Mathys Tel was in Germany Monday completing his medical ahead of signing a contract as a Bayern Munich player. The 17-year-old will pen a deal until 2027 which will land Stade Rennais an initial fee of around $20 million which should rise by at least $8.5 million in add-ons.
To call this a substantial amount is an understatement as Tel has played less than 100 minutes of senior soccer, did not even start a Ligue 1 match and is yet to score or even assist professionally. Yet Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern have moved now to secure the prodigious talent who hails from the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, a locale which has already produced the likes of Manchester City’s Riyad Mahrez and AS Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder.
“Mathys is a very talented young player,” said Bavarian boss Julian Nagelsmann last weekend. “He can play in several positions, and he is very fast as well as strong. He can become one of the best attackers. He is not a like-for-like replacement for Lewy which is normal at this age. However, if he scores 10 goals this coming season, we will all be very happy. I hope that he will one day score 40 goals per season.”
What makes Bayern so sure that Tel is the perfect long-term replacement for the departed Robert Lewandowski then? While Sadio Mane is on hand to take care of at least the interim period at Allianz Arena, he’s already 30, so the German champions are betting almost exclusively on Tel’s performances at youth level to show that he can be a long-term successor. This is perhaps not as risky as it sounds given Ligue 1’s record for talent birthing and Rennes‘ track record.
The Breton outfit’s most recent youth academy gem was Eduardo Camavinga who recently won the UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid at the age of 19. Clairefontaine graduate Tel’s senior debut last August against Stade Brestois 29 made him the youngest player in the club’s senior history — beating Camavinga’s precocious under-17 record.
However, it was his performances at the under-17 European championships in Israel this summer which really alerted Europe’s top clubs. Tel was coach Jose Alcocer’s captain and leading scorer with three goals to lead Les Bleuets to success in the finals over the Netherlands side which started the tournament beating the French to top spot in Group B.
Throughout his time in Rennes’ academy, Tel has occupied most roles from attack to out wide and even as far back as wing-back. He excelled in attack, though, using his versatility, speed and strength to his advantage when added to his impressive technique. Bruno Genesio was convinced and could not hide his disappointment last weekend when asked about Tel’s imminent departure: “I do not need to comment…” said the Frenchman.
“I am writing this evening to inform you that I am leaving Rennes,” wrote the player via social media on Sunday. “It has given me immense pride and been a true honor to have worn this jersey and represented it since the age of 12. I would like to show my great respect and send a big thank you to SRFC as I have been taught a lot and grown up in all aspects which I will always be grateful for. I would like to thank you for all the moments spent together, staff, coaches, players, and teammates, as well as the Pinault family who made this possible. Thank you to the Red and Black supporters who I sincerely wish the best.”
Having sampled the environments of Paris FC, ASJ Aubervilliers and Montrouge FC 92’s during his formative years, Tel signed his first professional contract until 2024 just after his senior debut against Brest. However, a Ligue 1 or even Ligue 2 loan was most likely for Tel in 2022-23 before this Bayern move materialized.
It will be interesting to see how Nagelsmann utilizes him and how ready he is deemed by the Germans as Alphonso Davies and Jamal Musiala have shown that you can break into the Bundesliga juggernaut’s plans before the age of 20. Defender Tanguy Kouassi’s struggles since signing from Paris Saint-Germain, though, should equally act as a cautionary tale for Tel.
Given Mane’s arrival, Thomas Muller, and Serge Gnabry‘s contract extensions and the presence of Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane and even Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Bayern’s attacking options remain healthy. French speakers Mane, Coman and Choupo-Moting should also be helpful in terms of Tel bedding in with Dayot Upamecano, Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez and even Bouna Sarr also part of a Francophone contingent.
Ultimately, Bayern rarely miss in terms of talent identification and Tel’s potential has been clear to see for some time in France. Expecting an inexperienced teenager to pick up much of the slack left by Lewandowski, though, would be unrealistic as Nagelsmann hinted. Rennes, for their part, cannot truly miss what they never had as far as senior level goes and Genesio’s men can use their funds to strengthen ahead of this coming season’s push for Champions League qualification.