Griffin O’Neill writes about 5 young players breaking through in the Bundesliga this season.
Josh Sargent // 18 // Werder Bremen
Eighteen-year-old American striker Josh Sargent is part of a wave of youthful Americans making waves in the Bundesliga. Players such as Borussia Dortmund’s Christian Pulisic and Schalke’s Weston McKennie have established themselves as Bundesliga regulars despite their young age, and Josh Sargent is in a perfect position to follow in their footsteps. Sargent was signed by Bremen in January of 2018 and was only able to play in youth tournaments due to work permit issues, but now that Sargent has turned eighteen, he is ready to make his mark.
Forward was a position of concern for Werder Bremen going into the summer transfer window, but manager Felix Köhfeldt said in an interview with bundesliga.com that “I have other priorities… with Johannes Eggestein and Josh Sargent we have two forwards that are ready to kick on.”
This expression of faith by a manager is important for young players to help build their confidence, and with Bremen signing experienced striker Claudio Pizzaro for his third stint with the club, Sargent has the perfect mentor to learn from going into the season. The situation that Sargent has been put into is the perfect circumstance for a young player to break out. He has multiple older mentors to look up to in Pizzaro and Max Kruse, and he has already had faith placed in him by his manager. This along with Sargent’s exceptional performances in preseason show all the signs of a breakout ready to happen.
Sergio Gomez // 17 // Borussia Dortmund
Leaving an academy as prestigious as Barcelona’s La Masia is a tough decision to make for any player, let alone one of the top prospects in the entire organization, but it appears to have been a perfect choice for seventeen-year-old Spanish midfielder Sergio Gomez. Gomez’s decision to move to Borussia Dortmund has instantly paid dividends. He was given his debut scarcely a month after signing for BVB in January of 2018, and Dortmund’s recent history of stellar youth development means that Gomez has every chance to make his mark on the first team.
Gomez’s midfield ability was on show in the U-17 world cup where he led Spain to the final. In the final, Gomez became the first player to ever record a brace at that level. Gomez is also a very versatile player, being able to play on both wings and in a number ten role as well. This versatility is very helpful for a young player because he will be given more opportunities due to injuries to players in multiple positions. While he will most likely play with the Dortmund U-19 team for the majority of the season, it is not out of the question for Gomez to make his mark on the Dortmund team at some point this season.
Keanan Bennetts // 19 // Borussia Monchengladbach
Nineteen year old English forward Keanen Bennetts swapped Tottenham for Borussia Monchengladbach over the summer in search of more playing time in senior football. Bennetts did not make a single appearance for Tottenham during his time there, but this lack of football should change due to his move to the Bundesliga. Bennetts follows the path of fellow English youngsters Jadon Sancho and Ademola Lookman in looking to the Bundesliga for opportunities, and both Sancho and Lookman were offered significant playing time for Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, respectively, and this trend is sure to continue for Bennetts.
Bennetts’ prolific strike rate at youth level for Tottenham and England ensure he will get looks with Monchengladbach’s senior team. This move also appears to be applauded by many people, including England U-21 Manager Aidy Boothroyd, who was quoted by the BBC as saying in reference to Bennetts, ”If players get a ceiling of development and think they can go play more football somewhere else, it’s good for them and should be part of their development.” Bennetts’ development can surely be furthered at a club such as Monchengladbach, and he is sure to make an impact on their first team as well. Bennett’s natural goal-scoring ability makes him a contender no matter the team, and with Monchengladbach scoring an extremely average 47 goals over 34 games, Bennetts has the opportunity to make his mark on the league this upcoming season.
Lukas Mai // 18 // Bayern Munich
Eighteen-year-old German center back Lukas Mai was the first in a hopeful new wave of young players that Bayern Munich hopes can make their squad more youthful as well as more homegrown. Not since David Alaba has a Bayern Munich academy player successfully made the breakthrough to the senior team, but Mai could be the one to buck this trend. He made two appearances at the end of the 2017/18 season, playing the full 90 minutes in both games, and while he may struggle for game time behind established options such as Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, Mai is sure to continue to get significant game time for Bayern in cup competitions.
With the Bayern Munich board’s recent pledge to promote and debut at least one youth prospect each season due to their recent lack of production from the youth system, Mai can easily be the poster child for this new generation of talent to emerge from the Bayern academy system. At 190 cm, Mai has the perfect build to be a great defender in the future, and he also has the tools to be a modern defender who can play out of the back, which is crucial in a game more and more focused on passing and technical ability at all levels of the pitch.
Gian-Luca Itter // 19 // Wolfsburg
Nineteen-year-old left back Gian-Luca Itter has already begun to establish himself as one of the hottest prospects in both the Wolfsburg academy and the German youth national teams. He has made five senior appearances for Wolfsburg and has been a mainstay on their U-19 team for several years. He was also given the Fritz Walter medal for the best U-17 player in Germany after the 2016/17 season. This prestigious award has been handed to the likes of world cup winners Mario Götze and Matthias Ginter, so this is high praise indeed. This honor, along with Itter’s complete composure under pressure, makes him a sure thing to have an extensive future for both club and country.
Itter’s composure under pressure was shown in his full Bundesliga debut when he was charged with man marking Dutch legend Arjen Robben of Bayern Munich. Itter performed above all expectation in this game, winning the second most tackles (11) on the entire pitch. While this statistic shows Itter’s defensive abilities, his ten assists in twenty-two U-19 Bundesliga games show that he is also a force to be reckoned with in attack. This two-way ability is crucial for a modern fullback. This all-around ability, along with his unflappable play, that ensures he will be able to claim the Wolfsburg left back spot as his own this upcoming season.
Read all our Talent Radar articles here
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