The Bundesliga has a well-deserved reputation for educating young players, giving them a chance of first team football and developing them into world stars. Last season was no different with Ousmane Dembélé at Borussia Dortmund and Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen two such teenage starlets to make a massive impact on the German top division.
Looking forward to the 2017/18 campaign, who could be the next young player ready for a breakout season? Which prodigious talent is ready to make the leap to the next level? Here at Bundesliga Fanatic, we’ve profiled ten potential youngsters (20-years old and under) ready to impress in their first Bundesliga season.
Amine Harit (20, Schalke 04)
Schalke reportedly beat Arsenal to the signature of highly rated French attacker Amine Harit when they signed him for €10 million this summer and Königsblauen fans should be very excited ahead of the new season.
The right-footed, versatile attacking midfielder plays predominantly on the left and his debut season for Nantes last year showcased his amazing dribbling skills and an ability to torment defenders at will. The 20-year old averaged 2.9 dribbles per match over the course of the 2016/17 season, which put him third overall in Ligue 1. As a result he was the third most fouled player, suffering an average of 2.7 fouls per game. He maintained an average of 82.3% passing success.
Harit helped France win the UEFA U19 Championship in 2016 (held in Germany) and was voted into the Team of the Tournament. He provided the assist for the first goal in the final for fellow Bundesliga newcomer Jean-Kevin Augustin.
“Amine is a technically experienced player with strong dribbling skills who is also good in defence” explains Schalke trainer Domenico Tedesco. “He often looks for offensive solutions and can therefore make the difference.”
There will be comparisons with Leroy Sané, and perhaps even a young Franck Ribéry, and if Harit gets anywhere near to that level next season, Schalke fans will be very pleased indeed.
Jean-Kevin Augustin (20, RB Leipzig)
With the astronomical sums being touted around for Monaco’s Kylian Mbappé, RB Leipzig may well have pulled off a fantastic bit of business with the €13 million acquisition of Jean Kevin Augustin from Paris St. Germain (fending off interest from both Tottenham and Juventus).
The array of striking talent at PSG has stunted the progress of Augustin somewhat but this move to the Rote Bullen could well be the launch pad for the youngster long touted as a future star. Lionel Messi picked him as one of the ten brightest talents for an Adidas ad campaign in 2016. That’s some endorsement.
Leipzig’s success last season (leading to the added burden of Champions League football) means that more squad rotation will be required and Augustin will provide an excellent alternative (or even supplement) to Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen.
JK as he is known has appeared for France at every youth level since U-16 and finished as top scorer as Les Petits Bleus triumphed at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship in Germany last summer, scoring six goals (one more than Mbappé).
His strengths lie in his pace, acceleration, strength, and aerial ability – all top attributes for a striker, although he is also effective playing wide. Last season the forward scored once in 10 appearances (one start) for the first team.
Having served his apprenticeship under the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Edinson Cavani, JK is now ready light up the Bundesliga.
Denis Zakaria (20, Borussia Mönchengladbach)
The loss of Mahmoud Dahoud from the Mönchengladbach midfield is a clear blow, but in Swiss international Denis Zakaria, they have a potential ready-made replacement and a player eager to make his mark on the Bundesliga.
After bursting onto the scene in the Swiss second division two and a half years ago with Servette, it took only six games for Young Boys to recognize his talent and he was signed for €400,000. He has since helped YB to the runners-up spot two years running.
Die Föhlen came up against him last season in a Champions League qualifier and were suitably impressed. Physically and technically, the 20-year old has drawn early comparisons with Manchester United’s Paul Pogba. He is a tall (1m 91cm) athletic midfielder with lightning pace and the ability to break up opponents play. His passing range is impressive and he is home both surging forward as well as sitting in front of the back four to instigate attacks.
Last season in the Swiss Super League he made 8.97 defensive actions per 90 minutes (4.57 being interceptions), completed almost two dribbles per game and hit 5.32 final third passes at 75% accuracy per 90 minutes. There is an understandable rawness to his game considering his age (nine yellow cards last season), but experienced coach Dieter Hecking could be just the man to develop Zakaria into the complete midfielder à la Pogba.
