If you’re a star in the Bundesliga, you’re probably a star all around the world as well. The German top flight is one of the most popular football leagues in the world and is televised all around the globe every week. Asia alone has 39 Bundesliga broadcasters, and Europe has over 50!
But there are also stars in the 2. Bundesliga and they are not getting as much attention as their colleagues in the top flight. A future on the big stage is awaiting for some of them, however, and here is a list of the biggest and most prominent talents in the best second division in the world.
Josip Brekalo’s tenure in the 2. Bundesliga is sure to be a short one. The 18-year-old has already represented Vfl Wolfsburg four times this season and was loaned to VfB Stuttgart in January to gain more experience and game time. Brekalo scored a very important 2-1 goal away to FC Heidenheim in mid-February and will surely be an important asset for Stuttgart in their fight for promotion, just like he has been an important player for every Croatian youth national team from the age of 16 to 21.
It’s highly uncommon for Karlsruher-natives to represent Stuttgart because of the tense rivalry between the two cities football clubs, but Berkay Özcan is an exception. The 19-year-old has represented every Turkish national team from the age of 16 to 21, but he was born in Karlsruhe and represented their youth teams until the summer of 2013 when he switched alliance and became a Stuttgart player. The attacking midfielder made his debut as a senior player this season and assisted his first two goals in the 2. Bundesliga when Stuttgart defeated SV Sandhausen away from home in the third match day. Özcan’s first goal was scored at home when Stuttgart locked horns with 1860 München and won 2-1. Another goal as well as another assist has been added to Özcan’s point tally since then.
Ohis Felix Uduokhai
There are plenty of great centerbacks in the 2. Bundesliga, and one of the best is 19-year-old Ohis Felix Uduokhai. The 1860 München defender has already cemented his position in the middle of the club’s defense and is looking more and more likely to have a future in the Bundesliga. Uduokhai have played the full 90 minutes in every game since late October and have a 6.77 rating at Whoscored. The 19-year-old’s strongest attribute is his passing – he averages nearly 46 passes per game and 80 percent of them are successful. Uduokhai scored his first goal when 1860 München lost 3-2 away to Sandhausen, and he will be an important player for 1860 München in their fight for survival in the second division. Die Löwen’s youth academy has been extremely productive — the Bender twins, Julian Baumgartlinger, Julian Weigl, Kevin Volland, Fabian Johnson and Bobby Wood — are 1860 alumni, and the young centerback may be the next to make the Bundesliga
Arianit Ferati is one of few players in the second tier with a Bundesliga contract. The 19-year-old has a deal with Hamburg SV and is currently on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf. Ferati introduced himself to the Bundesliga audience last season when he made his Stuttgart debut away to Hertha Berlin. A thigh knock and a hamstring injury kept him out of action for most of the season and he was restricted to just three games and 72 minutes of game time. The injuries haven’t returned this year alá Marco Reus however, and the 19-year-old has therefore been able to contribute regularly for Düsseldorf in an otherwise negative season.
Jamie Carragher once said that full-backs are either failed wingers or failed center backs, but Matthias Bader goes to show that Carragher’s slightly ironic words in Sky Sports are far from telling the truth. The 19-year-old is a creative dribbler and a reliable passer and it’s no surprise that he has played the full 90 minutes in Karlsruher’s last eight games. Bader has represented every German national team from the age of 16 to 21 and the only thing that can stop him from moving on to play in the Bundesliga sooner rather than later is a serious injury.
Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Anthony Modeste are the most prominent goal scorers in the Bundesliga right now, but a certain Emmanuel Iyoha might belong to that category of players in the future as well. The 19-year-old attacker is yet to score his first goal but he is getting more and more game time at Düsseldorf and if he continues to win the trust of manager Friedhelm Funkel, then we might see him score for the first time before the season is concluded. Iyoha scored 16 goals and assisted 10 while representing Fortuna’s U19 side, so it’s evident that he’s got offensive qualities. Modeste scored 20 goals as a 21-year-old in Ligue 2 in France, and if Iyoha has a similar breakthrough in two years’ time, then it might be enough to help Düsseldorf get back to the top flight.
Maximilian Wittek is in the middle of his third season as a senior player at 1860 München and he looks set to surpass the last two campaigns in terms of minutes played. The 21-year-old winger is a former U20 Germany international and his biggest strengths lies in his defensive abilities – he is a great tackler as well as great at holding on to the ball. Wittek’s passing is worth praising as well, especially his long balls.
FC Heidenheim has become experts at producing Bundesliga attackers the last few years. Robert Leipertz left the club to represent Schalke 04 last summer, and is currently trying to save FC Ingolstadt from relegation. Florian Niederlechner left the club two years ago to represent FSV Mainz and is enjoying his time at SC Freiburg right now. The next player to make a similar move is probably Tim Kleindienst. The 21-year-old center-forward has scored six goals this campaign and assisted three, and is a threat inside as well as outside of the box. Kleindienst is physical and strong in aerial duels, and have an average rating of 7.54 at Whoscored.
Pascal Köpke might only be 21 years old, but he has already experienced what it’s like to win promotion as he guided FC Erzgebirge Aue back to the 2. Bundesliga last year. This season has been no disappointment for the attacker – the current U21 Germany international has scored eight goals and is a key figure at the Erzgebirgsstadion, a ground that is currently undergoing a complete redevelopment. Köpke’s fine performances haven’t been enough to help his club stay out of the bottom of the table, but it might be enough to save the club from another relegation.
There are plenty of players other than the ones mentioned here that looks likely to move on from the 2. Bundesliga to the Bundesliga at some point too, like veteran Simon Terodde (VfB Stuttgart), Julian Pollersbeck (FC Kaiserslautern), Steven Skrzybski (Union Berlin), Christoffer Nyman (Eintracht Braunschweig), Niklas Hauptmann (Dynamo Dresden) and many more.
Guido Burgstaller;s success at Schalke this year goes to show that such a move can be highly fruitful. The 27-year-old attacker left FC Nürnberg in January to join the Royal Blues and has gone on to score four goals since then, including two at the Veltins Arena on Sunday as Schalke defeated FC Augsburg 3-0.
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