The 2018 World Cup campaign may have been an unmitigated disaster, but it is not all doom and gloom right now in Germany. With the knowledge that young talent continues to come through, there is still reason to be hugely optimistic for the future. As such, the Fritz Walter medal winners have been announced by the Deutsche Fussball Bund (DFB), showing the future is bright, even if the present is a little gloomy.
“The Fritz Walter Medal has established itself as the most prestigious individual award in German youth football,” said Joti Chatzialexiou, the DFB’s sports chief. “The winners have extraordinary quality, huge sporting ambition, and also excel off the pitch thanks to their team spirit and professional behaviour. For us, it’s important that these talented players are motivated by the medal – their goal has to be constant development so they eventually play for the senior national team.”
The Fritz Walter Medaille was inaugurated in 2005 and awards the top talent in Germany in different age categories. Previous winners include Mario Götze, Toni Kroos, Julian Brandt, and Timo Werner.
Let’s take a look then at the class of 2018.
Gold: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen)
Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Kai Havertz burst onto the Bundesliga scene in the 2016-17 season and established himself as a key part of Heiko Herrlich’s exciting attacking unit last season as the Werkself narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification.
Having previously won the silver medal in the U-17 age group in 2016, the 19-year-old has gone one better this year and taken the top award. He made 30 Bundesliga appearances for Leverkusen, scoring three goals and providing nine assists. At the age of just 18 years and 37 days, he became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to notch 50 league appearances.
Silver: Arne Maier (Hertha Berlin)
Hertha Berlin midfielder Arne Maier cemented his place in the Old Lady’s first team squad under Pal Dardai. It is the second time that the midfielder’s talent has been recognised, as he also won the bronze medal for the U-17 age group in 2016.
The past Bundesliga season saw Maier notch 17 league appearances for Hertha as they finished a respectable 10th.
Bronze: Manuel Wintzheimer (Hamburger SV)
HSV striker Manuel Wintzheimer, a former Bayern Munich youngster, only joined Hamburg in May after scoring 26 goals in 26 matches in the U-19 Bundesliga as well as 5 goals in 6 matches in the UEFA Youth League.
With the Rothosen seeking an instant return to the top flight, a dream-teen strike force with Jann Fiete Arp could be on the cards for Hamburg in the coming season.
Gold: Noah Katterbach (1. FC Köln)
Left-back Noah Katterbach made 15 appearances for the Geißböcke’s U-19 side last season, scoring twice.
He represented Germany at the 2018 UEFA European Under-17 Championship held in England in May.
Silver: Oliver Batista Meier (Bayern Munich)
An awards list just wouldn’t be right without a Bayern Munich entry. Oliver Batista Meier, dubbed the next Mehmet Scholl, has taken the U-17 silver award this year.
As a left-winger, Meier scored an astounding 22 goals for the Bayern U-17 team in just 17 games, earning himself a professional contract with the Bavarian giants. Expect to see him gaining further experience in the Regionalliga side next season.
Bronze: Luca Unbehaun (Borussia Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund’s U-19 goalkeeper Luca Unbehaun has a bright future awaiting him.
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