“Granit Xhaka is an example for me to follow, though I’m a different kind of player,” Zakaria has explained. “It’s a big step for me to come to the Bundesliga. I want to prove to myself I can do it.”
Expect to see the Swiss talent form a solid midfield partnership with Christoph Kramer as Gladbach seek a return to the top six this season, especially in light of the horrific, season-ending Tobias Strobl injury.
Dan-Axel Zagadou (18, Borussia Dortmund)
BVB pulled off quite a coup in signing centre-back Dan-Axel Zagadou on a free from Paris St. Germain this summer. The French U-18 captain saw his chances limited at the Parc de Princes and will be looking to emulate the success of the last two players BVB have signed from Ligue 1 (Ousmane Dembélé and Raphaël Guerreiro).
At 1m 96 he possesses the build and athleticism to shine as a modern-day defender and is understandably strong in the air, tough in the tackle and composed on the ball.
“I consciously chose Dortmund because this big club always succeeds in integrating young players into the first team and developing them at the highest level” explained Zagadou on signing for the Schwarzgelben.
“I can’t wait to play with my new teammates, experience the imposing stadium and the famous fans, and I really want to establish myself as a professional footballer in Dortmund.”
Sokratis, Ömer Toprak and Marc Bartra will begin the season ahead of him in the pecking order, but the young Frenchman will be buoyed by new BVB trainer Peter Bosz’s record of integrating young players. His place in the starting XI for the recent Super Cup clash with Bayern, where he filled in at left-back shows the faith the coach has in him.
He has signed a five-year contract at the Signal Iduna Park but will be looking to make an impact sooner rather than later.
Landry Dimata (19, VfL Wolfsburg)
To say that Wolfsburg were overly reliant on the goals of Mario Gomez last season would be an understatement. The signing of hot Belgian talent Landry Dimata from KV Oostende is a move to take the onus off of Super Mario and if he repeats his form from last season, die Wölfe will have a much better season that the relegation plagued nightmare of 2016/17.
The Belgian U-21 international scored 11 goals in 24 league games last season in the Pro League as Oostende qualified for the Europa League. He also hit a double in the Belgian Cup final although Zulte Waregem ultimately triumphed on penalties.
Comparisons with both Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke are not too wide of the mark as the 19-year old possesses similar attributes to his more senior compatriots. In May, Dimata won the Pro League’s Young Player of the Year award. The forward has a strong eye for the goal at his young age, and possesses excellent timing in the box, while also being skilled and quick enough to play as a winger.
“I’m very grateful to Wolfsburg for giving me the chance to play in the Bundesliga,” Dimata told the club’s website. “I want to repay that faith in me. It’s a big step up for me, moving from the Belgian to the German league. In Wolfsburg I’ll be playing alongside a lot of top-class players who I can learn a great deal from. It’ll be a big challenge, but I’m really looking forward to it.”
Dženis Burnić (19, VfB Stuttgart)
A product of the Borussia Dortmund youth system, 19-year old Dženis Burnić was a key member of both the U-17 and U-19 sides that won the German championship in both 2015 and 2016. Team mates Christian Pulisic and Felix Passlack have gone on to make the first team squad, but Burnić has been loaned out to newly promoted VfB Stuttgart to gain more game time.
Fear not though, he is in good hands with Stuttgart trainer Hannes Wolf. The Swabian coach worked with Burnić until he left his role as Dortmund’s Under-19 coach in September last year to take up his current position.
“Dženis has enjoyed great success with our new generation of players,” Dortmund sporting director Michael Zorc said. “We hope he gets as much game time as possible with Stuttgart in the coming season and we know he is in good hands with Hannes Wolf. We will be closely watching how he does.”
The young midfielder’s versatility is one of his main strengths. For the U19 team, he regularly appeared in central midfield, from where he is influential in all areas of the game. He can however also play a more defensive role, as a holding midfielder. It has also been known for him to fill in at centre-back.
Finding a role at Stuttgart and excelling could provide the springboard for Burnić to step up and follow in the steps of Pulisic and Passlack.
Johannes Eggestein (19, Werder Bremen)
The younger of the two Eggestein brothers is looking to emulate his sibling to make his mark on the Werder Bremen first team this season. Maximilian, aged 20, made his breakthrough last season making 15 appearances for the Grün-Weißen.
