Germany star Joshua Kimmich revelled on his return to Bayern Munich’s midfield after being sidelined by Covid, then played out of position when the virus had depleted the squad of the Bundesliga leaders.
Kimmich produced a superb display Sunday on his long-awaited return to Bayern’s midfield in a 4-1 romp away at Hertha Berlin having played their two previous league games of 2022 at right back.
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He had had to return to his old position in defence when Bayern had nine players sidelined by positive Covid tests ahead of their 2-1 home defeat by Moenchengladbach in early January.
“It was fun to be back,” Kimmich beamed after his first match in central midfield since early November.
In Berlin, Kimmich had the ball 154 times, the most of anyone in the Bayern team, and worked tirelessly to win back possession on the few occasions Hertha had it.
Sunday’s match was played behind closed doors.
In front of the empty terraces at Berlin’s imposing Olympic Stadium, Kimmich and Thomas Mueller were the loudest Bayern voices heard.
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Kimmich’s pin-point accurate passes created goals for Mueller and Serge Gnabry, but there could have been more had Bayern not wasted a few chances.
Unusually for him, Bayern’s star striker Robert Lewandowski, last week voted FIFA’s ‘The Best’ male player of 2021, failed to convert two clear chances.
“We were a bit annoyed with him (Lewandowski) about that,” joked Kimmich. “No, he doesn’t have to score when we are 4-0 up, probably better he scores in an important 1-0 win.”
Kimmich bossed the midfield in Bayern’s away win which restored their six-point lead at the top of the Bundesliga table.
He had a difficult end to 2021, missing Bayern’s last eight games of the year having first been quarantined as a contact case, then tested positive for Covid.
In October, Kimmich admitted that due to “personal concerns” he had opted against vaccination, a disclosure which led to widespread criticism in the German media.
In December, Bayern announced Kimmich would not play again until this month due to lung damage cause by Covid – a concern for both Bayern and Germany, particularly as Kimmich is set to be a key player for the Mannschaft at the World Cup in Qatar.
His current vaccination status is unclear, but last month Kimmich implied he has had a change of heart.
“It was just difficult for me to deal with my fears and concerns. That’s why I was undecided for so long,” Kimmich admitted in a December interview for ZDF.
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Kimmich seems to have made a complete recovery from the virus.
“Fortunately, I don’t notice any effects anymore. Everything is completely fine again,” he added Sunday.
Bayern coach Julian Nagelsmann said Kimmich left him in no doubt that he prefers to play in midfield and praised the 26-year-old’s performance in Berlin.
“He played very, very well, picked out a lot of passes,” said Nagelsmann.
“He didn’t have a lot of space, but he always managed to get free. It’s important to have a midfielder who also wants the ball and is comfortable on it.”