‘A lot of ambition’: how Michael Olise mapped his path to Bayern Munich

Estimated read time 5 min read

No words accompanied Michael Olise’s Instagram post on Sunday evening just after his move to Bayern Munich had been confirmed but the picture said it all. That the 22-year-old looked at ease as he posed in the club’s new away kit will come as no surprise to the Crystal Palace and Reading supporters who have watched him develop into one of the most exciting young forwards on the planet over the past few years.

“Fans come to the stadium to see players like Michael Olise,” enthused Bayern’s sporting director, Christoph Freund, after they saw off competition from Premier League clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United. “I’m very happy to now be playing for such a big club,” Olise said. “It’s a great challenge, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.”

Even after leaving Chelsea’s academy at 14 after a “mutual decision” and training with City for a few weeks before spending six months without a club, Olise has always seemed to know he was destined for the top. His former coach Sean Conlon told the Guardian in 2022, when Olise had started to make an impact for Palace, that “from the age of nine, Michael has been the best player for his age in the country”, although his journey to the Allianz Arena has been far from straightforward.

Olise, along with his father, Vincent, and long-time friend and agent Glen Tweneboah, is understood to have been instrumental in the meticulous planning of his career path since making his breakthrough with Reading as a teenager in 2019. Tweneboah was banned for six months by the Football Association in May after contravening its rules by agreeing as part of Olise’s first professional contract that he would be due 10% of a future transfer fee. Crucially, however, his ban will not begin until October after the FA acknowledged “the timing of these proceedings has seemingly come at a critical juncture”, which allowed him to work on Olise’s transfer to Bayern.

Palace headed off competition from City, among others, to sign him from Reading in 2021 for £8m after he had been named as the Championship’s young player of the season. Olise’s camp ensured another release clause was included in his first contract at Selhurst Park, and Chelsea’s failed attempt to bring him to Stamford Bridge last summer resulted in a new four-year deal on vastly improved terms. That also included a release clause, although it was believed to dictate that clubs not playing in the Champions League would have to pay a higher fee. “Michael is a great example of a modern player that has thought very hard about what is best for his career,” said one Palace source. “He’s a generational talent who knows where he wants to get to.”

Saïd Aïgoun was part of Patrick Vieira’s coaching staff during Olise’s first two seasons at Palace and says Olise would always stay out after training to work on his technique. “Michael spent a lot of time practising his movements in situations that he might encounter in a match,” he says. “He’s a very hard worker, even when things are difficult, and he always wants to be the best he can be, which is the mark of great players. During every training exercise, he wants to win everything.

Olise at his Bayern Munich unveilingView image in fullscreen

“In a group, that’s what players like in a teammate. As a coach, you can rely on players like Michael, who has temperament and ambition, while ensuring that this is beneficial to the player and the group. He’s a very intelligent person, and the relevance of his interventions is remarkable. They’re not frequent, but when he intervenes it’s for a precise and necessary situation. He quickly understands the context and the possibilities ahead.”

Olise’s performance at Millwall in a heated FA Cup third-round tie in January 2022, when he taunted home supporters after being struck by a bottle as he prepared to take a corner, showed he also has the stomach for a fight, not to mention an eye for goals. Despite infrequent appearances this past season owing to persistent hamstring injuries, 10 goals and six assists in 19 matches could not fail to attract the attention of bigger sides.

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“He’s the player you want to keep on the pitch until the last second, because at any moment he can be decisive,” says Aïgoun, who works as an assistant for Algeria but is hoping to return to the Premier League. “At Bayern, he’ll be playing in a league where the attacking game is very open. I’ve coached talented French players who performed well in the Bundesliga and then went on to play in the Premier League. Michael, on the other hand, has already performed well in the Premier League and goes to Germany with more experience and maturity and with a lot of ambition. It’s very promising.”

Many seasoned Palace supporters have gone as far to describe the graceful Hammersmith-born forward, who is expected to star for France at this summer’s Olympics, as the best player who has played for the club, even if others insist Eberechi Eze is better. All of them will be praying that Eze has not played his last game for Palace as well having enjoyed a spectacular end to last season under the new manager, Oliver Glasner.

Olise remains close friends with Nottingham Forest’s Omar Richards, who spent a year at Bayern after leaving Reading in 2021, and being reunited with his former Chelsea academy teammate Jamal Musiala in Germany should ease the settling-in process for a softly spoken but self-assured character. Asked during his medical when shown a picture of the Champions League trophy whether “you will win this thing”, he responded: “Yeah, that’s the plan.”

Source: theguardian.com

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