Striker Johannes has been banging in the goals with great regularity for the Werder U17 and U19 sides since his arrival at the club in 2013. He did the same at the 2015 U17 World Cup held in Chile where he scored four goals is as many games before Germany lost to Croatia in round of 16.
Eggestein is not a typical fox-in-the-box type striker, but rather a pacey forward who is adept at running at defenders, beating them and finishing with precision. As such he can also be played out wide. He is hungry for the ball and often drops deep making him difficult to track for a defender.
With Werder reliant on Max Kruse for their goals (especially with the sale of Serge Gnabry), a back-up plan involving the younger Eggestein brother could be worth a punt. Coach Alexander Nouri certainly knows all about his ability from his time training the youth teams at the Weser Stadion and has recently singled him out for praise following impressive showings in pre-season.
Bartosz Kapustka (20, SC Freiburg)
To have Robert Lewandowski as an admirer is no bad thing and 20-year old Bartosz Kapustka will be looking to use his loan move to SC Freiburg as a chance to finally live up to the promise he has shown.
The attacking midfielder, who can also play on the wings or up front, scored eight goals and registered twelve assists for Cracovia Krakow before Leicester snapped him up last summer. He was however limited to just Cup games.
His display against Northern Ireland at Euro 2016 was a showcase of his raw talent. A highly polished performance saw him grab the headlines. He took players on at will, completed 82% of his passes and almost scored with a wonderful strike in the first half. His willingness to press and work back to defend was also impressive.
“Bartosz is a very technical player and has a very good feel for the game for his age,” commented Freiburg sporting director Jochen Saier. “For him, more than anything, it’s now about rediscovering that talent on the pitch. We want to work together on that. It was also important with this transfer to have the option of a longer-term collaboration after the expiration of the loan.”
The loss of Maximilian Philipp and Vincenzo Griffo has been a blow to the Breisgauer attack, but with coach Christian Streich’s reputation for developing youngsters, Freiburg fans will be hoping he gets the best out of Bartosz Kapustka as an attacking force.
Gian-Luca Itter (18, VfL Wolfsburg)
Young Wolfsburg left-back Gian-Luca Itter could be another player to break through this season and grab the headlines. Along with twin brother Davide-Jerome (a right-sided defender) he’s already attracted the interest of Arsenal year, but has opted to stay with the Wölfe– a decision that could pay instant dividends for both him and the club.
Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Mario Götze have all been previous winners of the U17 Fritz Walter Gold medal and Itter was the recipient in 2016 (Kai Havertz won silver), so he’s in good company.
The sale of both Ricardo Rodriguez (Milan) and Jannes Horn (Köln) means that Itter only really has Yannik Gerhardt in front of him for the left-back berth and he will be pushing hard to get into the first XI.
He possesses boundless energy and his powerful running make him a great asset as an attacking force. Itter took part in all Germany’s matches at the 2016 U17 European Championship, where they reached the semi-final losing to Spain.
Reece Oxford (18, Borussia Mönchengladbach)
The experience gained by Borussia Mönchengladbach of loaning a player from the Premier League in Andreas Christensen was a wholly positive one and die Fohlen will be looking for Reece Oxford to be an equal success.
After bursting onto the scene with West Ham, making his league debut against Arsenal and putting in a top display aged just 16, Oxford hasn’t had the opportunity to push on – something he will be looking to do at the Borussia Park.
The 18-year old is a ball playing centre back, but is versatile enough to play in a defensive midfield role as well. He is calm on the ball, good in the air and has drawn early comparisons with Rio Ferdinand.
“Reece Oxford has played for England at youth level and is considered one of the country’s best young defensive talents,” said Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl.
“This loan deal gives us the chance to add a very interesting player to our squad. On top of that, we’ve had good experience with signing young Premier League players in the recent past.”
He will start as back-up to Matthias Ginter and Jannik Vestergaard and faces a battle with Timothéé Kolodziejczak (who has had a disaster of a time at Gladbach since his move from Sevilla and missed training camp this summer) for a game time in the centre of the back four.
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