The Five Best Modern Bundesliga Academies

Everyone who watches and follows the Bundesliga knows that it’s a league filled with young talents. Weather these talents are young gems from Germany or are hidden gems from Japan, Poland, South Korea or even Scandinavia, the Bundesliga is filled with emerging stars. All of the highly-skilled players in the German top flight have to come from somewhere, and the places they come from are the German club academies. Many clubs in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 produce young stars from their academies and give these players a chance to shine on the senior level. Here are just five of the most productive academies in the Bundesliga in recent years.

#5: 1. FSV Mainz 05

The 05ers steady rise during their years in the Bundesliga has been due to a variety of reasons such as hiring top managers in Tuchel and Schmidt as well as producing young talents from the youth academies. Two names that stand out from their academy are Dortmund players Andre Schürrle and Neven Subotic. Combine those two with Roman Neustädter, defensive stalwart Stefan Bell, Dortmund player Erik Durm and former Bayern and Schalke midfielder Jan Kirchhoff and Mainz have put together a solid list of academy talents. These players have achieved their careers, including playing consistent Champions League football, winning the Premier League, winning the Bundesliga, winning the DFB-Pokal and representing Germany and Russia internationally. Not many academies can say they’ve produced English and German champions, but the Mainz 05 academy can.

But besides the past achievements of their players, a lot of the players that came from Mainz are still producing today. Neustädter is a first team player for Fenerbahce, Schürrle is producing results at Dortmund, Kirchhoff is a key player for English Club Sunderland and Stefan Bell is a first team player for Mainz. Along with the injured Subotic and Durm who occasionally features for Dortmund, and the Mainz academy’s success is being seen every matchday across the globe. The ability for all of these players to make themselves into title winners and first team players shows just how good this academy really is.

These great players aren’t the only players rising through the Mainz ranks though, with top german prospects Devante Parker and Suat Serdar along with other impressive young players Gerrit Holtmann and Patrick Pflucke headlining the young prospects for Mainz. Serdar, Parker and Pflucke have appeared for the German youth national teams and look like they will get a chance with Mainz one day. The factory that the Mainz academy has become has been the fuel that has risen them to the Europa League, and it’s time they got the recognition they deserve for their youth development.

#4: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Part of the reason why Gladbach has been able to become a consistent Champions League side after their old days of being relegation contenders is because of their academy players. These players include Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen, and Gladbach players Mahmoud Dahoud, Julian Korb, Patrick Herrmann, and Tony Jantschke, along with Eugen Polanski, Yunus Malli, Olcay Sahan and Amin Younes. All of these players have achieved a lot including playing in the Champions League in the last few seasons, winning La Liga, winning the Turkish Super Lig, and the Champions League along with representing Germany and Turkey internationally. All of these players are young and recent academy products, with none of them being over 30 years old.

This shows that the Glabach academy has risen to prominence very recently, which goes hand in hand with their recent success. The players they’ve produced are all contributing to their teams, with ter Stegen being Barca’s new number one goalkeeper, Polanski being a solid depth player on Hoffenheim, Younes being one of the better players on Dutch side Ajax, Sahan being one of the main reasons for the success of Besiktas and Yunus Malli becoming one of the shining stars for Mainz. Along with all of the Gladbach players being key parts of the side, with Korb, Herrmann, Jantschke and Dahoud all being first team players for Andre Schubert.

Without the steady play of Korb and Jantschke along with the breakout season that Dahoud had last year, the Foals would’ve had a tough time qualifying for the Champions league like they did. In the previous season, the Foals would’ve had a tough time reaching Europe’s premier club competition without the emergence of Herrmann into one of the clubs better players. The fact that these academy talents have played such a huge part in Gladbach success and the European qualification of Mainz and Ajax is part of why their academy is one of the finest in all of Germany.

But the Gladbach academy is still producing young players even with all of their recent stars. Young defender Marvin Schultz and Swiss youth international Djibril Sow headline some of the newest products of the Gladbach academy. Both of these players have a lot of talent, and with the track record that BMG have with youth players these two will certainly get a chance to be the next in the long line of talent from the Gladbach academy.

#3: 1. FC Köln

The surprising start that the Billy Goats are off two and their surprising rise since their promotion from the 2.Bundesliga a few seasons back has been fueled by academy success (which I referenced in a previous piece). This academy has produced a lot of talented players including Timo Horn, Jonas Hector, Mitchell Weiser, Lukas Podolski, Ron-Robert Zieler, Yannick Gerhardt being some of the players who the Billy Goats have produced over the years. These players have accomplished a lot in their career, with multiple German internationals, 2 world cup winners, a silver medalist, an FA cup winner, 2.Bundesliga winners and Bundesliga winners as well. These players have featured in the Champions League and europa league to go along with the awards they’ve won. A lot of these players are still young players, with Horn, Gerhardt, Weister and Hector being under 25 years old while Zieler has a lot left in the tank as well.

