Since the early decade, the rise of English Premier League, La Liga and Serie A seemed to have dismissed the charm of Bundesliga to oblivion. Things got changed last season when Bayern Munich reached the final of the Champions League. Performance of Germany in the recently concluded Wolrd Cup ensured the much awaited resurgence of Bundesliga.
Last season proved to be the pinnacle of DFB’s effort to construct the future of German football. A number of wunderkids took centrestage, outperforming their more renowned elders. Oezil, Müller, Marin, Kroos, Hummels, Höwedes and many more confirmed that the future is promising for Bundesliga.
Here is a list of five Bundesliga footballers who can make it large on the grandest stage –
5) Ilkay Gündoğan(FC Nuremberg)
Preferred Role: Playmaker
The playmaker from Nuremberg has had a meteoric rise since joining the club last year. His early years with Bochum in the German second divisions proved detrimental to his developments. He started in only two games for Bochum’s reserve side in Regionaliga, in fourth division.
Things have changed since joining Nuremberg. He inspired Nuremberg to get promoted to bundesliga and is not done yet. So far the 1.8m midfielder has scored thrice and assisted once in this season. In the game against Wolfsburg, he scored once while assisting another, and against Bremen he scored a brace, claiming attention of a club of Manchester United’s stature.
The playmaker has a powerful shot and good dribbling ability in his armory. He is a reliable free-kick taker and his dynamic style of play adds a dimension to the way Nurnberg play. If he can improve on his defensive abilities and the physicality required for the rigours of a long season, he can become a more complete midfielder. He has already represented Germany at U-18, U-19, U-20 and U-21 levels. But the player of Turkish descent wishes to play for his motherland.
4) Lewis Holtby(Mainz – on loan from Schalke)
Preferred Role: Attacking Midfielder, Winger.
One of the best young wingers in Germany, Lewis Holtby has been impressive over the last few years, at both the club level and at various German national youth team levels. He started his career at the age of four with Sparta Gerderath. After a move to Borussia Mönchengladbach, which can be considered as a failure to him, Holtby joined Alemannia Aachen at 14.
Soon he was promoted from the youth academy of Alemannia Aachen, skipping the reserves squad, directly to the senior squad. He made immediate impact and gazumped 10 assists and 8 goals in 31 Bundesliga II matches. He was included to play for the German youth team and has so far managed to score 5 goals in various International youth divisions for Germany.
The diminutive all-round attacker has quick feet and good crossing abilities and he is comfortable on both feet. He often produces dangerous plays and has the potential to become a great winger. Though born to an English father, Holtby has affirmed that he wants to represent the senior German national team and not to play for England.
Manchester United and Arsenal were rumored to be interested in his services during his Alemannia Aachen days. But he, just like his father- an Everton faithful, confirmed that he wishes to join the blue half of Merseyside sometime in future.
Currently Holtby is on a season long loan from Schalke to Mainz, to get first team experience. So far he has scored two goals and contributed seven assists for Mainz. The current Germany U21 captain has represented Germany in U18, U19, U20 divisions as well. Following Mainz’s thrashing of Hoffenheim in which Holtby set up three assists, Löw said, “Holtby’s assist (on the first goal of the game) was alone worth the price of admission.” Last week Löw gave Holtby his first appearance for the national team and the way things are shaping up, the number of appearance will only increase.
3) Andre Schürrle(FSV Mainz 05)
Preferred Role: Attacking Midfielder, Winger, Forward.
Since the start of the new season of Bundesliga, it has been a rollercoaster ride full of surprises. Mainz claimed top spot till the ninth game of the season. Andre Schürrle is one of the footballing reasons behind Mainz’s cinderella story. Schürrle joined the Mainz youth academy from Ludwigshafener SC in 2006. He helped Mainz win the German A Youth cup in 2009 – earning him third place in Fritz Walter medal for being the best player at his age level.
Schürrle was soon promoted to the Mainz senior team in season 2009-10 at the age of 19. The 1.84m forward finished the season with 5 goals and 8 assists in 25 starts. Things got better this season. The super sub made an immediate impact in his first game of the season against Wolfsburg when his side was trailing by three goals before the break. Schürrle inspired the team to win the game and scored the equalizer as well.
