Germany, like so many South American nations, has a tendency to produce some extremely talented players. Clubs like FC Schalke 04, BVB Dortmund, 1. FC Köln, VFB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg, etc don’t usually have to look far for players and are usually hunting grounds for top clubs around the world.
The Bundesliga is also a great league for attracting young, talented players. The likes of Lewandowski, Firmino, Luiz Gustavo, Demba Ba, De Bruyne, Shaqiri etc. all went to Germany young and blossomed into very capable players, who’ve attracted attention from big clubs world wide.
Here are some of the top young players; under 23 currently playing in the league both locally grown and imported.
1. Kevin Volland
Kevin’s a 22-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for 1899 Hoffenheim. He can play anywhere in the attack including as a forward. He is quick, his vision brilliant, and his dribbling great, which allows him to draw plenty fouls from opponents- he collected on average 2.3 fouls per game and largely completed 2.1 dribbles last season in the Bundesliga. He likes cutting in from the right, which seems to be his best position. Last season he totalled ten goals and six assists for Hoffenheim in his 36 appearances- six of those ten goals and four of his assists came from playing in that right attacking position. His average pass success rate for the season sits at 66%. He has all the tools to become an outstanding player in the future but he needs to work on his passing and his ability to hold on to the ball better.
2. Hakan Calhanoglu
I don’t need to say much about this player. He is without doubt one of the most electrifying players in Germany. He had an outstanding season for Bayer Leverkusen. He is 21 years of age and is a product of Karlsruher SC’s youth system. Hakan is already a dead ball specialist. He can play as an attacking midfielder or on the left. He spent most of this season playing in the middle as creator for Leverkusen. Calhanoglu finished the season with 12 goals and eight assists. Of his 12 goals, six were from free-kicks including his 37-yard humdinger against Hoffenheim. He is not only good from dead ball plays but he’s also got a knack for testing goalkeepers from long-range. His passing, crossing, and tackling are also strong attributes of his game. This season he averaged 3.3 shots and 2.3 key passes per game. He also helped out on the defensive side averaging 1.7 tackles per game. Arsenal missed out on a great signing last summer with a rather lackadaisical attempt at luring him away from Hamburg. The better he gets the more we’ll see other clubs swooping in to sign him from Leverkusen.
3. Johannes Geis
Groomed at Greuther Fürth, the new Schalke man is only 21 years old but already a very mature player. He is a strong defensive midfielder who is very good at taking set pieces and direct free-kicks. He also likes taking shots from distance and is very strong at holding on to the ball. He finished the season with five goals and three assists. Defensively he completed the season with an average of 2.1 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, and 2.1 clearances per game. On the attack he made 2.2 key passes and 2.3 shots per game on average. His overall passing game could be improved but Geis could become one of the best players in his position and a regular starting role at Schalke as well as the opportunity to gain experience in European club competitions could help him on his way.
4. Julian Draxler
Draxler is a home-grown, Schalke player, who’s only 21 years of age but seems to have been around for ages. He is probably the most popular on this list and has been in recent years linked with numerous top clubs around the world. He spent a large part of last season out injured but his ability cannot be denied. Draxler has nimble feet, possesses great passing skill, is a massive threat on the counter, and doesn’t mind getting the opposing goalkeeper’s fingers warm with the occasional shot from distance. He is also strong in air. With the bags of talent he has, he will become one of Germany’s undisputed top midfielders and if he can stay fit this coming season he’ll have a huge impact for Schalke.
5. Maximilian Meyer
Another product of Schalke’s system; Max made his debut at 16 years old. Now 19, he has great technique and is known for his dribbling abilities and speed. He is also a good passer- averaging an 84% successful pass rate. He didn’t have much of an impact this season but not many Schalke players did because of the chaos at the club. He completed the season with five goals in 28 games- 22 starts and six as a substitute.
6. Leon Goretzka
At 20 years of age Goretzka currently plays for Schalke but was moulded by the Bochum’s youth set-up. He was touted by his former coach at Bochum as the “talent of the century”. A tall player, standing at 6 feet 2 inches; he is strong in air, good at holding on to the ball, and likes hitting powerful shots from outside the area, the likes of which has drawn him comparisons to that of Paul Scholes. Goretzka is a good dribbler and doesn’t mind diving into a tackle. He is versatile and can play pretty much anywhere in midfield- defensive midfielder, playmaker (deep or advanced), left or right winger. Last season he was severely hampered by injuries and only played in 11 games of which he started only three. He is another player, who when fit could be a real force for Schalke and Germany in the future.
7. Timo Horn
Germany is a country known for producing top goalkeepers and Timo Horn could be one of them in a few short years. Timo, like one of Germany’s greats- Bodo Ilgner, was schooled in Köln’s wonderful youth team. At 22, he is already being sought after by clubs outside the Bundesliga and for good reason. He’s been a mainstay in the Köln team since 2012 and has made waves with his performances. He possesses excellent reflexes and is capable of dealing with close range shots. However, like most young goalkeepers he still has problems dealing with crosses and his distribution does need some work. Last season he was an integral player for Köln coming up with big, important saves against the likes of Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Gladbach, Leverkusen and Schalke- all teams Köln managed to earn points against. Horn’s heroics helped his team finish twelfth to spend another season in the Bundesliga.
