“Jose Mourinho tagged Kimmich as ‘absolutely phenomenal’ among other giants of that Bayern Munich unit and Jose is not wrong by any means.  Indeed, Joshua Kimmich is Mr. Versatile”

Germany – a nation that is known for its brave and never say die nature. They are a nation that gives birth to the greats in every professional field. Just have a look at their footballing history. Despite being ravaged by war and hated by all, the German factory kept on producing one great after another and for them, the transition period is just a temporary thing – the new generation is always ready to take the baton from the old and keep the German flag flying high.

It was a devastating experience in Russia two years ago. For the first time since 1938, the German Giants were knocked out of the FIFA World Cup in Group Stages. At Kazan, it was a humiliating experience to digest a defeat against the South Koreans. It triggered a worldwide shock wave, but back in Germany, the project for the future was ready – a bunch of youngsters was nurtured to don the German shirt and carry on the responsibility to convey the message – the Germans are always here stay and remain the best.

The boy from the village Bosingen

On February 8, 1995, Anja Kimmich gave birth to a baby boy in Rottweil, Germany. Father Berthold Kimmich was very happy to see the cute boy and named him Joshua. The boy grew up as someone shy and quiet, but he could be eccentric and energetic according to Anja and Berthold.

Joshua Kimmich was growing up in a rural village named Bosingen, located in between the Black Forest and Baden-Wurttemberg’s capital Stuttgart. With almost 1700 inhabitants, football was the soul of Bosingen. For the boys and adults; football was the favourite time-pass and Joshua Kimmich grew up in such a football friendly environment.

Kimmich would play football in the garden and backyard. But his practice was pretty smashing in nature – more often the windows would be smashed by his wayward kicks. But the Kimmich family was never lost temper with this; rather, they sorted out an alternative solution by replacing every single broken- glass shattered by their son.

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Kimmich said to Players Tribune, “One day, I came home and found two regulation soccer goals in the front yard! The local football club did not need them anymore and my parents had taken them off the team’s hands. My dad pointed to the plot of unused private land across the street and said to me and my friends; boys, go over there enjoy football.”

The ambition of Kimmich started to grow bigger while playing with his friends in New Park. He wished to become a German Footballer and one of the best in the business like his childhood idols: Zinedine Zidane, Tomas Rosicky, and Bastain Schweinsteiger.

These were the three names he had on the back of his replica shirts.

At the Stuttgart Youth Academy

The passion for football and the dream to become one of the best in the world let Kimmich join a local youth club to showcase his talent. During the match against the Stuttgart Youth Team, Kimmich scored all three goals in a 3-2 win, which was a defining moment in his youth career.

Immediately after the match, the scouts of Stuttgart expressed their wish to sign Kimmich. His parents initially refused the offer, but Stuttgart would not let such a versatile talent vanish from their sight, rather, the coach of the youth team visited Mr. and Mrs. Berthold and convinced them.

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After spending several years to-and-from Stuttgart several times a week, Kimmich began taking his first real footsteps in the world football when he was welcomed to Stuttgart’s academy as one of only 18 annual recruits.

Kimmich and one of his friends were the youngest members of the academy.  The tasks were heavy in the academy, but Kimmich would not complain but work even harder to improve and was the last one to leave the training ground. His determination caught the eye of everyone and his versatility gained enough accolades.

The youth coach, who brought him the academy left and it saddened Kimmich; but he continued to improve each day and when the opportunity to play in the senior team he was denied by saying that Kimmich was not good enough, his body was not strong enough!

It broke the heart of Kimmich, but in turn, his determination grew stronger.

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In 2013, Kimmich moved to RB Leipzig.

Stuttgart secured an option to rebuy. He made his 3. Liga debut for the club on 28 September of that year, as a substitute for Thiago Rockenbach in a 2–2 draw with SpVgg Unterhaching. He scored his first professional goal in a 3–2 victory over FC Saarbrucken.

He finished the 2013–14 season with one goal in 26 appearances.

He finished the 2014–15 season with two goals in 29 appearances.

The impact of Pep Guardiola

The genius Pep Guardiola spotted the youngster while he was a still relatively unknown player in Bundesliga 2 at RB Leipzig, and decided to bring him in Bayern Munich.

“I said: ‘Don’t joke with me.’ I couldn’t believe it because when you’re in the second league it’s not normal that Bayern want you. They can buy nearly any player in the world. It was even harder to believe Guardiola wanted me,” such was the reaction of Kimmich after he was offered a contract from Bayern Munich.

