10 of the most exciting young football players to watch in Germany’s Bundesliga in 2013. Part of The 10 Series brought to you by Just-Football.com. Follow this link for an introduction to The 10 Series (including criteria) and here for 10 of the best young players in Italy, France and Holland:
By Cristian Nyari
(Bayern Munich, 20 years old)
In the span of six months last season David Alaba went from fringe player to starter and Champions League finalist at one of the biggest clubs in the world.
The young Austrian’s quick rise to stardom came as a surprise to many but not to anyone who has seen him play since he joined Bayern Munich at the age of 16. Endowed with incredible speed and athleticism, Alaba can play just about anywhere on the pitch and by slotting in so well at left back solved a problem that had been nagging Bayern for years.
This season Alaba has continued his sublime form and with Franck Ribery ahead of him makes up one of the most dangerous flanks in world football. His ability to link up with players ahead of him and make unexpected and lightning quick overlapping runs has been a big part of Bayern’s record breaking first half to the season. If the football community did not become aware of Alaba last season they sure will this year.
(Borussia Dortmund, 20 years old)
A football prodigy, pure and simple. Franz Beckenbauer was not spitting hyperboles when he called Mario Götze the “German Messi”. The Borussia Dortmund playmaker may already be a household name but considering he is still only 20 years old the potential of his development is frightening.
Götze made his Bundesliga debut at age 17 and has not looked back since, becoming an important part of Dortmund’s back to back league titles and Cup win. This year he helped Dortmund top their Champions League group in impressive style, overcoming the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City, leading many to declare them as favorites to win the competition.
It is difficult to describe Götze without using superlatives – one has to simply watch him to see what a special talent he is. Blessed with incredible creativity and technical skill, Götze’s dribbling is already some of the best in the Bundesliga and his vision has helped Dortmund easily compensate for the loss of playmaker Shinji Kagawa in the summer.
Götze can use the tightest of spaces to set up his teammates and can create chances out of seemingly impossible situations. There is a reason Dortmund CEO Joachim Watzke said that Götze is not for sale at any price.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen
(Borussia Mönchengladbach, 20 years old)
If it wasn’t for the plethora of talented goalkeepers produced in Germany Marc-Andre ter Stegen would undoubtedly be a seasoned international by now. He became Borussia Mönchengladbach’s first choice goalkeeper at the ripe age of 18 in 2011 and saved his side from relegation with performances that would make most veterans proud.
Last season the goalkeeping prodigy did one better and guided Gladbach to a Champions League spot in a historic season for the club. Many considered him the best goalkeeper in the league during that spell and Germany coach Joachim Löw rewarded him by including him in his provisional EURO 2012 roster.
Ter Stegen has drawn many comparisons to Germany legend Oliver Kahn for their personalities and on field influence. He is known for his brave and commanding presence in the box, often making daring clearances and interceptions and is very good in the air, one time even losing a pair of teeth in training jumping up to claim a cross.
After a shaky start for the club this season Ter Stegen has returned to his best and just recently had one of the most impressive individual performances this season in a match against Bayern Munich. It won’t be long before Ter Stegen challenges Neuer for Germany’s number one spot.
(Borussia Dortmund, 22 years old)
Ilkay Gündogan moved to Dortmund in 2011 with great expectations to replace Nuri Sahin and after an underwhelming start really blossomed to help Dortmund win their second consecutive title in record breaking fashion.
This season though has been a true breakthrough for the German midfielder as he established himself as one of the league’s best as well as a full fledged international.
His performances in the Champions League in particular have been a revelation, outplaying seasoned veterans like Xabi Alonso and Yaya Toure in the group stage. Similar to Xavi and Scholes later in his career, Gündogan’s strength lie in his retention and game editing skills.
The 22 year old uses spaces cleverly to move the ball efficiently and out of dangerous areas for Dortmund to use their speed and skill to attack. His development provides Germany with a great alternative to Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dortmund with the football intelligence that has become so important in modern football.
(Eintracht Frankfurt, 22 years old)
Sebastian Rode played an important part in helping Eintracht Frankfurt secure promotion back to the Bundesliga last season but even more impressive has been his remarkable form this campaign. Together with Frankfurt they have taken the league by storm. A real midfield dynamo, Rode’s high energy style has epitomised Frankfurt’s entertaining attacking play and helped them finish with their best half of the season record in 19 years.
Rode is a box to box player in the most modern sense. Equally adept at making a last ditch tackle as he is at marauding forward, he has become one of the most complete players in Germany in his first full season in the top flight. In the snap of a finger Rode can go from feisty tackler to a player who can carve open defences with inch perfect passes.