8. Ricardo Rodríguez
A perfect example of young, talented players who migrate to Germany; Rodríguez at the age of 22 is one of the best right backs in the Bundesliga. The Swiss is one of very few full-backs that is equally adept at defending as he is going forward for his team- granted he sometimes neglects his defensive duties as he is every now and then preoccupied with his participation in attack. He has incredible endurance and normally covers a lot of ground- he can often be seen deep in games still bombing forward, trying to help his team in attack. However, like most right backs who like taking part in the attack, he sometimes leaves room behind for opponents to exploit on the counter-attack. In his arsenal he possesses good dribbling skills, is an ace from set-piece plays, his crossing is usually pinpoint accurate, strong in possession and is a menace when it comes to direct free-kicks. He is also very strong in aerial duels. He needs to work on his concentration and his decision-making, as he sometimes tends to cross the ball a bit much.
9. Antonio Rüdiger
A product of both Dortmund and Stuttgart’s youth teams, Antonio has had some solid performances for Stuttgart. At 22, the young German is a mature defender, who plays with intelligence. He is sometimes too over-enthusiastic when it comes to a tackle and thus tends to give away unnecessary fouls but he maintains a high level of concentration throughout a game. Rüdiger averaged 5.3 clearances per game last season but gave away 1.3 fouls on average. Despite being six feet three inches Rüdiger lacks prowess in the air. Should he improve his tackling in the coming season as well as become more forceful in aerial duels, he could become a top defender for Stuttgart and Germany.
10. Jonathan Tah
Developed by Hamburg, this 19-year-old defender was thrown into Hamburg’s first team at the age of 17 and had everyone in awe with his maturity. He is a big (6 ft. 3), powerful player, who has exhibited dexterity in tackling, aerial duels, clearances, reading of the game and composure- all qualities one expects in a competent defender. In the few games (16) he got to play for Hamburg before the chaos of switching coaches twice in the only season he played with the first team, Tah had a staggering average of 3.9 aerial duels won per game, while his mean tackles won per game were 1.4. Additionally, his average interception sits at 1.6 per game and his foul per game average is 0.4. He also managed 7.6 clearances on average for Hamburg. He is definitely one of the most exciting defenders coming up in Germany.
11. Bernd Leno
Leno is another Stuttgart graduate. He recently turned 23 but has already made over 160 appearances for Leverkusen. He has been in recent weeks linked to Real Madrid and if he does make the move instead of De Gea, Real Madrid would be gaining one of the most exceptional young goalkeepers in Germany. He is the man whose performance in essence ended Rene Adler’s career at Bayer Leverkusen and in some way his Germany career. So outstanding he was that Adler- who was the best goalkeeper in Germany at the time- after coming back from injury was unable to get back his starting position. Leno is blessed with superb reflexes, excellency in saving close range shots and has been known to stop a few penalties here and there. He does, however, need to work on his long-range distribution.
12. Julian Brandt
Brandt is 19 and is a product of Wolfsburg’s youth set-up. He is currently plying his trade with Bayer Leverkusen and can play as a left or central attacking midfielder. Some of his qualities include good dribbling, a threat on indirect free-kicks and pace. As an attacking midfielder his passing is good but it could be better. He’s also sometimes weak in possession, failing to hold on to the ball. However, his vision is great and his ability to put his teammates through on goal is also very good. To become one of the best he needs to improve his passing, his overall work rate- especially defensively and holding on to possession better.
13. Mitchell Weiser
Another Köln graduate on this list, Weiser made the trek in 2012 from Köln to Munich after some impressive performances for Köln in the second division but didn’t really get a good go in Bayern until towards the end of last season under Guardiola. Although he was deployed mainly as a wing back for Bayern he is essentially a right-sided midfielder. He has speed, excellent dribbling skills and his work rate and stamina are impressive. He likes to dribble past opponents and it usually wins him fouls in abundance. Weiser will be playing in Berlin this season after moving on a free as he was unable to come to terms with Bayern on a new contract. The move will probably help the 21-year-old winger better blossom after a few up and down seasons at Bayern and various loan spells elsewhere.
14. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg
A Bayer Munich youth product, this 19-year-old player is a huge talent. He made his senior debut for Bayern at 17 and is the youngest player to have ever played for the Bavarians. Pierre-Emile is a talented, versatile central midfield player who can play as a deep-lying playmaker, a defensive midfielder, as well as an attacking midfielder. His armoury of weapons includes good finishing, great dribbling and superb passing. Additionally, he has excellent work ethic, he contributes defensively and at six feet one inch he is strong in the air. He spent the latter part of last season on loan at Augsburg and provided the assist for the lone goal of the game against his parent club. He could be the heir to Schweinsteiger’s throne.
15. Matthias Ginter
As a result of some wonderful performances for Freiburg in the 2013/14 season, Ginter was named as the youngest player in the German squad that won the 2014 World Cup and was also contracted by Dortmund that same summer. He is a mature player, who is a good tackler and has a strong aerial presence. Despite, having a torrid time getting into the first team during his first full season at Dortmund he’s still a very talented player. In the 19 games he played last season he managed an average of two tackles per game, two interceptions on average and won an average of 3.5 aerial duels per game. He’s also a good passer and prefers shorter passes.
There are two additional players worth mentioning and if given the opportunity to play regularly in the coming season they could be the next break-out talents in Germany:
1. Leroy Sané, 19- He is the son of former Senegalese international Souleyman Sané. He had a good run toward the end of the season with Schalke especially against Real Madrid in the return leg of the round of 16 clash- a 4:3 thriller in which his Schalke team were probably unfortunate to go out after their performance. In that game, he managed to get on the score sheet and tested Iker a few times including his clanger off the crossbar that had Casillas beaten all day.
2. Levin Öztunali, 19- He is the grandson of one of Germany’s greatest players, Uwe Seeler. He is a central midfielder that has some promise. He spent the latter part of last season on loan at Werder Bremen, where he showed flashes of brilliance. In the 16 games he played (he made eight as a substitute), he scored one goal and provided three assists.