BAYERN MUNICH'S campus on the outskirts of the German city looks like a weird blend of a trendy university and a factory designed to build microprocessors. Bathed in a dull grey paint, the €70 million facility has a restaurant, clubhouse, 35 apartments, a 2,500-seater stadium and, because this is still Munich, even a small beer garden.

Indeed, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting bored or feeling unwelcome in such a high tech facility. And yet, for a brief moment in time, it quickly turned into something akin to a prison for Liam Morrison.

The young defender from Saltcoats made the move from Celtic to Bayern in 2019, hell bent on proving himself at one of the biggest clubs in the world. And in many ways that’s exactly how it started. “I got off to a flyer. I was playing in games, we were winning games and it was a pretty normal life,” recalls Morrison as he takes in the rays in the aforementioned beer garden. “Then the virus hit.”

Just six months after making the move to Munich to follow his dreams, Morrison’s life came to an abrupt halt. The league season was cancelled, the club chefs were sent home, his translators and helpers were nowhere to be seen and Morrison’s new team mates departed the campus to return to their families. Suddenly, the 17-year old was left in an empty facility with just a handful of international players to keep him company.

“You’re just in shock,” says Morrison when asked how he felt at the time. “There’s no football on TV, everything was closed in the city and it was hard to get flights home as well.” While the world scrambled to deal with the pandemic, Morrison was stuck in an empty training campus for four weeks before he was allowed to go home. “Obviously it was a difficult time. I was basically alone and couldn’t do what I came over to do.”

However, Morrison’s problems were only getting started. During lockdown the defender picked up an injury that not only ruled him out of pre-season training but also the start of the new campaign. Then, just as he was fit and ready to get back into regular game time, the pandemic struck again.

“So I was finally back and ready to play and we were leaving to go to the away game after training,” recalls Morrison. “Then the manager got a message to say the league had been cancelled.” For the second time in just over six months, the young Scot was robbed of the one thing he’d moved across the continent to do.

“That just knocked my confidence,” admits Morrison. “It was hard to get motivated because it felt like nothing was going right for me here. I had moved over to play football for one of the biggest clubs in the world and I had hardly kicked a ball.”

Injuries are one thing and a pandemic is something the world went through together, but Morrison was in the unique situation of being in a foreign country without the typical support network that young players can often depend on. “It was quite tough mentally because when things are going wrong the first people you want to speak to are your family,” notes Morrison. “I could speak to them on the phone, but it’s different from being in person with them and feeling their presence.”

However, that wasn’t the final chapter in Morrison’s time in Munich. Far from it. Like the rest of the world, German football got back on its feet after the pandemic and Morrison is now getting regular game time in Bayern’s Under-19 team, as well as the club’s Under-23s team. And along the way he’s rubbed shoulders with a number of household names.

His first taste of first team football came in a bounce game, in which the Saltcoats native was tasked with man-marking none other than Germany international Leroy Sane. “I hadn’t played in six months and then I was suddenly up against one of the fastest players in the world,” recalls Morrison. “But you just take in the way they play. Their tempo is so fast and they all click into gear. Everyone knows what they need to do.”

More recently, during an international break earlier in the season, Morrison took part in training games against the likes of Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, Dayot Upamecano and Benjamin Pavard. Not to mention a certain Polish striker who tends to strike fear into the hearts of the best defenders in the world.

“I was looking at Robert Lewandowski and thinking ‘Wow. You’re the best striker in the world’ and I see him most days of the week,” says Morrison, struggling to hide his admiration. “It’s crazy, especially as a young boy from Scotland. I never once expected as a young kid playing football that I would be here seeing these stars every day. It’s a dream come true.”

With a contract at Bayern that is set to expire in just a few months time, it would be easy to assume that Morrison’s dream in Munich will be shortly coming to an end. But the player expects to stay on at the club for at least another year and is already sourcing an apartment off-campus for next season.

And, despite the worst possible start to life in the Bavarian capital, the 19-year-old still has every intention of proving himself in Germany. “The goal is still to play for the first team at Bayern and to play at the Allianz Arena,” says Morrison when asked about his plans going forward. “I think because I missed so much football in the first two years here I just want to be playing regularly with the U23s. Personally, I think I need to improve on my physicality to compete in the first team. So I’m going to be working hard at that.”

With the turmoil of the first few years now firmly in the rearview mirror, Morrison can get back to being a young man with big dreams. The world, forever changed by the pandemic, remains at his feet and has provided some invaluable experience that will undoubtedly benefit him and his career in the long run.

But that’s not the only progress Morrison has made in the past two years. He’s also learned a new language along the way too. “When I first came over I was surprised that some of the boys spoke better English than me,” says Morrison with a smile on his face. “I just said ‘I speak Scottish, not English.’ But I now understand that I need to speak a little slower.”

Slow and steady wins the race.