Diego Armando Valentin Contento was born some 20 years ago – and from his name, you’d probably think he was South American or southern European. In fact, the Bayern Munich defender is a fully-fledged son of the Bavarian capital.
Contento joined his two older brothers at Bayern at the remarkably young age of four, and has now spent 16 unbroken years with Germany’s most successful club. He long ago surpassed his siblings Enzo and Domenico, who both ply their trade in the lower leagues these days.
Full-back Diego appeared at every youth level for Bayern and was promoted to the third division reserve squad in 2008, where he swiftly achieved regular status and established a foothold in the senior game. After a further six months in the German third tier, he had done enough to persuade Bayern boss Louis van Gaal of his readiness to appear at the highest level.
Senior debut in the cup
Contento signed professional forms in January this year, and made his first-team debut a month later in a DFB German Cup tie. The Germany junior international underlined his massive potential with outings in the UEFA Champions League and the Bundesliga.
The left-back is currently in the final stages of pre-season training with his team-mates and collected a first winners’ medal of the new term last weekend, as Bayern beat league runners-up Schalke to claim the reinstated German Supercup. Contento started the game, buoyed by a vote of confidence from van Gaal and director of sport Christian Nerlinger a couple of weeks earlier.
"When they told me they weren’t looking for another player for my position, it was a dream come true. But I still have to prove myself on the training ground every day, and show I’m the right man for the job. I hope I do it to the best of my abilities," Contento told FIFA.com.
Striving for improvement
For Contento and his team-mates, the new campaign begins in earnest next Monday with a cup first round tie against fifth-tier minnows Germania Windeck. Just four days later, the German champions start their Bundesliga title defence at home to Wolfsburg. Last season was exceptional for Bayern, despite defeat to Inter Milan in the Champions League final last May, and Contento is realistic in his assessment of the club’s targets this term.
"Basically, it’ll be almost impossible to improve on what we achieved last season. But we always want the best from every situation, so we’ll take it as it comes. Every player is fired up for the Bundesliga and Champions League. Our pre-season training camp in Italy was punishing to say the least. But we’ve come through it well, and we’re all looking forward to the new season," he declared.
A year ago, the full-back was repelling attacks by the likes of Carl-Zeiss Jena, Dynamo Dresden and FC Heidenheim, so his achievement in sealing regular status in Bayern’s expensively assembled squad is nothing short of miraculous. One of his four tattoos is indeed of Jesus – the other three are of his parents, Diego Maradona, and the words "Bad Boy" – but whatever the reasons for his ascent, Contento knows he finds himself in a privileged situation.
Teamed with Ribery
"It's an honour for me to be playing alongside the likes of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, especially Ribery, who I have ahead of me on my flank. It's another dream which has become reality," he declared with pride.
Contento has dual Italian and German nationality, and has made four appearances for the Germany U-20s, the first in October 2009. The player is just 1.76 metres tall and weighs only 70 kilos, but many pundits see a future heavyweight in the making for Germany supremo Joachim Low.
However, Contento has yet to decide whether to commit to his country of birth or that of his parents: "It's impossible not to think about playing at full international level. It has to be the ultimate dream for any professional footballer, and it’s naturally mine too. But if it came to it, I’m not yet entirely sure whether I’d turn out for Italy or for Germany."
One certainty is that the dilemma will never have to be solved unless Contento continues to deliver for his club. There are worse platforms than Bayern, where he stands a good chance of completing a first full season as a regular. "I’m totally focused on Bayern at the moment,” he confirmed, “and I hope I can further my case by doing well here."