When Philipp Lahm retired, Bayern Munich lost an all-time great. But in Joshua Kimmich they have a replacement worthy of his predecessor. After another superb display, DW’s Matt Pearson says Kimmich is the best around.Two years ago Joshua Kimmich was starting to make a name for himself as a promising central midfielder while Philipp Lahm, fresh off the back of a World Cup win, was enjoying another near-faultless campiagn.
On Saturday, Kimmich, 22, made his 100th appearance for the Bavarian club and racked up his sixth assist of the season with a perfectly-judged left foot cross that allowed Arturo Vidal to nod in the goal that beat Eintracht Frankfurt.
The cross came after his own poor corner was cleared straight back to him. Composed as ever, the former RB Leipzig man took his time, made the right decision and nailed the execution. It was a neat illustration of the qualities that make Kimmich the best right back in the world – he learnt quickly from an error, kept his head and gave another demonstration of the crossing ability that makes him such a potent attacking force.
With Bayern’s preference for inverted wingers, full back has increasingly become the position where they can find the width to stretch packed defenses and Kimmich’s crossing ability sets him apart from the rest.
Four of Kimmich’s six league assists this season – a mark that puts him second in the Bundesliga’s list of creators – have been from crosses and he seems to have already mastered a skill that eludes the other contenders for the best right back crown.
Dani Alves (4 league assists this season), Dani Carvajal (none) and Kyle Walker (4) are all fine players but none have that ability to pick out a man from either a static position or when moving with the ball.
This isn’t a numbers game either. Kimmich’s education as a central midfielder means he’s comfortable moving the ball short (he boasts an 89.7 per cent successful pass rate in the league) and linking with teammates. Instead of throwing in balls with hope rather than expectation, he’s able to pick his moments. Ahead of Saturday’s win, he’d crossed the ball 39 times. At the same stage of last season, Lahm had delivered from wide 62 times.
He’s also amazingly consistent and durable, particularly for someone so young. Kimmich is the only Bayern player to have featured in all of their 24 competitive matches this season and broke the record for the most consecutive appearances for Germany earlier in the campaign.
“Joshua is one of the greatest talents I have seen in the past decade,” said his national team coach Joachim Löw earlier this year. “He’s going to have an amazing career.”
He is. But if there is one fly in the ointment, it’s his defensive strength. While he’s adapted much better than could reasonably be expected to his change of position, he’s not the strongest in the tackle, as was demonstrated when Ante Rebic burst through him to create a chance for Frankfurt on Saturday.
But he has plenty of time to work on what appears to be his only weakness. Everything in his career to date suggests he’ll do that work. Everything in his career also suggests he’ll remain the best in the world for years to come.