Replacing Robben and Ribery – three non-Bundesliga youngsters who could be ideal

When pooling for young talent to scoop up and transform into superstars, German giants Bayern Munich often find it easy to reel in the Bundesliga’s fresh young talent.

In the not-so-distant future, wing stalwarts Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery will be all set to retire. Both now 34, it looks like it’s time for the Bavarians to scout for long-term successors.

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Here I shun the inevitable Julian Brandts, Leon Baileys and Christian Pulisics and take a look further afield at under-23 players with the world at the feet.

Even these hopefuls will struggle to live up to the duo’s successes, but they are certainly amongst those with the closest chance.

With the assistance of Squawka’s Comparison Matrix and my own personal opinions, these are my suggestions.

Mikel Oyarzabal

Spanish | 20 | Midfielder | Real Sociedad

Real Sociedad youngster Mikel Oyarzabal has proven himself as a sensational talent over the last two seasons in La Liga.

Brilliant crossing technique, shot accuracy, footwork and comparisons to fellow Sociedad academy graduate Antoine Griezmann have unsurprisingly thrust the starlet into the limelight.

The Basque winger, 20, is rated by TransferMarkt as the fifth most valuable player born in 1997, behind only the likes of Ousmane Dembele and Gabriel Jesus.

This is most certainly justifiable, with Oyarzabal’s key pass numbers coming just decimals off those of Leicester star Riyad Mahrez.

At the time of writing, the Eibar-born star is averaging 1.52 chances created a match and 1.24 shots inside the box, bettering Atletico Madrid sensation Yannick Carrasco who only creates 1 and makes 0.76 attempts within the area.

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Having only just left his teenage years behind, Oyarzabal’s 78% pass completion rate this campaign only just falls short of Cristiano Ronaldo’s 82% and Carrasco’s 79%.

This proves the star, who won a Spain cap aged just 19, is already boasting excellent figures.

The Spaniard averages 0.24 assists per 90 minutes and 0.29 goals per 90 minutes, crushing the numbers achieved by Bayern’s current young hopeful Kingsley Coman.

Mikel Oyarzabal averages four fewer passes and one fewer forward pass than Douglas Costa, who currently stars for Juventus on loan from Bayern.

The Brazilian, however, is 27, and, with such fine margins, a move for Oyarzabal, a potential long-term solution, would be a silly chance to miss.

Virtually all of Oyarzabal’s statistics have improved this season, proving he is well on the way to fulfilling his potential.

With Bayern Munich’s superb ability to nurture youngsters into superstars, it’s hard to believe he wouldn’t become one if he made the switch.

Hirving Lozano

Mexican | 22 | Forward | PSV Eindhoven

Commonly referred to as “Chucky”, 22-year-old Mexico winger Hirving Lozano has dazzled this season for PSV Eindhoven.

After persistent links with Old Trafford in 2016, the tricky winger made the move to Europe from Pachuca the following summer and he certainly hasn’t failed to live up to the hype.

The right-footed speedster who plays on the left of midfield has netted 13 goals in 19 games, meaning he averages 0.59 successful strikes a game.

This stat is not to be scoffed at, falling just short of Man City’s Raheem Sterling on 0.6 and better than PSG sensation Kylian Mbappe on 0.5.

Lozano also creates 2.36 chances for his teammates per match, outdoing Eden Hazard’s 2.3 for Chelsea and takes 1.91 shots in the box, not far off Raheem Sterling’s 1.96 record for Manchester City.

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Alongside his chance creation, Lozano’s key pass stats further prove his super ability to connect with fellow attackers.

The Mexican averages 2.05 key passes per league game at the time of writing, trumping elite distributors Ever Banega of Sevilla and David Silva of Manchester City.

Despite PSV’s dominance in Eredivisie this season, Lozano has still been the club’s stand-out man, providing six assists alongside his 13 goals.

Franck Ribery has scored ten or more goals in four of his 11 seasons for Bayern and this magnificent strike stat suggests Lozano could fill the Frenchman’s void seamlessly.

His style of play also evokes memories of Ribery in his prime, with the Central American excelling on the left, cutting inside and providing passes and shots on his stronger right foot.

He possesses superb control of the ball, an astute eye for passes and pin-point shot placement.

Although some may say his lack of European experience and time at the top may be a detriment to his success, I believe Lozano has the star quality to succeed at the Allianz Arena.

Gelson Martins

Portuguese | 21 | Forward | Sporting CP

My final suggestion is Sporting CP star Gelson Martins.

The 21-year-old showboater has already been linked with Bayern and has caught the eye of Liverpool and Arsenal too, exhibiting adroit footwork, marvellous technique and snappy acceleration which could catch even the most seasoned of defenders off-guard.

The Cape Verde-born Portugal man is versatile too, shining on the right of Sporting’s attack whilst also plying his trade on the left and at right-back.

Positional adaptability has been crucial to success at Bayern Munich in recent years, with Philipp Lahm and Joshua Kimmich playing in multiple different places over the course of a single season.

This is another reason Gelson could attract the Bavarians.

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Since the beginning of the 2017-18 season, Gelson has averaged 2.25 successful take-ons per 90 minutes, proving he is a terror to defenders and revels in bolting past them.

His record stomps on Hirving Lozano’s 2.05 and, with take-ons being a specific forte of Arjen Robben, Bayern couldn’t do much better.

His 25.1 successful passes per game comes close to Sadio Mane’s 25.47 for Liverpool; incredibly scarce in such a young prospect.

One area where Gelson is required to improve is his number of shots inside the box. He is currently taking just shy of one shot in the area per game. Lozano is taking 1.91 already, which is almost level with Raheem Sterling.

However, some may say this just proves he is a different type of winger. Tottenham Hotspur star Christian Eriksen is producing similar numbers with passing forward towards the striker more of a priority.

Eriksen’s style of play has helped Harry Kane to 23 goals this season and Gelson’s has helped Bas Dost to 19.

Gelson could prove an invaluable tool in getting the ball forward to Robert Lewandowski and reproducing his prowess at a higher level.

There is certainly some room for improvement with Gelson, but, surrounded by the stars of Bayern Munich, it’s hard to think he would fail to succeed.

There are a few other young wingers worth a mention in this article. Bordeaux’s breakout star Malcom and Celta Vigo attacker Pione Sisto to name but a few. But, for me, Oyarzabal, Lozano and Gelson are the best of the bunch.

The Author

George Hartley

I'm George Hartley - a young, eager football writer based in the West Midlands. My interests lie in European football and I write about La Liga, Serie A, Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and a host of other divisions. I am an avid Aston Villa supporter.

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