It’s nearly here! The Africa Cup of Nations 2017 kicks off this weekend and it’s a tournament we love and have covered in detail in the past on Just Football. Ahead of this year’s edition in Gabon here are a selection of promising young African talents that have risen to prominence and could play an essential […]
We’ve reviewed and graded 2015/16’s most exciting young talents to watch in the Netherlands, England, Spain, Italy, France and Germany on Just Football. Now it’s time for us to announce the Just Football 70 Class of 2016/17 – the lowdown on the 70 best young players to watch in Europe this season.
Here’s The #JF70 2016/17 – Bundesliga edition, our pick of the most exciting young talents to watch in the German Bundesliga this season, by Bundesliga expert and DW Sports writer Ross Dunbar…. (NOTE: Criteria for selection = 22 or under as of 1st September 2016 and must not have appeared in previous editions.)
The #JF70 – 10 German Bundesliga young talents to watch in 2016/17:
(Bayern Munich, 19 years old)
When Bayern Munich‘s Technical Director Michael Reschke sent one of his army of scouts to track Benfica in the UEFA Youth League, little did he expect what would transpire in the space of 10 months. Recently made a Bayern player, at a cost of more than 30 million euros, Renato Sanches is now regarded as one of the German champions’ prized assets.
Still a teenager, his progress has been rapid, by the very definition. After that impressive performance in the UEFA Youth League, Sanches was promoted to Benfica’s first-team and handed a five-year-deal. He was named in the Champions League squad, before making his full international debut in March. Four months later, Sanches became the youngest winner of the European Championship.
How much Bayern eventually pay for Sanches will depend on his success in Germany. A physically matured specimen, the Portuguese international boasts a splendid touch under pressure and competes ferociously in advanced positions. His skill set may need some refinement under Carlo Ancelotti, but he looks to be one for the long haul.
(Bayern Munich on loan from Juventus, 20 years old)
Seen as one of the most exciting young talents in world football, trophy-gathering machine Kingsley Coman was very close to making our #JF70 list of Europe’s best young players last year.
Uncertainty over his Juventus future saw us hold off a year, but Coman soon made us regret that decision with some outstanding performances in a Bayern Munich shirt after signing at the Allianz Arena on a two-year loan with option to buy.
The tricky wide forward, who can also operate purringly well as a number 10, scored six goals and bagged 12 assists in 37 apperances for Bayern in 2015/16, helping the club pick up a league and cup double to add to his two Ligue 1 titles and French Cup at PSG, Serie A and Coppa Italia winners medals at Juventus and Italian Super Cup.
Coman is a player we’ve been raving about on Just Football for several years after meeting and watching him play in 2013. The youngster has since gone on to win 11 caps for his country, and made six appearances for France at Euro 2016 including an appearance in the final. (Words: JF)
(Mainz 05, 19 years old)
Mainz, one of the league’s most stable clubs, adapt well to new conditions. The loss of combative midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger to Bayer Leverkusen had the potential to rock Martin Schmidt’s team to the core. But, as previous sporting director Christian Heidel echoed, a solid youth foundation is one of the keys to long-term success.
The Carnival Club have grown over the last decade from a youth centre in the a cabin at the back of their rickety old stadium to a state-of-the-art facility. Those kids keep coming and coming – the latest addition to Schmidt’s squad is 19-year-old Suat Serdar. Frankfurter Rundschau reported that had Yunus Malli gone to Borussia Dortmund, Serdar would have been the ideal replacement.
The midfielder’s tall, languid style is deceiving: he is competitive, strong and aggressive in the counter press and has playmaking qualities too. Schmidt has already shown his trust in the player and it looks like Serdar will be a key player this season as Mainz embark on their first foray into the Europa League group stages.
(Borussia Dortmund, 19 years old)
“The next Ronaldo” is how Mikael Silvestre, sporting advisor of Stade Rennais described Ousmane Dembele, and having played with one and worked with the other at close quarters he’s in as fair a position to comment as any.
Some of Dembele’s skills and tricks at Rennes were Playstation-esque. The 19-year-old is truly exceptional in the way he glides past defenders with that ambidextrous style of his. The wiry wideman was the breakout star of the season in Ligue 1 last year, and while it was slightly sad to see Dembele bought out of the league before he’d even experienced a full year in it that’s the financial reality of the French top division these days. Hey, at least he didn’t move to PSG.
We’ve profiled Ousmane Dembele in detail before on Just Football, so tuck in. He’s far from the finished article, still has some rough edges and will need time and patience as he not only adapts to a new club, manager, teammates and philosophy but a completely new culture. That said, we can’t wait to see how he settles in at Dortmund. (JF)
(1899 Hoffenheim, 21 years old)
When news emerged that Mats Hummels intended to leave Borussia Dortmund this summer, Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle was listed as one of the top transfer targets. If the defender needed further praise, he earned it as one of Germany’s outstanding players at the Olympic Football Tournament in Brazil.
