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The next step

Contento aims at place in Van Gaal’s team

The one position where Louis van Gaal experimented the most last season was left-back. Newcomers Edson Braafheid and Danijel Pranjic initially vied with each other for the task, but neither staked a long-term claim. The Bayern coach then deployed Holger Badstuber in the role. A centre-half by trade, the youngster did a sterling job in the unfamiliar position and racked up a long run of appearances.

But when Martin Demichelis sustained a bad injury while representing Argentina against Germany in March and was forced to the sidelines for a number of weeks, Van Gaal needed yet another solution. Badstuber returned to centre-back, and 17-year-old David Alaba came in on the left. The Austrian performed with credit until an unlucky display in a 2-1 defeat away to Frankfurt, the point at which Van Gaal called in Diego Contento from the reserves as the fifth player to try his hand at left-back.

Convincing the coach

Through to the end of the season, the Munich-born player with Italian parents shared the job with Badstuber. Contento’s first six months in the senior squad brought him nine Bundesliga appearances, in which he contributed two assists. He went the full 120 minutes in the cup semi-final thriller away to Schalke, and completed the 90 minutes in both the home and away legs of the Champions League semi-final against Lyon. Contento is now determined to take the next step at Bayern.

“I’m here at the training camp now, and I hope I can impress the coach,” the Germany youth international said on Tuesday. The player intends to showcase his talents in training and claim a regular berth in Van Gaal’s line-up. “I like the challenge, and I’m looking at no-one but myself.”

Similarities with Lizarazu

Officials at the club believe Contento has what it takes to fill the vacant left-back berth over the long term. “He’s an exceptional prospect, in my opinion,” said director of sport Christian Nerlinger, “he was outstanding against Lyon. He’s a young player who’s definitely capable of taking the next step. He gets on well with the coach, and knows how to interpret instructions.”