While Barcelona have been praised over the last decade for their sustained success built through their youth academy, Bayern Munich have built a squad centered on their youth academy that's taken them to their third Champions League Final in the last four years. With Saturday's Final against Borussia Dortmund upon us, there's no better time to take a look at the talented players produced by the Munich academy.
Naturally, this list begins with the captain, Philipp Lahm. There's no argument that the diminutive fullback is the world's best on the right side. The only argument here is if you'd rather play Lahm on the left or right side of the defense. He'd probably be the world's best at either position. He spent two years on loan with Stuttgart where he honed his craft before returning to Bayern at left back to replace the retiring Bixente Lizarazu. It would be several years before Lahm made the transition to right back, where he has excelled playing behind Thomas Müller. Lahm's offensive production has skyrocketed in this campaign, and he finished the Bundesliga season with 11 assists. Only teammate Franck Ribery had more in the entire league.
Müller burst onto the scene in the 2009-10 campaign with 19 goals in all competitions. He was a regular in Louis Van Gaal's side that season and helped Bayern advance to their first Champions League Final in nearly a decade, where they would fall 0-2 to Inter Milan. Müller carried that momentum to the World Cup that summer where he scored four goals in the competition for Germany. After a dip in form (for his standards, anyway), Müller has been sensational this season with 22 goals to his name in all competitions. Das Raumdeuter is still, somehow, only 23 years old and has a legendary Bayern career ahead of him.
Putting last season's disappointments behind him, Bastian Schweinsteiger has been having one of the best campaigns of his career. After spending the first half of his career playing wherever he was needed on the field --- Has Bastian every played in goal? He has played everywhere else. --- Schweinsteiger has turned into one of the world's best midfielders. Bayern splashed serious cash around last summer and bought the perfect foil for him in Javi Martinez. The two have combined to form Europe's best midfield partnership. Schweinsteiger, in all likelihood, will go down as one of the club's best. A Champions League trophy will likely assure that. The constant professional, Bastian is the definition of the word "class."
The Austrian David Alaba is similar to Schweinsteiger in that, early in his career, he was basically a utility player. Left midfield? Center midfield? Right midfield? Defense? Alaba played it all. Last year, he moved to left back due to necessity and appears to have found his position. He's still only 20 and has been named to most Bundesliga teams of the season.
Lest we forget, their are two injured starters that will be unable to take the field in London on Saturday. Toni Kroos and Holger Badstuber picked up unfortunate injuries this season that will keep them from appearing on the field at Wembley, but they would otherwise be two more academy-produced surefire starters. There is also Diego Contento and Emre Can who are both likely to be on the bench at kickoff.
Oh yeah, there is also the case of a Mr. Mats Hummels starting at centerback for Borussia Dortmund. He came through the Bayern system before Jurgen Klinsmann thought it was a wise decision to sell him to BVB.
Yes, Bayern are not shy about splashing the cash on players like Martinez and Mario Götze, but they are producing just as many great players through their own impressive academy system.