On January 2, 2015, Kimmich agreed to join Bayern Munich on a five-year contract which lasts until 30 June 2020, for a reported fee of €7 million, most of which went to VfB Stuttgart. He made his debut for the club on August 9, starting in the first round of the DFB-Pokal against FC Nottingen.

Pep Guardiola gave him his Bundesliga debut the following month when he entered the pitch as a late substitute at home against FC Augsburg.

Four days later, Kimmich made his first appearance in the UEFA Champions League in Bayern’s tournament opener away at Olympiakos and he started in the Bundesliga for the first time three days thereafter, playing 90 minutes against SV Darmstadt 98 in a 3–0 victory.

Pep was a blessing for Kimmich. He realized Kimmich is special and can be utilized in any position of the pitch whenever he wants.

Back in the 2015-16 season, Pep ran into the pitch to talk with Kimmich after a dramatic 0-0 draw against the arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. He confronted Kimmich in the center circle and spent time remonstrating passionately with the young German. This was not an act of annoyance from Guardiola but rather an opportunity in Guardiola’s eyes for a teaching moment.

It looked as though Guardiola was berating the then 21-year-old, but it turns out the opposite was in fact true. “I told him he’s one of the best center-backs in the world,” Guardiola said at the time. “He’s got absolutely everything.”

Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, Kimmich explained further, “I played at center-back and five minutes before the end Xabi Alonso went out and Medhi Benatia came in. Benatia went into my position in defence and I took Xabi’s place in midfield. But I was still thinking like a center-back. I was playing too deep and Medhi and I were nearly in the same position.”

“Pep shouted at me in the game to move up but I didn’t recognize why. So he told me exactly what he meant before I left the field. In the first moments, I was surprised. But, when you know Pep, this is what you get. Pep wants to tell you immediately to make you better. He wants to tell you there and then. Maybe it looked strange but for me it was great. It showed how much he sees and cares.”

The impact of Pep in the development of Kimmich was huge – he started to become a player who can play as a right-back, defensive midfielder, playmaker and at times join the attack either as a pure winger, center-forward, or attacking midfielder.

The true nature of his versatility started to show up and critics started to call him Mr. Versatile.

Mr. Versatile

Under Niko Kovac, Bayern experienced a bumpy ride, and the in a very critical situation Hansie Flick was given the responsibility of reshaping Bayern Munich and immediately Flick transformed Bayern into a Giant against whom you only dream of losing without any disgrace.

Flick started to use Kimmich in the defensive midfield area while Alphonso Davies was allowed to flourish fully on the right flank.

He has thrived in his position since Flick became the manager at Bayern. His positional awareness has improved since then. Kimmich’s run off the ball is important to Bayern’s style of play as he closes down the opponent’s attack and starts the counter.

Flick starts with a 4-2-3-1, which changes to a 4-1-4-1 while defending.

Kimmich stays back most often to help the defence and moves up to press the opponent in the central channel – hampering their build-up play and counterattacks.

He smartly moves to the final third to provide support to the forwards.

But it’s his versatility in the back, staying along with another pivot, helps Bayern an extra-force to stop an attack anytime.

Flick loves to push his full-backs forward both on and off the ball.

In such a situation, Kimmich tucks into their place and maintains the width very well to form a back 4 in an emergency situation.

Due to Bayern’s compact defence, he stays close to the backline and patiently waits for the opponent to make a mistake and start the counterattack.

When the opposition looks to play from the back, Kimmich hides behind their midfield line. When Bayern’s forwards pressurize in the wider areas, they are forced to play between the lines, that’s where Kimmich comes in handy.

He waits for the correct moment to snatch the ball away from their attackers and plays the ball to the front. He always looks to press from the blind-side and this makes it even more effective as the player in possession of the ball is unaware of his presence.

His long-balls are very effective alongside his crossings from the flanks. Dribbling and providing key passes are his specialties as well and again, he is very good at taking set-pieces – a dynamic customer when the matter is about taking shots from a long distance.

In the last season, he played 5075 minutes and scored 7 goals from 59 matches across all the competitions in Europe, and provided 17 assists which are 0.22 assists per 90 minutes.

In this season, Kimmich, he appeared in 6 matches in the Bundesliga, playing a total of 461 minutes. He gets an average of 0.78 assists for every 90 minutes that the player is on the pitch. In the Champions Leagues, he scored one goal in 3 matches and provided 3 assists.

Jose Mourinho tagged Kimmich as “absolutely phenomenal” among other giants of that Bayern Munich unit and Jose is not wrong by any means.

Indeed, Joshua Kimmich is Mr. Versatile.