Over the last few seasons, Bundesliga has produced some of the most sensational talents in European football. And very often, these youngsters have popped up from clubs that were not expected to do too well, propelled their clubs to almost unheard of heights and then left for greener pastures. Marco Reus with Gladbach, Lewis Holtby with Mainz, Mesut Özil with Schalke and Werder Bremen are just a few of starlets that have come out of the Bundesliga.
With the 2012-13 season in full flow now, the likes of Reus, Holtby, Julian Draxler, Toni Kroos and Mario Götze have stolen the headlines so far. But there has been a duo that has impressed a great deal so far and helped their sides phenomenally.
To start off, let’s take a look at the gem from Zimbabwe. Knowledge Musona started his senior career with the South African club, Kaiser Chiefs. Then 19-year-old Musona was a surprise addition to the Chiefs as he had not made a single appearance in Zimbabwe’s top league. Musona wasn’t a regular starter for the Chiefs either, but made a considerable number of appearances of the bench. The youngster, used as a support striker, hit the net three times in his first two starts and began to cement his place in the starting XI.
In the following season, Musona was a regular for the chiefs and managed to net a respectable total of 17 goals in 31 appearances. The youngster also impressed greatly in the qualifiers for the African Cup of Nations, scoring four goals in four games. All these good showings were greatly increasing Musona’s value and beginning to catch the attention of bigger clubs in Europe.
Musona was shipped off to Bundesliga side Hoffenheim to embark on his European journey. But things weren’t going to be easy for the young attacker. Hoffenheim boasted of a number of quality attackers including Vedad Ibisevic, Ryan Babel and Srdjan Lakic. And as expected, Musona struggled to get playing time.
Musona had to make do with 20-minute cameos and was unable to greatly impress then coach, Ralf Rangnick. To add to this, Musona’s lack of goals didn’t help and began to reduce his playing time over the course of the season, especially after Marco Pezziuoli took over at the club. Club football might not have been fine and dandy for the striker but his performances for country were more than impressive. His crowning moment came when he scored a brace against South Africa in friendly to give his side a moral-boosting victory.
In the summer of 2012, Hoffenheim brought in Eren Derdiyok and Joselu, but also got rid of a number of their strikers including Musona. The 22-year-old Zimbabwean was sent on loan to fellow Bundesliga relegation probables, Augsburg. With the shocking managerial change at the end of last season, Augsburg have looked a side meant for the 2.Bundesliga as they failed to impress even in the slightest over the first few weeks of this season.
At Augsburg, Musona has been used as a right-winger – a position fairly alien to him. Yet, this young lad has been the only bright spark in an otherwise woeful start to the season for Markus Weinzierl and his Augsburg side. Ever since his injury earlier this season, Musona has almost single-handedly kept the Augsburg train running and his top performance came against Werder Bremen a couple of weeks ago. Coincidentally, it was Augsburg’s only win this season. The one aspect of Musona’s game that is still under par is his finishing. The converted winger is yet to score in the Bundesliga and has just one goal to his name in an Augsburg shirt.
Let’s travel back to the 2006-07 season but not to the Bundesliga. We’re going to have to go all the way down to Regionalliga Nord where Hertha Berlin’s reserve side played their football. They had just signed an 18-year-old Guinean who was by no means a highly-touted player. Ibrahima Traore was no sensation for Hertha BSC II and they were relegated to the Oberliga Nord at the end of the season.
Traore was able to shine in the lower division, impressing enough to earn one appearance for the senior side. Unfortunately for the Guinean, his stay with the main team was as short as he could have imagined and he was back in the Oberliga. This did not deter the young winger and he played an important role in helping his side return to the Regionalliga Nord for the 08-09 season.
This season proved to be Traore’s breakout season as he scored seven goals and provided eleven assists for Hertha BSC II. The side managed to stay afloat that year and Traore was set to move to the 2.Bundesliga as Augsburg had signed him. Traore was an instant hit at Augsburg, scoring two goals and assisting one. This set the tone for the rest of his season as he went on to match his statistics from the previous season.
Augsburg managed to finish in third place and qualify for the promotion match against Nuremberg. After this dream run, the Bavarian side would have hoped for more magic from the French-born Guinean but Traore’s end to the season was marred by a sending off in the second leg of this tie. This also sealed Augsburg’s fate and the Fuggerstädter had to wait a little longer for their first-ever promotion to Germany’s top flight.
The following season started slowly for Traore and it was only around match-day nine that he started to provide with the frequency of the last few seasons. Just when the budding winger was getting into his stride, injury struck him and he was ruled out for a few months. His return was slow and he was unable to make any impact that year, but Augsburg still managed to earn promotion for the first time in their history.
Despite the injury and an uneventful season, Traore was signed by high-flying Stuttgart. In his debut season with the Swabians, Traore was used sparingly and managed just one start in the Bundesliga. But just like Musona, Traore was able to impress when playing for his country. Traore managed to hit two goals and assist four times in just six games for Guinea that year.
The current season has started off in completely contrasting fashion to last season. Traore has been hugely important for Stuttgart and it is his inclusion in the starting XI that seems to have catalysed Stuttgart’s rise up the table. With Labbadia’s confidence in Traore only growing with every performance, it only remains a matter of time before this energetic winger turns into one of the top players at the Mercedes Arena.
Both Musona and Traore are going to be immensely influential to their sides’ aspirations this season and will probably be hoping to rise to even greater heights after this season. With Hoffenheim and Augsburg struggling, Musona might well decide to move to one of the Bundesliga’s bigger clubs and there is no doubt that he would be welcomed by most. Traore’s performances in the Bundesliga have been impressive but he should begin to perform in the Europa League if he is to catch the eye of one of Europe’s top sides. Keep a close watch on these speedy, energetic and highly-talented wingers.