimmich started with a bang — netting seven goals in his first seven games.
But when the winds of autumn blew, Kimmich found himself being used more and more as a replacement by Ancelotti.
Since December he has made just one appearance over the 90 minutes in any competition.
Last Saturday, Kimmich was again a dejected figure on the bench over 90 minutes in Bayern’s 3-0 home win against Eintracht Frankfurt.
“I’m not happy about it. I know I have no right to a starting place, but I want to chance the situation,” Kimmich told magazine Kicker.
“I know things can’t always go well, but I know what I can do. There will be other occasions.”
Like his predecessors before him, Ancelotti is simply unable to give all of Bayern’s squad starting places.
Certainly there will be chances by next season at the latest as both captain Philipp Lahm and Xabi Alonso will retire in June.
Kimmich can slot into either Alonso’s defensive midfield role or take Lahm’s place at right-back.
“Josh has shown at which level he can play football. It is just a matter of time before he plays again,” insisted Lahm.
Certainly Kimmich’s versatility and youth counted against him when 31-year-old Rafina was picked to play at right-back in the 5-1 Champions League quarterfinals, second-leg, mauling of Arsenal in London.
“Rafinha plays, because he’s old,” quipped Ancelotti.
But Kimmich’s situation is no laughing matter and he needs to know whether Bayern have long-term plans for him.
Especially as Germany center-back Niklas Suele and defensive midfielder Sebastian Rudy will arrive from Hoffenheim next season.
Kimmich needs to position himself as Alonso’s successor, according to ex-Germany and Bayern midfielder Stefan Effenberg.
“Joshua Kimmich must have a future at Bayern Munich,” said Effenberg.
“You can’t sell or send on loan such a young player who already has a lot of experience.
“He will grow into a big role — and also expects that from himself.
“He needs to make that clear.”