He went on to score in three successive matches after coming on as a substitute. So far this season, the lanky prodigy has scored four goals and knotted two assists – attracting interests from the crème de la crème of European football. Though Mainz officials denied letting go off their prized asset, their resolve was finally broken when Schürrle accepted Bayer Leverkusen’s offer to join them from next summer.
Schürrle can play as a wide forward or as an inside forward down the right or even as an attacking midfielder. He can play down both the flanks, though he was preferred to play down the right for his club. The young gun has got great pace and acceleration. He possesses a great first touch and good ball control albeit being a lanky cutomer. He has represented Germany in the U19, U20 and U21 category already. German national team coach Jaochim Löw monitored Schürrle’s development closely and handed him his first cap for the Nationalmannschaft last week, in the international friendly against Sweden. If Schürrle improves his heading and his strength to hold off defenders, he can really develop into one of the very best players in world football.
2) Mario Götze(Borussia Dortmund)
Preferred Role: Attacking Midfield, Winger.
Heralded as the next biggest thing in German football, Mario Götze has shot to fame through Borussia Dortmund’s academy. In 2009, he helped Dortmund’s A youth team to finish the tournament as runners up. He won the Fritz Walter medal for being the best youth player at his age level – U17 and U18 – in successive years 2009 and 2010. He captained the German U17 team to European Championship glory and also won the best player award for scoring three goals and following it up with two assists.
Last year Götze broke into the first eleven for Dortmund. Manager Klopp did not try to rush things up for him – he allowed him to play mainly as a substitute, thus gaining experience of plying at the top level. This year, though, Götze has played in all but one game in the Bundesliga. Götze announced his arrival on the highest platform when he scored a brace to give Dortmund their first victory in group league game against Karpaty Lviv in Europa League. He has scored two goals and has set up four this season in Bundesliga. In the game of the season, in which a young Dortmund faced a resurrected Mainz team for the battle of pole position in Bundesliga, Götze inspired Dortmund to win the game away from home, scoring the opener and assisting the second.
The attacking midfielder is comfortable on both feet. His balance, first touch and silky dribbling sets him a class apart. Götze has shown that his technically skilled game from the wing or down the middle works very well in Klopp’s 4-2-3-1. He has already been compared to Dortmund and German legend Andreas Möller. In the words of another Dortmund legend Matthias Sammer, “He is one of the biggest talents that we have ever had. He is an extraordinary player, has good quickness, is enormously creative and has tremendously technical skills.”
1) Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund)
Preferred Role: Attacking Midfielder.
Kagawa has been the chief architect of Borussia Dortmund’s success this season. Dortmund signed him on a free transfer from Cerezo Osaka where the wizard of the east had enjoyed four successful years. The young Japanese international relegated any angst of language barrier to oblivion and focused on football right from the first game for BVB.
Kagawa set up Lucas Barrios in his very first match in the German Cup. Then he scored twice in the Europa league playoff against Qarabag Agdam to help Dortmund qualify for the competition. In his very third Bundesliga game, Kagawa opened his account against Wolfsburg.
Soon Kagawa shot to the hearts of the Dortmund faithful by scoring twice against archrivals Schalke in Revierderby, making him only the third Japanese to score two goals in a match in Bundesliga. “We knew that Shinji was a really good footballer. But we did not know that the adjustment would go so quickly. The kid is 21 years old, leaves his family back home and has an interpreter as attachment figure. And now his name is in the history books,” said Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp.
So far this season, the inspirational midfielder has scored six times and knotched up two assists. He is comfortable on both feet and prefers to play as an advanced playmaker, roaming around the midfield and shifting to either of the flanks; and at times, he even gets forward to accompany Barrios, the lone striker. His creativity in the midfield and as an auxilliary striker impressed Pep Guardiola and the Barcelona manager was reportedly interested in signing him.
Noted Omissions: Gylfi Sigurðsson(Hoffenheim), Deniz Naki(St. Pauli), Moritz Leitner(1860 Munich), Stefan Bell(1860 Munich-loan from Mainz), Peniel Mlapa(Hoffenheim).