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Malik Tillman: Bayern Munich's 'new Pogba' who became a teenage goal machine

When the Bayern Munich hierarchy speak about the work being done in the club's academy, they tend to lead with the way in which Jamal Musiala has developed into a world-class talent with the Bundesliga champions.

But given Musiala did join the club from Chelsea until the age of 16, taking the credit for the way the teenage Germany international has taken to first-team football is a bit of a misnomer, even if he has been handled well by the coaches at the Allianz Arena.

WIth that in mind, the search is on for the next true Bayern academy graduate to step up into the senior ranks, with new boss Julian Nagelsmann keen to place increasing importance on the FC Bayern Campus - the club's youth centre that opened in 2017.

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Perhaps the next player who will get that opportunity to impress is Malik Tillman, with the 19-year-old having put pen to paper on a new three-year contract in mid-September.

Tillman is a name that many Bayern fans will be familiar with following the hype that surrounded Malik's older brother, Timothy, as he came through the ranks.

Timothy Tillman was regarded as a huge talent in Bavaria, and had Barcelona chasing his signature as he entered his late-teens before he suffered ruptured ankle ligaments in 2019 that set his career back somewhat.

Now 22, Timothy's career has come full circle, as he now plies his trade at boyhood club Greuter Furth, the team that he and Malik left to join Bayern back in 2015.

The chances of the younger Tillman making it where his brother came up short are, however, good, with Nagelsmann having been impressed by the forward on the number of occasions he has been called-up to train with the senior squad.

"Malik is a very, very good playmaking striker," Nagelsmann tells Goal and Spox. "He has the gift of spotting spaces and can score goals.”

Tillman even marked his debut for the first team with a goal, as he netted in the 12-0 win overly lowly Bremer in the first round of the DFB-Pokal in August, though he has not always played as an out-and-out striker.

When the youngster arrived at the club, he did so as an attack-minded midfielder, capable of playing as a No.8 or No.10 due to his preference of having the game in front of him rather than playing up against defenders.,

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"My playing style is similar to Paul Pogba’s," Tillman told Bild in an interview back in 2019. "I really like how he plays. He’s something of a role model for me."

It was not until he he reached Bayern's Under-17s where his role changed under the tutelage of legendary Germany striker Miroslav Klose.

Due to a number of injuries within the squad, Klose worked with Nuremberg-born Tillman so he could fill in as an emergency No.9, and his game has sky-rocketed to new levels ever since.

In his last three full seasons, Tillman has scored 38 goals and laid on 24 assists in 89 appearances across the U17s, U19s and U23s, the latter of whom play in the fourth-tier of German football.

"He is technically and physically strong, and also very threatening in front of goal due to his assertiveness in one-on-one situations," Holger Seitz, Bayern's academy manager, tells Goal and Spox of Tillman. "He has a good eye for goal and recognises open spaces into which he can run.

"He keeps his cool and has a good overview when he scores. Defensively, he is also very robust in duels and switches quickly after winning the ball."

Those abilities have seen Tillman earn his first call-up to the Germany Under-21s squad for the October international break, though he has previously represented the United States at younger age-groups, gaining eligibility through his American father.

Malik Tillman Germany GFXGetty/Goal

Off the field, meanwhile, he is desribed by Nagelsmann as being "very quiet and introverted," with the ex-RB Leipzig boss keen for Tillman to "come out of his shell a bit more and be a 'scumbag'".

Fortunately for Tillman, he will be given time to develop those tendencies. He has already shown resilience by coping with a torn cruciate ligament that kept him out of action for five-and-a-half months in 2020-21, and he is well aware of the competition he faces in terms of breaking into the first team, with Robert Lewandowski and Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting ahead of him in the pecking order.

"The fact that Bayern have given him a new professional contract until 2024 proves that we believe in his chance to assert himself here," Seitz says.

"For Malik, it is now a matter of continuing to work hard on himself every day, to draw attention to himself with good performances and goals in the U23s, and to keep looking for his chance in the professional squad. He is currently on a very good path.”

If that path does indeed end with Tillman becoming a key member of the Bayern squad, then he could become the first 'true' success story to emerge from the club's new academy base.

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