Together with captain Pirmin Schwegler he is the heart and engine of an invigorating team that even the defending champions struggled to contain this year. It is no coincidence then that his name has already started popping up in Joachim Löw’s national team selection discussion.
(Bayer Leverkusen, 23 years old)
He has been doing it for the last two years but only with his move to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer have people finally started to take notice of Philipp Wollscheid’s consistently impressive defensive performances.
Wollscheid’s standout performances with Nürnberg in the last two seasons earned him a move to Leverkusen, a team that was very much in need of a defensive organiser and leader. Sure enough, he has been a big part of their success halfway into the new campaign as Leverkusen sat second behind Bayern in the league going into the winter break.
Wollscheid’s presence also helped Leverkusen qualify for the Europa League Round of 32 with the best defensive record of any clubs in Europe this season. His size and build make him very good in the air, a big threat on set pieces and difficult to knock off the ball. He also has one of the best tackles won percentages in the league. Don’t let his size deceive you though as he is also a fantastic reader of the game and completes nearly 90% of his passes, one of the best rates around.
(Schalke 04, 22 years old)
When Raul left Schalke in the summer there were big questions over how the club would compensate for such an influential personality and player but Holtby’s impressive performances and form have filled that vacuum immaculately. Although Schalke’s form dipped close to the winter break they had a wonderful start to the season and topped their Champions League group without losing a match.
Holtby’s biggest strength is his versatility, having played out wide, deeper in midfield and behind the striker in his career. He displays impressive leadership skills at a young age. As captain of Germany’s U-21s he almost single-handedly led them to the European Championships next summer with an impressive 11 goals in 18 games from midfield.
He also possesses a great workrate and the kind of technical skills that this new young German generation has become so renowned for. You can be sure that following the U-21 EUROs next summer Holtby will become a staple in the German national team.
(Schalke 04, 19 years old)
With his goal against Montpellier in the group stage this season Julian Draxler became the youngest German footballer to score in the Champions League but that’s only the latest achievement for the supremely talented Schalke attacker. He is also Schalke’s youngest ever Bundesliga debutant, making his debut at 17 in 2011. That also made him the fourth youngest in Bundesliga history and a couple of months later he became the league’s second youngest goalscorer.
Three days after his debut he signed his first professional contract with the club and at the end of the season scored a goal as Schalke won the German Cup. This past May he was called up to Germany’s provisional squad for the 2012 EUROs. Suffice to say, Draxler’s development has come along quicker than even he can admit.
In theory, that should tell you everything you need to know about Draxler’s abilities. There aren’t many players who get called up by their national team at the age of 18 and that is considering Germany’s vast talent pool nowadays. Draxler is mature beyond his years though as even Löw has admitted and his performances for Schalke prove that. Quick with the ball and a great eye for goal, there is a lot more to come from Julian Draxler.
(Eintracht Frankfurt, 22 years old)
The fullback position is said to be one lacking most in talent around Europe but the Bundesliga is full of thriving young fullbacks, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Sebastian Jung being another prime example.
Like his teammate, Sebastian Rode, Jung was crucial in helping his club reach promotion last season. So much so in fact that he caught the eyes of AS Roma scouts who were monitoring him last year and made a bid for the youngster in the summer. Jung stayed with Frankfurt though and has continued his rapid development in the top flight.
With his explosive attacks Jung has become one of the most influential right backs in the Bundesliga this season. Halfway into the season he has created 17 goal scoring chances for his teammates and taken 9 shots himself, impressive numbers for a right back and more than Philipp Lahm in comparison. Because of his great form this year he was called up by Joachim Löw for Germany’s friendly against the Netherlands last month, something that will become increasingly more frequent for the 22 year old at the rate he’s going.
(Hamburger SV, 23 years old)
At 23 Hamburg’s Milan Badelj just meets the cutoff for The 10 Series and while he may not have the glamorous appeal that some of the younger attacking players on this list do there is no denying his talents. The Croatian central midfielder moved to Germany from Dinamo Zagreb this summer and has quickly established himself as one of Hamburg’s most important and influential players.
Badelj possesses both a great first touch and close control as well as great defensive awareness and positioning, helping turn Hamburg’s defence from one of the most frail to the league’s fourth best.
The Croatian may not be the quickest player but he more than makes up for it with great anticipation and vision. One of his biggest strengths is anticipating a play three or four moves before it happens, either in or out of possession.
Badelj has made an impressive 201 tackles so far this season, bettered by only a few players in the league, and with 85% of his 766 passes completed, he is amongst the most precise movers of the ball this year. He might be the most unfamiliar player on this list but he is a player that the football world will become increasingly aware of in the coming months.
Which young Bundesliga players do you think should be watched closely in 2013? Have your say by leaving a comment below.