Out of the ashes of a desperately poor campaign for Germany at Euro 2000, an infrastructure to develop the brightest and best football talents has risen. The World Cup success in Brazil last year was a sparkling milestone on that journey for German football, but the supply line shows no signs of grinding to a halt.
Here, Kevin Hatchard picks out seven players developed in Germany aged 21 or under who have caught his eye — and in the interests of fairness, our man has chosen not to pick more than one player from any one club.
Hakan Çalhanoğlu – Bayer Leverkusen, 21, midfielder
Having initially broken through at lower-league side Karlsruher, Çalhanoğlu is now regarded as one of the best free-kick takers on the planet. He has already scored 11 times from free-kicks in his short Bundesliga career, with his unstoppable technique too good for even the likes of Bayern’s Manuel Neuer to combat. He is also an astute all-round playmaker, having set up 36 goals in his last three-and-a-half seasons. He sometimes courts controversy – many Hamburg fans still haven’t forgiven him for the shoddy way he left for Bayer.
Julian Weigl – Borussia Dortmund, 20, midfielder
An unflappable, metronomic presence in midfield, Weigl has played a key role in Dortmund’s revival under Thomas Tuchel. He has established himself as one of the most accurate passers in the Bundesliga, and he never hides away, constantly wanting the ball. Given his startling maturity, it’s no surprise that Weigl captained 1860 Munich at the age of just 18.
Leroy Sane – Schalke, 19, forward
With a father who scored over 50 goals in the German top flight and a mother who won an Olympic gymnastics medal, Leroy Sane was always likely to have natural sporting gifts. After initial concerns about his focus – he once wrote off a luxury car after partying with friends – Sane has buckled down and showed his commitment to the sport he loves. He has a keen eye for goal (at the time of writing he had scored eight times in his last 15 appearances for club and country) and he has the strength and trickery to become a Bundesliga star.
Niklas Süle – Hoffenheim, 20, defender
Süle has battled back from an injury that saw him miss most of last season, and under the wily guidance of defensive specialist Huub Stevens, I expect him to go from strength to strength. Having made his Bundesliga debut for Hoffenheim at the age if just 17, Süle has developed quickly. He is 6ft 4in tall, and uses that height to dominate in the air. He can be impetuous in the tackle, but has learnt to be more composed. If he can stay free of injury, he’ll soon be challenging for a regular place in the Germany squad.
Marc Stendera – Eintracht Frankfurt, 19, midfielder
A key player in Germany’s successful European Under-19 Championship campaign, Stendera is developing into a fine all-round player. He is capable of the spectacular – he recently scored an excellent brace in a 2-1 win at Hannover – but he also covers an extraordinary amount of ground in a match. Although he is primarily a playmaker, he is willing to track back and do the dirty work. His undoubted talent is backed up by a strong work ethic, and that effort should ultimately pay off.
Timo Baumgartl – Stuttgart, 19, defender
I was lucky enough to commentate on Baumgartl’s Bundesliga debut for Stuttgart last November, and at the age of just 18, he quickly stood out as a defender with immense promise. Baumgartl helped the Swabian side escape relegation by the narrowest of margins last season, and although VfB are still struggling as a defensive unit, Baumgartl continues to catch the eye. He reads the game superbly, and he has become a very popular played amongst the Stuttgart fans.
When he made a critical error in a defeat to Borussia Dortmund, fans chose not to berate the youngster, but cuddled him instead.
Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich, 20, midfielder
Developed by Stuttgart and honed by a loan spell at RB Leipzig, Kimmich has been snapped up by Bayern Munich on a five-year deal, and it’s not hard to see why. He is brave on the ball, has an excellent range of passing, and already appears to have moved ahead of other Bayern youngsters like Gianluca Gaudino and Pierre-Emile Højbjerg in the pecking order. After a stunning performance in the weekend’s 4-0 win over his old Stuttgart, Kimmich was lauded by coach Pep Guardiola, who described his display as unbelievable. High praise indeed.
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