Similarly to Gladbach, the players produced by Köln have contributed to the success of the squad immensely, with Hector and Horn being two of the three best players on the Billy Goats at the moment. Without these two Köln certainly wouldn’t be in a position to challenge for a European spot like they are right now, and they’d likely be in the bottom half of the league. But the non- Köln players have been productive also, with Podolski being one of the most capped players in German history and still bagging goals with Galatasaray, while Gerhardt is a first team player for Wolfsburg and after being great at Hannover Zieler is with Leicester City. All of these players being productive with their current clubs is part of the reason why the Köln academy is so highly rated and was given a 5 star rating by the DFL.

But besides the players that are already doing a great job representing the Köln youth system, other young players from the academy are emerging as well. Top prospects such as Lukas Klunter, Salih Ozcan and Marcel Hartel headline the next Köln academy stars. All of them are German youth internationals that have bright futures ahead of them. With the Köln team becoming harder to get into some loans might be expected, but with the Billy Goats track record with giving youth the opportunity, these young players will get a chance to shine in Köln.

#2: FC Schalke 04

The track record that the Schalke academy has is well documented and becoming world-renowned with every new young star they produce. Names like Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil, Julian Draxler, Benedikt Höwedes, Leroy Sane, Max Meyer, Joel Matip, and Ralf Fahrmann and many others speak for themselves. Multiple World Cup winners and some of the best German players in the world and are Bundesliga champions, DFB-Pokal winners, Copa Del Rey winners, FA Cup winners, Champions League winners and La Liga winners to boot.  

Along with Ballon D’or shortlists, captaining Germany, numerous teams of the season and assist crowns to go along with breaking the record for the most expensive german player and these players have done it all in their careers already. Most of these players have a lot left to accomplish as well, with Meyer and Sane being two of the top young players in world Football, and Draxler just turned 23 this month. Özil looks as good as ever for Arsenal and Howedes is finally fit again after some injury plagued seasons in recent years. Matip looks like he’ll be a great player for Liverpool and Meyer just won a silver medal while Fahrmann has only improved as he’s progressed in his career. The only caveat to this for Schalke is these players often leave the club such as Neuer, Sane, Özil and Draxler. These players all left at young ages, and the fact that they didn’t reach their peaks in Gelsenkirchen must sting for Schalke supporters.

But besides the stars that have come from the Schalke academy, there are plenty of young players that are quickly rising through the ranks. These young players include Felix Platte, Donis Avdijaj and goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther. All of these players have already had loan spells in other countries, with Avdijaj impressing in Austria with Sturm Graz while Wellenreuther developed his game at RCD Mallorca on loan last year. Platte joined Darmstadt on loan last season and his still plying his trade with them as he develops as well. These three young players are some of Europe’s finest prospects, and they’ve all shown a lot of potential in their young careers.  

#1: FC Bayern Munchen

It seems like Bayern always finish number one, as they claim the top spot on this list with their terrific academy. Players such as Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels, David Alaba, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Owen Hargreaves, Emre Can and others shows just how good the Bayern academy has been. In this group we see multiple Germany captains, multiple World Cup winners, numerous Bundesliga trophies, DFB-Pokal trophies, multiple Champions League winners with several clubs, a Premier League winner and a lot of  treble winners as well.

With all of the trophies that these players have won, and the things they’ve accomplished with Bayern and other clubs is part of the reason why the Bayern academy is so special. Also Bayern’s status makes it easier for them to retain their academy stars, which is why Müller, Alaba, and Lahm have only played for Bayern and Schweinsteiger was on the team for more than a decade. These star players have given Bayern a lot, but most of them are still in the prime of their careers. As shown by Müller’s increased goal output, Emre Can’s call up to Germany and the improved play by Kroos and Alaba along with the great play of Hummels and Lahm’s incredibly consistency. These Bayern players are still offering a lot to their teams which only helps the reputation of the Bayern academy.

But even though Bayern have produced all of this world-class talent, the academy has stalled in recent years. With players like Sinan Kurt and Gianluca Gaudino not getting a chance to play, some people have wondered if Bayern will keep producing the very best stars. But based on the crop of players coming through the ranks at the moment, it looks like more top talent will be heading to Munich in the coming years. Players like Niklas Dorsch, Julian Green, and Erdal Ozturk headlining the next wave of Bayern youngsters ready to make the breakthrough. Dorsch is seen as the long-term answer in the holding midfield position for Bayern after he emerged into one of the academies top prospects last season. Despite all of his bumps in the road, Green is showing progress shown by his hattrick in Chicago and Ozturk scored against Manchester City in the preseason. These Bayern youngsters have a lot of work to do but they also have the potential to become Bayern players as well.

With all of the talented players in the Bundesliga these days, the academies in Germany are some of the best and most frequent talent producers in the world. With that being said, these five academies are some of the best in Germany and best in the world because of all of the stars that have risen through their ranks. With more talent flowing through these clubs, it’ll be interesting to see if their new players can match what their predecessors have done.

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.


  1. I know it is still young and untested, but how would you rank the RB Leipzig academy? It has first class facilities and in 2012 it signed the duo Frieder Schrof and Thomas Albeck from the VfB Stuttgart academy and Thomas Schlieck from the Schalke 04 academy (I think he left for Dortmund in 2015). They are three very skilled and sucessful junior coaches.

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