First of all, I want to quickly say before you skim through this article that I will not simply be listing the ’10 best’ players in the Bundesliga. Even if you have a very limited knowledge of German football, you will still be aware of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Jadon Sancho, Timo Werner, Erling Haaland and Thomas Muller and I do not want to spend time highlighting a whole list of names you already know. Instead, this article will focus on players in the Bundesliga aged 23 and under, steering away from the names listed above.
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: RW/ST/False 9/CAM
Starting off with the most obvious pick, Kai Havertz. The Leverkusen man has gained a lot of media attention recently and rightly so with 5 goals in 5 starts after the restart. The likes of Chelsea, Man United and Real Madrid have all been mentioned and it seems almost a certainty that he will be on the move this summer.
So why is Havertz attracting such attention? Well, first of all, his output baring in mind his age is impressive with 16 goal contributions in 27 Bundesliga appearances this season as well as becoming the youngest Bundesliga player of all time to hit 30 goals in the league. But there is a lot more to Havertz than just putting the ball in the back of the net. His biggest asset that will encourage a lot of the attention he is getting is his versatility. Havertz can play pretty much anywhere across the frontline, with his most common starting XI positions being RW and false 9. His starting position on paper often becomes irrelevant as soon as a ball is kicked as he is usually given licence to roam across the frontline and regularly drops into deeper positions to link-up play and create opportunities himself. This versatility in combination with his obvious skillset combining goalscoring and creativity will see a big move come his way very soon.
Club: Bayern Munich
An MLS winger for Vancouver Whitecaps turned Bundesliga sensation at left-back. It is quite remarkable that Alphonso Davies is just 19 years of age. The Canadian burst onto the scene for Bayern this season and to cut straight to the point, he is a phenomenal full-back. He is so powerful and fast but also combines the attacking and defensive sides of the left-back role almost perfectly. Davies will beat just about anyone for pace and strength and if he drives past you, that’s you out of the game. 3 goals and 5 assists in the Bundesliga this season show that he is capable of quality delivery and finishing as well when he gets himself into these positions. But what makes him even better is that he does not neglect his defensive duties, he actually has a very good reading of the game and his basic defensive abilities like interceptions and standing tackles are there to be seen. He is sometimes caught out of position, however, his incredible speed and strength usually sees him catch up to his opponent even if they have initally dribbled past him, giving him a second bite at the cherry if he is beaten first time around.
Alphonso Davies is the personification of a cheat code and it’s easy to argue that he is already the best left-back in the world, let alone going to become it.
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Edmond Tapsoba is potentially not a player that many football fans with only an outside interest of the Bundesliga will have heard of or know much about. I don’t think it will stay that way for him for very long. Since the restart of the Bundesliga 2019/20 season, few players that I knew little about beforehand have impressed me more than Tapsoba., who joined Leverkusen in January from Portuguese side Vitoria de Guimaraes.
Due to the fluctuation in Leverkusen’s formation between 3-4-3 and 4-2-3-1, Tapsoba has experience as both the left-sided CB in a back 3 and a back 4. He is particularly strong from a defensive point of view at preventing players dribbling past him, with room to improve from a aerial duel success rate perspective.
Leverkusen are an extremely possession focused side and this has allowed Tapsoba to demonstrate another key area of his skillset. Firstly, he is an extremely press resistant player, meaning that he reacts in a composed manner to being put under pressure well and usually manages to retain ball possession. He combines this press resistance with high quality passing ability, boasting an 89% passing accuracy as well as 86.2% long pass accuracy. He’s a very good defender and reader of the game, cool under pressure and posseses the passing ability to play out from the back in various ways. Tapsoba is already a very well rounded CB and I truly believe he is one to watch with a phenomenally high ceiling potential.
Club: RB Leipzig
Position: LW, LAM, LCM
Julian Naglesmann’s Leipzig are no ordinary side. The formation, player positioning and general tactics are often innovative and subject to regular tweaks to keep the opponents guessing. This means that Nkunku has been deployed in multiple roles on the left-hand side of the field including LW, LWB as well as LCM. The Frenchman came through the PSG ranks initally, but was never able to fully plant his name on the 1st team teamsheet and this led to his switch to Leipzig at the start of the 2019/20 season.
If you simply looked at his goals tally, you may be somewhat underwhelmed by the 5 goals in 29 matches return. However, goalscoring is not the key element to his game and the 13 assists show this. His assists tally is so high because he has an exceptional eye for a key pass. He doesn’t rush passes and knows how to play passes that cut the opponent open and create goalscoring opportunities. He is an exciting player to watch when he is going at players, but pay close attention to his eyes and you’ll see him scanning the movements ahead of him and more often than not finds the right pass. His dead ball delivery is also of a very high standard, which helps his assist record. If he was to develop his game to become more prolific in front of goal himself then Leipzig could have a top top player on their hands soon, beyond the great player he is already.
