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Gabriel Vidovic: Bayern Munich wonderkid on verge of debut after impressing Nagelsmann

16:00 GMT+4 01/03/2022
Gabriel Vidovic NXGN GFX
The 18-year-old forward was linked with Barcelona earlier this season, but in February committed his future to the Bundesliga champions

Despite all their success, for over a decade Bayern Munich fans have been longing for a homegrown player to emerge and put their stamp on the first team.

Not since Thomas Muller and David Alaba made their breakthroughs in the late 2000s has a true Bayern academy graduate made the grade at the Allianz Arena.

Jamal Musiala is, of course, continuing to make waves at the Bundesliga champions, but the 19-year-old was only with the club for a year before being called up to the senior squad, with most of his footballing education coming at Chelsea.

There are signs, however, that some talented teenagers are about to start making their mark as Julian Nagelsmann oversees a changing of the guard over the next few seasons.

Sixteen-year-old Paul Wanner has already become the youngest player in the club's history after debuting in January, and he is not the only youngster who is now training regularly under Nagelsmann's watch.

Gabriel Vidovic may still be waiting for his first-team bow, but fans were thrilled to see the forward sign a new two-year contract extension in February, such is the potential he has shown over the course of the 2021-22 season.

A member of the Bayern youth system since joining their Under-14s, the 18-year-old was named in Nagelsmann's matchday squad for the first time against Red Bull Salzburg in the last 16 of the Champions League, and is being tipped for a bright future.

"Gabriel Vidovic is a player who is technically very talented and creates a great goal threat from the gaps," Bayern sporting director, Hasan Salihamidzic, said after Vidovic committed himself to the club until 2025.

"He has been with us for six years, received excellent training at the FC Bayern Campus, and should take the next step with our pros."

Bayern's drive for Vidovic to make it to the top of the European game is unsurprising given the lengths they had to take to convince the youngster's family to enrol him into their age-group sides.

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Vidovic's father, Zoran, acted as his son's first coach in the Bavarian city of Augsburg, and it is GOAL and SPOX's understanding that he turned down Bayern's initial approach in 2009 to begin giving his son more formal coaching.

It was not until three years later that Zoran, who emigrated to Germany from Croatia in the 1990s, eventually relented when Bayern again requested that Gabriel be integrated into their academy ranks, and after a few years of training, he was officially signed on in 2016.

“Gabi comes from a good family. He is well brought up and polite, and also brings a certain humility with him, without lacking in self-confidence, ” Jochen Sauer, who coached Vidovic for five years at Bayern, explains to GOAL and SPOX.

"He is a good footballer who has been constantly developing. Physically, he was usually one of the youngest in his year, which means he learned early on to assert himself against physically stronger opponents."

Vidovic, no doubt, took inspiration from his idols Lionel Messi and Luka Modric when faced with imposing defenders, and it also stood him in good stead for when he was first invited to take part in first-team training during pre-season in 2021.

Though he impressed Nagelsmann, competition for attacking places at Bayern is such that he was placed in the reserve-team squad, who play matches in the fourth tier of German football.

Vidovic has thrived, however, scoring 12 goals and laying on seven assists in 20 league matches, leading to Nagelsmann considering him for a permanent promotion to the senior side.

That promotion might have come in December, when he was set to be called up to sit on the bench for Der Klassiker against Borussia Dortmund, only for a thigh injury to rule him out of action.

Able to play either as an attacking midfielder or a central striker, Vidovic's dribbling and shooting are what catches the eye initially when watching him in action.

“Gabi has excellent technique and a high level of game intelligence," Sauer says. "He always makes surprising moves for the opponent with the ball.

"He is also very efficient and dangerous when either scoring himself, or creating dangerous situations and setting up goals. All of these skills have distinguished him so far this season.”

Those attributes, combined with his attacking output this season, meant that a number of clubs from both the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga showed an interest in signing Vidovic as his contract entered its final 18 months around the turn of the year, while even Barcelona were cited as showing an interest before his future was finally settled.

"I'm very happy about the trust the club has placed in me and I would like to thank everyone at Bayern who has supported me so far," the Croatia U21 international said upon signing his new deal. "I know that this was only a small step, but I will do everything to be able to play for Bayern for a long time to come."

That is a promise one Bayern legend hopes Vidovic can keep.

"It is a big leap from the fourth tier to the Bundesliga, but the club need to set an example that the pathway is there," ex-Germany and Bayern captain, Lothar Matthaus, tells GOAL and SPOX. "Vidovic is a player who can make that step, and then start producing at the top level.”

If he does so, then Bayern's long wait for a homegrown superstar might be about to end.

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