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Schöpf, Green, Sallahi

Reserve trio learning every day

The gods help those who help themselves, according to the ancient Greek proverb, and that slice of wisdom certainly applies to the players currently under Pep Guardiola’s command in Doha. There is another dimension to the training camp for three young hopefuls who are in Qatar as a test of their future credentials. FCB reserves Julian Green, Alessandro Schöpf and Ylli Sallahi were already making a good impression even before appearing in the 2–0 friendly victory over Al-Merrikh SC.

“My motto is to just get out there on the pitch and do it!” Schöpf informed It’s a good recipe: the 19-year-old Austrian midfielder has made a huge contribution to a positive season so far for coach Erik ten Hag’s reserves with eight goals and three assists in the Bavarian regional league. FCB II have seen their lead in the fourth-tier standings cut of late but are still in a great position as leaders.

All three hopefuls are keenly aware of the difference in class between their current level and the pros. “It’s much more intense and all much faster,” said Sallahi, who played a half against Al-Merrikh on Thursday evening as fellow countryman David Alaba’s partner on the left flank. The schedule in Doha is packed and demanding, so all the players naturally use what free time they have to relax, as Schöpf, fresh from a lively display in his 45 minutes against the Sudanese champions, confirms: “You’re definitely pleased in the evening when you can shift down a gear and put yourself in bed.”

Green opened the scoring against Al-Merrikh, giving yet more evidence of his undoubted potential. It is pretty much business as usual for the 18-year-old, born in Tampa, Florida but brought up in Germany, who already has 15 goals in 18 regional league appearances. Guardiola even handed the youngster a five-minute run out at the end of Bayern’s Champions League visit to Plzen. “I was delighted and it was a boost to my confidence,” declared Green, “training with this great team is very special. You learn something every day.”

Still the same lads

The senior professionals have been incredibly welcoming to the fresh-faced youths. “I like to approach the young players and I talk to them a lot,” said Franck Ribéry, “I really enjoy watching them training. It’s great they can be part of it. I didn’t have that opportunity when I was their age.” The sentiment is mutual: “It’s magnificent and we’re very grateful,” Sallahi confirmed. Schöpf, who like Green signed professional forms in November but continues to gain match practice with FCB II, is bursting with enthusiasm: “We just throw ourselves into it and give it all we’ve got. We’re trying to show the coach what we can do.”

Guardiola frequently speaks with the talented youngsters, especially during sessions. “He takes us to one side, explaining what he expects of us and how we can adapt to our positions,” said Schöpf. The junior international believes there are many similarities between Guardiola and ten Hag’s vision of the game: “Both want their teams to keep the ball for as long as possible. They want quick transitions. We use the same formation and tactics in the reserves, which is helping us now.“

The trio insist nothing has changed just because of their temporary promotion to the seniors. “We’re still the same bunch of lads,” declared Green. “Lots of the guys from the reserves have congratulated us,” said Sallahi, “but we’ve achieved nothing yet. You have to keep delivering and putting yourself forward.” Schöpf’s goals for the days and weeks to come sound sensible and realistic: “We’ll get stuck in and see what happens after that!”