March 23, 2017

1860 Munich: The Second-Division Club That Produces First-Division Stars

Every world football fan can tell you about that club in Munich, Bayern Munich that is, the Bundesliga and European giant whose domestic success is almost unparalleled, Germany’s rekordmeisters and a constant threat for Champions League honors..

Fabian Johnson, ca 2009
Fabian Johnson, ca 2009

One fact that many fans don’t know, though, is that Bayern aren’t the oldest club in Munich. That honor belongs to Munich’s other club, 1860 Munich. That fact is the one of the few things that 1860 have on Bayern since the red side joined the Bundesliga in 1965 (1860 did win the Bundesliga in 1966 with Bayern as top-tier rivals). But while Bayern have gone on to capture 24 Bundesliga titles in the last 50 years, 1860 currently in the bottom half of the 2. Bundesliga, and they’ve narrowly avoided relegation in recent seasons. Unlike Bayern, they have almost no money, and haven’t played first division football in more than a decade. But despite the failures of the Munich’s blue club, they have one thing that’s similar to all of the German powerhouses — Die Löwen can boast of a great, productive youth academy.

How their Academy has Done

1860 Munich’s academy has produced some of the Bundesliga’s best players in recent seasons. This is because half of the Munich area is theirs, and with all of the young footballers in the area, 1860 Munich have been able to turn some of that talent into top-flight players.

Some of the best players from their academy include Lars and Sven Bender, Kevin Volland, Julian Weigl, Fabian Johnson and Julian Baumgartlinger to name a few. These players are just some of the players that 1860 Munich have produced in recent seasons. They’ve all gone to do big things in their careers even though they’re all still young players. Lars Bender is the captain of Bundesliga power Bayer Leverkusen, and a former German International who’s one of the Bundesliga’s best players. Twin brother Sven Bender is a regular in the Dortmund team, a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal winner, and a very solid midfield player who can line up at center-back as well. Volland, Baumgartlinger, and Johnson are all international players for Austria, Germany and the U.S. respectively. They are all some of the best players on their respective Bundesliga clubs.

The Bender Brothers 2010
The Bender Brothers 2010

Additionally, Lars Bender and Johnson played in the Champions League this season, and Sven Bender has played in a Champions League final.  Baumgartlinger is the captain at Mainz captain. He’s set to feature for Austria in the 2016 European Championships, and Volland is likely going to be in the Germany team as well.  Fabian Johnson featured for the USMNT during the 2014 World Cup and is expected to be a leader for the US squad in this summer’s Copa America Centenario.

These players are doing great things, while 1860’s most recent academy star is Dortmund’s Julian Weigl, a German youth international, and a regular in the BvB’s first team at the age of 20. He’s one of the best young players in the Bundesliga, and is set for big things in the future. Not many German clubs can say that they’ve produced international stars, club captains and Bundesliga champions, but 1860 Munich can.

In fact, most of the biggest clubs in the world would have a hard time producing all of the stars that 1860 have.  The first team chance that young players get at a club like 1860 Munich is likely instrumental for their development, and as a result, a lot of 1860’s young players have gone on the do great things. Sometimes, it’s better to be playing for the blue team in Munich, if you are a young player looking to develop.

The amount of quality players to come from their academy in recent seasons goes beyond those previously mentioned. Wolfsburg’s Marcel Schafer and Christian Trasch started their careers at 1860 Munich, along with Augsburg’s Daniel Baier, Frankfurt’s Stefan Aigner, Moritz Leitner of Dortmund and Hoffenheim’s Tobias Strobl. And the most recent prodigy to move from 1860 to the Bundesliga Marius Wolf, a 20 year-old forward from Coburg who just signed with the 96ers earlier thismonth.

