The Old Lady’s Young Man: Hertha Berlin’s Arne Maier

While some German clubs have the financial clout to splash millions of Euros on new talent, others like Hertha Berlin more often have to take an alternative approach and promote talented young players from within their own ranks in order to replenish the squad. In 19-year-old Arne Maier they look to have found a real gem with the midfielder really beginning to make his mark in the Bundesliga.

Being awarded a Fritz Walter medal in Germany is an achievement of some note, but it is not always a guarantee that the young player in question will go on to make it at the highest level in the Bundesliga. Names such as Toni Kroos, Mario Götze and Timo Werner have all gone on to greater things, but then there are players like Lennart Hartmann.

Back in 2008 Hartmann won the silver medal before going on to become Hertha’s youngest-ever Bundesliga starter aged 17 years and 103 days. The midfielder can now however be found plying his trade for VSG Altglienicke in the Oberliga Nord.

Following an impressive showing at the 2016 UEFA European U-17 Championship, Arne Maier was awarded the bronze medal in the Under 17 category behind Gian-Luca Itter and Kai Havertz and judging by the way he has started life in the Hertha Berlin first-team, we can expect to see a lot from the player in the future.

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Born in the outskirts of Berlin in Ludwigsfelde, Maier began his career with Ludwigsfelder FC before joining Hertha’s youth ranks in 2008. Originally a striker, he was quickly converted to a creative midfielder with Toni Kroos the role model to follow. He quickly impressed and progressed to the club’s U-19 side where he helped form an outstanding group of young players alongside the likes of Palko Dardai, Florian Baak, Nikos Zografakis, Julius Kade and Panzu Deangelo Ernesto. Aged just 16 he was invited to train with the first-team.

Last season’s Winterpause saw him once again invited to join the first-team and he was handed his debut at the tail-end of last season with a one minute substitute appearance on matchday 33 when he replaced Salomon Kalou in the away game with Darmstadt.

This season saw him notch up three further substitute appearances against Freiburg, Hamburg and Wolfsburg, before trainer Pal Dardai thrust him in for his full debut on matchday 12 away at Mönchengladbach.

Since then he’s been a near permanent fixture in the Hertha midfield (missing just one game) growing in confidence and putting in increasingly sure-footed displays. This culminated on Friday in the 1-1 home draw with Borussia Dortmund, where the youngster controlled the Hertha midfield, pulling the strings and dictating the tempo of the game for large parts of the match.

Arne Maier pass map v Dortmund MD19 (Squawka)

His coach at German U-17 level Meikel Schönweitz described Maier as “a dominant player, who’s incredibly good on the ball and can direct the passage of play.” That is what we are beginning to see in the Bundesliga.

Maier is best-suited to a role as a deep playmaker or midfield controller, but he is adaptable enough to play either the number 6 role or the number 10.  For a player who has just turned 19, he is tactically astute, reads the game well and is able to distribute the ball wisely. In his ten appearances this season, he has played 300 passes with a pass accuracy of 83% and he has shown a good range of passing with an average length of 20 meters.

It is far too early to be making direct comparisons with Toni Kroos, but he is the kind of player Maier will be looking to emulate in both style and success. Hertha are keen to tie the young midfielder to a longer-term contract and the recent sale of Valentin Stocker back to Basel is a good indication that the club are going to move to tie him to the Olympiastadion for the foreseeable future.

There have been reports that both Hoffenheim and Ajax have been looking at the youngster, whose current contract expires in the summer of 2019, but Hertha are confident they can keep him with the player himself seemingly in no rush to move.

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“For me it’s a dream come true. Every young boy, who plays football dreams of the Bundesliga and now I’m playing for my favourite club Hertha. This is just crazy! I already feel like a Bundesliga player, but by far not a seasoned Bundesliga player. That requires 50 to 70 matches.”

The Alte Dame will be hoping that Maier has those 50-70 (and many more) matches with them at the Olympiastadion.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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