Kevin Hatchard looks at the Bundesliga’s most promising Under-21 talents in the first part of his monthly column.
The German top flight is bursting with young talent, so I’ve decided to highlight one player from each Bundesliga club aged 21 or under. You’ll find part one here… (link)
Caglar Soyuncu (Defender, 20)
There are some centre-backs who just seem to love defending, and Turkish international Caglar Soyuncu is one of those. Whether it’s trying to outjump a centre-forward, or flying in for a challenge, Soyuncu does it with conviction, and the stats show that he usually comes out on top.
He still has plenty to learn, though. He has given away a couple of penalties already this term, and has made some naive mistakes, but he has generally adapted superbly to life in the Bundesliga.
Levin Oztunali (Attacking midfielder, 20)
For a player of his age, Oztunali has already racked up a fair bit of top-flight experience. He made his debut for Bayer Leverkusen at 17, and played the best part of 50 games during an 18-month loan spell at Werder Bremen. Now he is starting to make an impact with Mainz, who signed him on a five-year deal in the summer.
Oztunali always looks more dangerous when he cuts in from either flank, and he has the ability to drift past defenders. A lack of self-belief seems to have plagued him at times, and he needs to start affecting games on a more regular basis, rather than letting matches pass him by. That said, he has huge potential, and his family background promises as much. His grandfather is Germany legend Uwe Seeler.
Mahmoud Dahoud (Midfielder, 20)
Born in Syria, Dahoud was taken to Germany as an infant, as his parents fled the Assad regime. He has grown up to become one of his adopted country’s brightest young midfielders.
Dahoud was given his breakthrough by former Gladbach coach Lucien Favre, but it was Favre’s replacement Andre Schubert that really pushed him into the limelight. While Favre was gently easing the youngster into first-team football, Schubert flung him in for starts week after week. Dahoud repaid him with a string of excellent displays. A true box-to-box midfielder, Dahoud is willing to cover huge distances in a game, and despite his slight frame he loves a tackle. He has a good eye for a defence-splitting pass and can score goals, too. This season has seen his form dip considerably, but that’s understandable for such a young player, and the queue of suitors from around Europe is unlikely to shorten any time soon.
Marvin Friedrich (Centre-back, 21)
Had he not been a part of Augsburg’s extraordinarily long injury list this season, Marvin Friedrich may well have been a first-team regular for his new club. However, he has only recently returned to fitness after a niggling adductor muscle injury.
Friedrich is a product of the famed Knappenschmiede academy at Schalke, and caught the eye when he played for the German Under-19 side. He is strong, quick, and reads the game well. At Schalke, he found it impossible to break up the partnership of Joel Matip and Benedikt Howedes, and now injury has set him back in Bavaria. If he can get a run of games, he can finally show his quality.
Serge Gnabry (Striker/Winger, 21)
This year has been an excellent one for Serge Gnabry. Stagnating at Arsenal, and chastened by a disastrous loan spell at West Brom, he shone brightly at the Rio Olympics. He banged in six goals to become the tournament’s joint top scorer as Germany reached the final.
A move to Werder Bremen was the result, and Gnabry has flourished. Blessed with breathtaking speed and technical quality, he has netted five league goals, including a contender for goal of the season. A hat-trick on his senior Germany debut against San Marino was perhaps a sign of things to come.
Paul Seguin (Midfielder, 21)
Wolfsburg are having a horrible season, but one of the few consolations has been the emergence of defensive midfielder Paul Seguin. Having made his debut in March 2015, he has worked hard in the reserves, and has now made his big breakthrough. Seguin primarily acts as a screen for the back four, but he is now showing more adventure. He scored his maiden Bundesliga goal recently against Hertha Berlin, and while more established names are shrinking in the midst of a relegation battle, Seguin is showing he’s up for the challenge.
Luca Waldschmidt (Striker, 20)
Having found first-team opportunities hard to come by at Eintracht Frankfurt, Luca Waldschmidt is hoping a move to struggling Hamburg will kickstart his Bundesliga career. He has represented Germany at four different youth levels, but he needs to stamp his authority on games a bit more if he is to make it.
Max Christiansen (Midfielder, 20)
The captain of the German Under-20 side, Christiansen was also part of the Germany squad that took silver at the Rio Olympics. He provides drive and energy in midfield, and likes to shoot, but he must develop consistency if he is to make an impact in the Bundesliga.
Leon Guwara (Defender, 20)
We’ve had to cheat slightly with Darmstadt, because they aren’t bringing many young players through their ranks at present. Guwara is a versatile defender on loan from Werder Bremen.
He has pace and strength, and tackles well. When Guwara plays at left-back, he is also a good attacking outlet, as he likes to take people on. He needs to improve his aerial defending, and he gets caught out of position far too often.
Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinhatchard