The Hard Tackle looks at five youngsters who could be destined to make a breakthrough for Borussia Dortmund in the coming season.
As modernity spreads its grip on football, the sport has required more athleticism and youthful exuberance. As a result, more and more young players are becoming an influential part of the game, with players like Erling Haaland, Kylian Mbappe and Joao Felix being the prime examples (each of the three have featured in the FIFA 21 trailer, in what was a part of a marketing ploy by EA Sports).
This past season, we have seen a bunch of unknown young players making their mark at the highest level of football. And we can pretty much expect the same as we head towards a rushed start to the new campaign.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we are introducing a series, which will shed light on five such unknown youngsters from each club, each of whom are ready to make their mark at the top level at any given moment.
The first entry to this list is Borussia Dortmund, a club famed for its ability to nurture young talents and make them footballing superstars. No wonder it is also home to two of the biggest youngsters in world football in Jadon Sancho and Haaland. And here, in this article, we present five more players who are ready to follow their footsteps.
[Writer’s Notes: We are only considering players who are yet to make an impact in Europe and have played less than 90 minutes of professional football, so youngsters like Jude Bellingham and Giovanni Reyna have not been mentioned on this list]
Youssoufa Moukoko is the most obvious one on this list, having been regarded as arguably the most talented young player in Germany at the moment.
The striker, aged only 15, has enjoyed immense success in the youth levels. Last season, in particular, he netted a whopping 34 goals in just 20 matches while playing for the Borussia Dortmund Under-19 team, in the Under-19 Bundesliga West. Prior to that season, Moukoko scored 45 goals in the Under-17 Bundesliga West, at the age of just 14.
Such performances in the youth competitions seem to have forced Bundesliga to change their rules earlier this summer, reducing the minimum playing age from 17 to 16. It means Moukoko could be eligible to play in the German top flight in November, when he turns 16.
And Borussia Dortmund are more than aware of that, having already promoted him to the first-team. In fact, he has been training with the senior side in the pre-season tour to Switzerland.
The Black and Yellows have not signed a backup striker for Erling Haaland, which shows just how much faith they have in Moukoko, who is primarily known for his ability to find himself in scoring situations. The youngster also has a bulky figure and is hard to dispossess, which explains why he has thrived even against older players.
Another important aspect in Moukoko’s game is his phenomenal pace, meaning he is quite similar to Haaland himself so it will be interesting to see how these two develop at Borussia Dortmund next season.
Originally stemming from the AZ Alkmaar youth academy, Immanuel Pherai is another player who has received a promotion to the senior side this summer.
The Dutchman is primarily identified as a classic number ten, who loves to take on defenders and carry the ball forward in the final third. However, Pherai’s biggest asset is his sublime passing range as he is capable of providing long, accurate diagonal even from deeper areas of the pitch.
The 19-year-old, as a result, has been making waves in the German youth levels. He notably registered five assists in just six UEFA Youth League matches for Borussia Dortmund this past season while being involved in four goals in 12 matches in Under-19 Bundesliga West.
Pherai’s impressive performances have rightly earned him a call-up to the senior side. And following the departure of Mario Gotze, the playmaker will be hopeful of a potential breakthrough at Borussia Dortmund next season.
However, a lot could depend on how he performs in the ongoing pre-season preparation in Bad Ragaz. The youngster was influential in the win over Altach and he will be hoping for a similar run of form in the coming games.
Tobias Raschl is considered to be the next big midfield product coming from the Borussia Dortmund youth academy, which is why it comes as no surprise that he is the only player on this list who has already made a first-team appearance for the Black and Yellows.
A defensive midfielder by trade, Raschl’s rise to prominence began in the 2018/19 season when he played a key role for Borussia Dortmund Under-19 side in the Under-19 Bundesliga West, making 20 appearances and scoring four goals. He was also involved in seven matches in the UEFA Youth League before getting promoted to the first-team last summer.
Raschl was, in fact, tipped to make a breakthrough during the start of January, following the shock departure of Julian Weigl that created a massive void in the holding midfield role, especially with Thomas Delaney not exactly at his best.
However, that situation got complicated following the arrival of Emre Can, who is now an indispensable figure in Lucien Favre’s tactical setup at Dortmund. But, Raschl, who is known for his technical prowess and an ability to dictate the tempo of the game in midfield, is still considered to be a part of the club’s future, especially with Axel Witsel nearing the final phase of his carer.
The 20-year-old could, therefore, become the face of the Borussia Dortmund midfield alongside new signing Jude Bellingham. And unlike other players on this list, Raschl is also quite well-known and it will be interesting to see these two players develop at Signal Iduna Park within the coming years.
Not to be confused with SC Paderborn man, Jamilu Collins, Nnamdi Collins is simply considered to be one of the most gifted defensive talents at BVB. So much so, even clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City have shown a keen interest in signing the 16-year-old centre-back.
A captain of the German Under-16 international team, Collins currently plays for the Borussia Dortmund Under-19s, but has been invited to the club’s pre-season training in Switzerland. His style of play is often compared to Mats Hummels as the youngster also likes to march forward with the ball and provide laser passes in between the lines.
Collins’s biggest feature, however, is the imposing 1.91m frame that gives him a considerable advantage in aerial and physical duels, which is why the 16-year-old has simply dominated the youth competitions.
Among all the other players on this list, Collins has the best chance of actually making an impact in the Borussia Dortmund side as the club clearly lacks depth in the centre-back slot.
With Leonardo Balerdi moving to Marseille on loan and Lukasz Piszczek announcing his retirement, the native of Dusseldorf could potentially become a key member of the Dortmund backline if he can replicate his performances at the highest level of football. He may have to remain patient with his chances, however.
Over the years, the goalkeeping department has not been Borussia Dortmund’s strong suit, with Roman Burki constantly failing to maintain a level of consistency in his game while Marwin Hitz has been even more inconsistent. But, in Luca Unbehaun, they might have a gem on their hands.
A native of Bochum, Unbehaun has been playing for Borussia Dortmund since 2017, when he joined the youth ranks before eventually getting promoted to the first-team last summer.
Although Unbehaun is yet to make a single appearance for the senior side, he is constantly touted as Dortmund’s future goalkeeper due to his performances in the youth competitions. The 19-year-old is also a regular for the German youth international team and was one of the best players when Borussia Dortmund Under-17 won the Under-17 Bundesliga back in 2018.
Often known for his towering 1.85m figure, Unbehaun is regularly compared to Bayern Munich’s Christian Fruchtl, with the two being regarded as the future of Germany’s goalkeeping position.
And after having failed to make a single appearance for BVB, Unbehaun is ready to make a breakthrough in the upcoming season especially given the fact that there will be a lot of pressure on Burki, who is coming on the back of a below-par 2019/20 campaign.
In fact, it won’t be surprising to see Unbehaun starting ahead of Hitz in the earlier rounds of the DFB Pokal next season and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure of playing at the highest level of football.