In the footsteps of Kai Havertz: Nicolas Kühn

The Fritz Walter medal, awarded annually to Germany’s best young player under 19 years of age, is a pretty decent measure of potential star quality and future greatness. Previous winners include Jonathan Tah, Matthias Ginter, Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Kai Havertz. This year’s recipient however is a more unknown quantity- step forward Nicolas Kühn.

All the above-mentioned players were in Joachim Löw’s Germany squad for their 4-2 defeat to Holland this week, but the winner of this year’s Fritz Walter was unable to receive his award in person, as he too was representing his country at U-20 level in the Czech Republic (winning 4-2).

Nicolas Kühn was awarded the prestigious award this year even though many fans in Germany may not know who he is. Born on January 1st 2000 near Hannover, Kühn began in the youth section of his home town 1. FC Wunstorf before graduating to FC St. Pauli, Hannover and then in 2015 to RB Leipzig over in Saxony.

In Leipzig, the striker/ midfielder progressed to the A Youth side and took part in the Youth Champions League for die Roten Bullen. However all was not well with the youngster, who grew tired of the club’s pressing tactics and felt his style was better suited to another way of playing- one with more creative flow and invention, rather than a straitjacketed system.

Hoffenheim were reportedly interested in him, but couldn’t justify the €3 million that RB were demanding for him. His agent had preliminary talks with Barcelona, but in the end he ended up moving to the Netherlands with Ajax. The Dutch style of play employed in Amsterdam was seen as the ideal place to nurture the best of the player.

Whether that was as a striker, wide attacker or traditional number 10 was open to interpretation as Kühn has the ability to play all three. Last season playing for Jong Ajax in the Dutch Eerste Divisie he scored five goals in 21 appearances helping them win the league title. This season, he already has one goal in his three matches so far. Kühn has been capped by Germany at every level since he turned out for the U-15 team.

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“I’m really pleased because it is the highest accolade in Germany that is given to a talent” Kühn told die Zeit. “Since the U-15’s I’ve always been a part of the junior national teams and those in charge of the DFB know my personality and capabilities well.”

The fact that such a talent has had to leave Germany in order to find his place is not an ideal solution. The winner of the gold medal in the U-17 category- Karim Adeyemi- also plays abroad with Red Bull Salzburg. There will however be plenty of Bundesliga clubs keeping tabs on the German youth international. If he turns out to be half as good as Kai Havertz, then Ajax are going to be fighting off the suitors beating a path to Amsterdam to sign Kühn.

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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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