With the exception of newcomer Wolf, all of these players are solid contributors to their clubs. Schafer and Trasch are Champions League players as well, and they were DFB-Pokal winners last season. Moritz Leitner features for Borussia Dortmund as well, and he is a young player with room to grow. While Aigner is a first team player for Eintracht Frankfurt, Daniel Baier is a first team player for Augsburg, and Tobias Strobl has been on Hoffenheim for a number of seasons.

With more young stars featuring for the club at the moment, the long line of 1860 Munich stars isn’t stopping anytime soon. Maximilian Wittek, a 20-year-old left back for 1860 Munich has a lot of ability and potential. A first team player for club, he’s a German u-20 international as well. The other rising star at 1860 Munich is Richard Neudecker. He’s a 19 year old central midfielder who has featured for the German youth national teams since he was 16. Neudecker is an emerging talent with a very bright future ahead.

Comparing them to the top Bundesliga Clubs

After evaluating the players that 1860 Munich have produced and what they have done, it’s only fair to compare the players that they have produced to some of the Bundesliga’s top clubs. Since Bayern and Schalke have two of Europe’s greatest academies, we won’t compare 1860 to them. Instead, we’ll compare their academy players to that of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. These two clubs reside in relatively small areas, which might give 1860 the upper hand in terms of available players. But being clubs filled with money, prestige, top scouts and facilities, their academies should be doing better than 1860 Munich’s.

Dortmund are second in the Bundesliga and they’ve turned some raw young players into some of Europe’s best. However, the players that they have aren’t their own products, and their academy has a produced a fairly modest amount of players. For players that weren’t sold as a youth player, Mario Gotze, Erik Durm, Marcel Schmelzer and Nuri Sahin are Dortmund’s main academy product,. along with Kevin Grosskreutz and Jonas Hofmann. Compare those players to the ones that 1860 have produced, the quality of the players is very similar. Of course, Gotze, Durm and Grosskreutz are World Cup winners, but Gotze was the only one of the three to feature in the World Cup. All of these players are Bundesliga champions as well, and DFB-Pokal winners. But, none of them are club captains, and Gotze and Sahin are the only international players at the moment. This makes 1860 Munich’ academy look better, as they produced 2 club captains, a Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal winner, and more current internationals than Borussia Dortmund. The clubs have produced players of similar quality with the exception of Gotze, but 1860 Munich have the slight edge. Remarkable.

Next up is Bayer Leverkusen. They are a top four club in the Bundesliga as well, with multiple Champions League appearances in recent seasons. They have fielded some great young talents in recent seasons, but like Dortmund, these players weren’t always products of their academies. The main players that Leverkusen have produced in recent seasons include Gonzalo Castro, Christoph Kramer, Kevin Kampl and Rene Adler. They’ve also produced Stefan Reinartz and Pierre-Michel Lasogga.

Kramer is a World Cup winner, and he featured in the competition. Castro is a Bundesliga runner up, and he has featured for the national team. Adler has featured for Germany in the past as well, while Kampl hasn’t won any trophies during his short Bundesliga career, but he is a Slovenian international. While Leverkusen have produced solid players, in particular Gonzalo Castro, it’s fair to say that 1860 Munich have the upper hand. Lars Bender captains Leverkusen, which means that they think of him very highly. In addition,  the current internationals produced by 1860 Munich is much more than the Leverkusen academy has currently produced. Die Löwen has produced Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal winners, which Leverkusen’s academy hasn’t produced any of in recent years. 1860 Munich once again has the upper hand in this comparison. An incredible feat when you compare the size of the two clubs.

While 1860 Munich have failed as a club, their academy is one of Germany’s best.  With more stars along the way in Maximilian Wittek and Richard Neudecker, and Marius Wolf yet to make his Hannover debut, the 1860 Munich pipeline isn’t stopping anytime soon. It’s a shame that a club that has done so well producing players has been so poor on the pitch. If they’d kept these stars, it’s highly unlikely that the Munich’s blue club would be struggling so badly. However, that isn’t the reality — the reality is that 1860 Munich will always be the other club in Munich.

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.

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