Tuesday, April 26 was probably supposed to be the date which turned Malik Tillman’s career around at Bayern Munich. Having lurked on the periphery of Julian Nagelsmann’s squad for some time, the young head coach walked out onto the club’s training ground on a wet, windy day in the Bavarian capital and congratulated his team for winning the Bundesliga with three games to spare. Now, according to the former Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig tactician, he could let some of the young guns get a shot in the limelight.

"We will change a bit and give one or more of the other young players more chances," said the head coach in a press conference shortly after the training session. "They can play more minutes at the highest level, without pressure." Mainz, Stuttgart and then Wolfsburg beckoned before the end of the season. After a ruptured ligament injury had ruled him out of the 2020/21 season, Tillman was finally back on his feet and undoubtedly licking his lips in anticipation of game time with the starting XI.

Unfortunately for the young midfielder, such an opportunity never arose. In the first of the three apparent bounce games, Bayern’s senior players sluggishly lost 3-1 after partying in Ibiza midweek, leading to what could only be described as a mini-crisis just days after winning the league title. Nagelsmann was furious and seemingly out of spite or sheer rage started his strongest XI in the two remaining games. Tillman didn’t even make the matchday squad until the final game of the season, but was forced to watch the entire clash from the bench. He finished the league campaign with just 102 minutes of game time.

Indeed, constant struggles for game time and recognition has been the theme of Tillman’s short career to date. Coinciding with his failed attempts at Bayern, the midfielder also opted for the United States national team over Germany at the end of last season. And while USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter may have spoken about “painting a vision” to convince the player to opt for the country of his father, it was yet another cold and calculated move to join a nation that wanted him, over one that was struggling to offer him much at Under-21 or senior level.

Such desires were undoubtedly at the forefront of Tillman’s mind when he chose to sign for Rangers. Although played primarily as a central midfielder, the 20-year-old’s main talents lie in the final third. Often compared to Paul Pogba, Nagelsmann has at times suggested that the player’s future may lie much further up the pitch. "He is a top-talented forward,” said the Bayern boss last December. “He has incredible qualities when it comes to scoring goals,” added the Bavarian tactician, before noting that the player still had some way to go in terms of tracking runners and closing down opposing players.

This was perfectly evident during Tillman’s time with Bayern’s second team. In 15 games over the course of the 2021/22 season, the US prospect bagged four goals and four assists from a variety of positions, but undoubtedly thrived when played through the middle in what would most likely be defined as a traditional No.10. Prior to that he played almost exclusively as a striker for the club’s Under-19s, scoring 15 goals in 29 games in the 2019/20 season.

Indeed, it was a similar story for Tillman when he made his way through the German national team’s youth teams, where the player found far more joy in attacking roles. “He's a good midfielder, a No.8 for us, who can work defensively,” noted Germany U-17 head coach Michael Feichtenbeiner at the 2019 European Championships, where Tillman scored one goal in three games. “But he's better in attack. He has very good skills to spot the other players."

It’s with that in mind that Tillman makes the move to Rangers as perhaps an ideal long-term replacement to the departed Joe Aribo. Or, should Alfredo Morelos follow Cedri Itten out the door this summer, the young American could also be tasked with playing in the box. He may even find some success on the wings if Ryan Kent needs back-up or is indeed needing to be replaced entirely. Young, raw and in desperate need of approval, Tillman has bags of potential. And he may just realise it at Rangers.