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Youth in focus

Friedl: "Soak it all up and learn"

Without delay, he goes in for a challenge with Robert Lewandowski, snatches the ball and starts an attack with an inch-perfect pass to Philipp Lahm. Marco Friedl feels at home training amongst the stars like Arjen Robben, Mats Hummels and Xabi Alonso at Säbener Straße. After the regular session on Wednesday, the Austrian went to put in an extra shift with Thomas Müller and Renato Sanches to work on crossing and finishing.

The 18-year-old has been training regularly with the FCB first team for several weeks, even being included in the training camp in Doha earlier in the year. On Saturday, he received his first call-up to the record champions’ Bundesliga matchday squad. “We have a lot of young, talented players in the squad and are focused on continuing their development. At the moment, Marco Friedl is training with us, and he has quality,” said Carlo Ancelotti ahead of the game at Werder Bremen.

Close friendship with fellow Austrian David Alaba

Although the defender did not feature at the Weser-Stadion, it was still a huge achievement for him. “It was really special for me. I was really thrilled at the news and it was a great experience to experience at first-hand what a Bundesliga game is like and how you prepare for such a game,” said Friedl with glimmering eyes. “Training with the first team is a great thing for me. I have to give my all and can measure myself against the best players in the world. It’s ideal for my development. I’m trying a lot, and it’s about soaking it all up and taking that with you.”

The left-footed defender made his first steps into football at Austrian side SV Kirchbichl. In the summer of 2008, he joined FC Bayern from FC Kufstein at the age of just ten. At the same time, a fellow Austrian came to Säbener Straße from Vienna: David Alaba. The two Austrians have developed a close friendship. “We spend a lot of time together. David helped me a lot when I properly moved to Munich six months ago. Thanks to him I was able to adapt to things very quickly,” described Friedl.

Alaba recalled during the training camp Friedl’s first visit: “I still remember when he sat shyly next to me in the apartment for the first time. I asked him whether he wanted anything to drink. He answered quietly, ‘an ice tea’. He can still be cheeky even today.” Alaba hopes that "he can one day be competition for me. You can see his potential in training.”

Parallels in playing style

The Austrian duo are similar on the pitch. It’s not just that they both play mainly at left-back, but there are also parallels in their style of play. Just like Alaba, Friedl knows how to persistently attack down the wing and send in good crosses. Moreover, both players possess highly dangerous free-kicks, with Friedl already have two goals from such set pieces already this season. “We work on free-kicks together from time to time after training. David has a different technique to me but I can learn a lot from him just by watching,” said Friedl.

He featured in all 15 games of FCB’s U19s during the first half of the U19 Bundesliga Süd/Südwest campaign, scoring four goals. He also played in all six games of the UEFA Youth League, scoring two more. “It’s really tight in the Bundesliga. We’re looking at ourselves and want to be top – anything is possible still. The start of the second half of the season is extremely important. We’ll see after the first few games how we look. We know when we perform that we can be top at the end,” he said of his expectations of the second half of the season.

That begins for FC Bayern’s U19s on Saturday with the absolute highlight of a Munich derby as Holger Seitz’s side visit TSV 1860 München. “It’ll be an intense and tight game. It’s always a special game against Die Löwen. We have to be alert from the start, and then I’m sure we’ll finish the game with all three points,” said Friedl.

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