Club: Hertha Berlin
Ignoring the 1-4 blip after having a man sent off against Frankfurt, Hertha Berlin have been one of the surprise packages since the Bundesliga restart, winning 3 of their first 4 matches back alongside a commendable draw away at Leipzig and a narrow 1-0 defeat to Dortmund before the aforementioned blip. The attacking success of this run was largely down to Matheus Cunha, who has been a very exciting player to watch recently.
After a run at Leipzig, he found himself out of the regular team selections and so moved to Hertha in January. Since nailing down his spot with his new club, Cunha has scored 4 goals, one of which an incredible solo goal where he picked up possession on the touchline, dribbled away from pressure before driving straight towards goal and finishing on a tight angle.
At just 21 years of age and seemingly flourishing in his new regular starting role, he is certainly a player to keep an eye on with room to improve further. It would not surprise me if a team of higher calibre than Hertha come calling even as soon as this summer.
Position: CAM, CM, Left Forward
After ups and downs with Schalke since his arrival from Nantes in 2017, Harit has finally got into his groove over the 2019/20 season. He is currently injured unfortunately so those tuning into the Bundesliga in anticiaption of the Premier League’s return will have to wait a little longer to see him operating at his best again.
Prior to his injury however, Harit was having a fantastic season offering both goals (6) and assists (4) from his most common central attacking midfield position. He has a particularly good acceleration and close control which allow quick changes of direction to get past his markers in tight situations to either create an opportunity for a teammate or take on a shot himself.
If he can keep up these performances and the attacking output to show for it, I think he has the potential to become a great attacking midfielder and I can see his name being mentioned on the transfer rumour mill a lot more in the near future.
Club: RB Leipzig
Dayot Upamecano is a name you may have seen mentioned recently regarding a potential transfer to the Premier League. He is a CB that firstly is an absolute brute defensively and no player finds it an easy task coming up him. He has a very proactive approach and always looks to read the game and cut off passes before they reach the intended target. 1 v 1 he is also likely to come out on top due to his immense strength, allowing him to simply brush players aside to regain the ball for his team.
However, one of his main traits is his ball playing ability. Upamecano is incredibly comfortable with the ball at feet and will often drive with the ball himself but is also capable of a range of passes. For a CB, he is one of the best in the world at finding and weighting passes to teammates, breaking lines in the process. He is one of those players that wants to progress the ball wherever he can if possession doesn’t simply require recycling at that particular point in play. As soon as he receives the ball, his head is up and he’s looking to play forwards, either through precise passes threading the needle between members of the opposition or hitting aerial passes over them.
However, if he wants to become a world class CB then he needs to work on his concentration. It seems that lapses in concentration lead to silly mistakes like giving away a penalty or getting himself sent off. He certainly needs a bit of polishing, but the potential to be a world beater from the back is there.
Club: Bayern Munich
Being the man called upon when Robert Lewandowski is out injured or rotated is no easy feat, but Joshua Zirkzee has spent no time messing around and has found the net for Bayern 4 times this season, having only started 3 games. His first goal this season came 1 minute after being subbed on away at Freiburg, followed by his second at home to Wolfsburg, scoring 2 minutes after being subbed on. An impact from the bench to say the least. He since scored in 2 out of the 3 matches he has started.
Zirkzee can be considered a traditional striker who operates predominantly around movement in the penalty area, either creating direct opportunities for himself or creating space for teammates to exploit. We have seen very little of him so far, so it will be interesting to see if he can get close to keeping this goalscoring record up over a larger sample size of matches. The early signs are promising, but whether Bayern have their long-term Lewandowski replacment already on their books is yet to be known.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Yes, I am including a player who at the time of writing has 0 goals and assists in the Bundesliga. However, at just 17 years of age, Gio Reyna is already receiving top comments, with Dortmund manager Lucien Favre stating “In training you can see that he is something special. If you can’t see that, you’re blind”. He does have 1 goal to his name as a 1st teamer with Dortmund, a belter against Werder Bremen in the DFB Pokal round of 16, but the talk around Reyna currently is what is to come. From his brief appearances in the Bundesliga as well as a substitute showing against PSG in the Champions League, it is clear he is already a talented player that has incredible technical ability and the desire to make things happen on a football pitch.
We have very little to examine so far, so I think it’s best just to say, Gio Reyna, remember the name…
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Similarly to Reyna, Florian Wirtz has come through his club’s (Leverkusen) academy and just recently had his first taste of first team Bundesliga action, becoming Leverkusen’s youngest ever debutant.
8 goals in 10 U-17 games saw his rise to the first team squad and he notched his first goal against the giants Bayern Munich, a very well taken first goal cutting inside and finding the top corner past Neuer. He likes a shot from range and is also particularly good at taking on opponents, often looking to use nutmegs.
Wirtz has made a good first impression on the Bundesliga and much like I said with Reyna, at just 17 years old, he is a player to be keeping a firm eye on over the next few years.
Written by Nick Pasquet
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