When you’re the grandson of a player as legendary as Uwe Seeler expectations are always high, especially when you become one of Germany’s brightest prospects. This is the reality that faced Levin Öztunalı early in his career with Leverkusen and Werder Bremen.
He was expected to do big things after making his debut for Bayer in 2013-14 at the tender age of 17, which at the time made him the youngest player in Leverkusen history. But he hasn’t live up to the sky-high expectations thus far, which led to his summer transfer to Mainz 05. So far at Mainz, Öztunalı has shown us why he was so highly touted with his early season form. This is because he’s finally playing and using his previous experience which saw his playing time and confidence stutter.
Reasons For His Struggles
During Öztunalı ’s time with Leverkusen and Werder Bremen, despite all of this talent, he was never consistently in the starting eleven or even a consistent substitute. Some of this failure is the fault of Leverkusen for not loaning him out earlier in his career, but Bremen also never had the chance to gamble on a young player with their constant relegation fights. Both teams he was on never gave him a fair shot due to their circumstances, which certainly stunted Öztunalıi’s development. This lack of opportunity has led to a small amount of improvement over the last three seasons compared to other German wunderkinds, and now Öztunalı has a lot of ground to make up if he want to get to the level of players like Leroy Sane and Joshua Kimmich.
His development getting stunted wasn’t only because he wasn’t playing as much as other youngsters—such as Max Meyer or Timo Werner—but this also affected him mentally as well. His confidence was clearly affected by the lack of faith demonstrated by the two clubs and this—as it does for many young players—made his performances suffer. He often looked like he wasn’t playing with aggressiveness and was trying not to make a mistake. The lack of playing time caused him to play conservatively, which is never a good way to play as a young attacker.
With his confidence down and lack of playing time, Öztunalı didn’t produce nearly enough for a player with all of his talent. In 25 appearances last season, he only had 1 goal and 3 assists, and he had the exact same total the season before with Werder in 16 games. Previously with Leverkusen, he didn’t score or get an assist in fifteen league appearances. Öztunalı had never scored more than one goal in a season, which is not what most people expected from a player of his talent.
The stats show that the lack of playing time and the result of that mentally led Oztunali to underwhelming results for a player who debut at 17 years old. After his lackluster results at Bremen, he was sold by Leverkusen to Mainz, which was seen as a move that the 20-year-old had to make after his inability to live up to high expectations with Leverkusen and Bremen
New Situation At Mainz
After the lack of playing time at Bremen, Öztunalı has come to Mainz in search of that playing time that will help him develop. With the track record that Mainz has developing young talent over the years, the move made a lot of sense for a player with his talent. Along with a manager that has a proven track record, and Öztunali’s move to Mainz was met with optimism.
Thus far, the move has proved to be wise, with Mainz giving the German more minutes than both of his other clubs did with over 400 minutes played this season. That total is over a fourth of the minutes he played all of last season, and this has given the German a chance he never got earlier in his career. This is part of why Öztunalı has been showing his talent much more often so far this season to Bundesliga fans. 1 goal and 2 assists in the Bundesliga already this season is close to what he’s done in each of the last two full seasons in only 6 games.
So far, he’s had some very good performances including a starring role in the Hoffenheim draw and in the loss to Leverkusen he was solid as well. Combine those performances with a good performance against FK Qabala in the Europa League that saw Öztunalı score a goal and Mainz have seen their fare share of results from the German so far.
It looks like Roger Schmidt is going to keep giving the former Bremen man minutes, and if he does the positive results should keep on coming for Öztunalı . He’s started in all but one Bundesliga match thus far, and he’s done enough to retain that place for Mainz. If he can keep playing at the solid level he’s playing at, he’ll be the latest gem that Mainz have found on the transfer market. This will also allow him to start being considered one of the league’s better young players once again since he did just get called back up to the German under 21 squad. At only 20 years old, Öztunalı has a lot of room to grow, but with Mainz he’s already growing and getting a chance to do so.
If he keeps playing and staying fit, Öztunalı could produce even more than he as already as his confidence rises and he get more used to playing for Mainz. After seeing what Serge Gnabry has done with playing time and a shot of confidence, hopefully for Öztunalı he keeps improving and showing everyone why he made his debut at 17 years old. With all of the young talent that has emerged so far this Bundesliga season, seeing if Öztunalı can reach the levels of some of the league’s best is another reason why there’s so much intrigue surrounding Mainz 05.
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