His pass for Serge Gnabry in the draw with Mexico circled virally around social media. It was the hallmark of what Hummels has built his career on: playmaking from the back. Süle is now a part of the full national team and will almost certainly go on to one of Europe’s super clubs after this season.
While Hummels holds his own in the passing criteria, the 21-year-old is arguably the better defender. Süle is positionally more aware and thrives in duels inside his own defensive-third. If Hoffenheim are to achieve a run for Europe this season, the centre-back will be pivotal to Julian Nagelsmann’s team.
(RB Leipzig, 20 years old)
Another of the excellent performers in Rio was Lukas Klostermann, a left-back from RB Leipzig. Although actually developed as a centre-back, the 20-year-old, who developed in the ranks of VfL Bochum, looked comfortable and assured as a defensively-minded full-back.
The likelihood of such a role being deployed in modern club football is unlikely. But Klostermann, in the Olympic final, marshalled Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus and brought the ball out of defence with great composure. Such adaptability seems par for course in German football for young players these days.
The defender has already passed the 50 game mark for Leipzig, the club owned by energy drink manufacturers Red Bull. Developing at a side with Champions League ambitions will come to suit Klostermann, but there will be little surprise if he attracts interest from some of Germany’s tradition-rich clubs in years to come.
(Borussia Dortmund, 22 years old)
The signing of Raphael Guerreiro should be a case study in the “How to Manage the Transfer Market’ module. Dortmund kept close track of the Lorient defender in Ligue 1 action, but were so convinced of the player that they moved before the European Championship when market value inflates.
Several weeks later, Guerreiro and Portugal went on to win the trophy. The left-back, who cost the German club around 12 million euros, may have gone for three times that price if the yellow-and-blacks had waited. “Guerreiro is a technically skilled player who feels at home in so many positions,” said long-serving sporting director Michael Zorc.
If ever a player matched the profile of a Thomas Tuchel signing, Guerreiro is that. The 22-year-old could probably be a superstar in any position on the pitch, his tactical acumen and technical qualities affording him such a luxury. But the defender is a livewire, too, and plays with aggression, physically and with the ball. With Marcel Schmelzer for competition, Guerreiro will more than likely feature in central midfield.
— Sascha Bacinski (@Sky_Sascha) August 25, 2016
(Eintracht Frankfurt, 21 years old)
Ambitions aren’t too high at Eintracht Frankfurt this season following their narrow escape from relegation last term. But Mijat Gacinovic is a player with bags of potential, whose own performances could shape the fortunes of the Eagles this campaign.
Still not a full international for Serbia, the wide man will almost definitely break that duck this year. Quick, direct and strong in one-on-one situations, Gacinovic is a typical wide player who has already captained Vojvodina, while helping Serbia Under-20s to the World Cup.
Far from heralded as one of the league’s best players, Gacinovic has already made his mark on the Bundesliga. In last season’s dramatic relegation play-off, he scored and set up one as Frankfurt beat Nuremburg to avoid the drop. His youthful streak and energy strikes a chord with Niko Kovac, who is tasked with getting the best out of time this season.
(1899 Hoffenheim, 22 years old)
It’s a reflection of Jeremy Toljan‘s potential that head coach Julian Nagelsmann has used him in almost every position in training. The 22-year-old is a powerful, supporting full-back, who thrives as much in the last-third as in defence.
This summer, Toljan was solid at the Olympic Games and on his return, media reports claimed Bayern Munich had approached Hoffenheim about taking him to the Allianz. Toljan isn’t quite Bayern quality yet, but with further experience he has the potential to offer a strong backup option to David Alaba.
(Borussia Mönchengladbach, 20 years old)
After five league defeats on the spin, Lucien Favre handed in his resignation, despite the best attempts of the club to keep him. Under his successor, Andre Schubert, one of the major beneficiaries has been Mahmoud Dahoud.
Syrian-born, yet German at heart, the 20-year-old has been like a refreshing breeze to this Gladbach side. For several years the Foals were a hard-to-beat, well-drilled machine under Favre. But Schubert, with the help of Dahoud, have become swashbuckling in attack.
Dahoud is a German youth international, a product of the famous Gladbach academy. A brilliant passer with the perceptive qualities to carve open defences, Dahoud has been compared with the great Zinedine Zidane. Those comparisons are rash, but the similarities in poise are prevalent.
With Gladbach in the UEFA Champions League group phase for the second year running, Dahoud will only move up the list of Europe’s top clubs’ targets this year. Jürgen Klopp is thought to be a big admirer.
Thoughts on our list? Who are the most exciting German Bundesliga young talents to watch in 2016/17 in your opinion? Let us know below, on Twitter @JustFootball using the #JF70 hashtag or on Facebook.