By Enis Koylu
Since the radical re-think in Germany’s approach to youth development in the wake of the national team’s failure at Euro 2000, the Bundesliga has seen a multitude of young talents emerge, with many of them establishing themselves at both club and international level.
But there is a whole new generation breaking through. Die Mannschaft‘s youth ranks have been in impressive form in recent tournaments, and the country’s top flight will soon be awash with a fresh batch of talent to complement the current crop.
And Goal.com are here to take a look at some of the players who could make a name for themselves in the Bundesliga in 2012-13, following in the footsteps of the stars.
Alaba has long been touted with a big future in the game, but it was only last year that he began to take massive strides, and the Austrian now looks to have sealed his place in Jupp Heynckes’ starting XI. A midfielder by trade, Bayern’s full-back woes eventually led to the 20-year-old being shifted to the left side of defence.
And the change paid instant dividends. Bayern were able to halt a run of sub-par performances, and their good form carried them through to the Champions League final. He was unfortunate to miss the clash with Chelsea through suspension, but showcased his maturity by tucking home a penalty against Real Madrid in the semi-final, having already picked up a heartbreaking yellow card.
Having sustained a pre-season injury, he will miss the early part of 2012-13, but will hope to return as soon as possible and establish himself as one of the Bundesliga’s elite full-backs.
Amid the horror show that was Bayer Leverkusen’s 7-1 loss to Barcelona at Camp Nou in March, there was one bright spark: a young attacker by the name of Karim Bellarabi.
After Lionel Messi had made everyone perfectly aware of the gulf in quality between the two sides, the Germany Under-21 striker made his way from the bench, and scored a spectacular 90th minute strike so Robin Dutt’s side had something to show for their 3,400 kilometre round trip.
With Eren Derdiyok leaving the BayArena for Hoffenheim this summer, and Stefan Kiessling’s form perennially fluctuating, the 22-year-old will receive more playing time, and should be able to truly announce himself to a Bundesliga audience.
While it seems like an age since Julian Draxler took his first strides into the Schalke first team, the Germany international is still astonishingly young. Throughout last season, he balanced his footballing career with academic commitments, but has since finished school, and won his first cap for his country.
With Raul departed and Tranquillo Barnetta being snapped up on a free transfer, Draxler is widely expected to shift inside to take the Spaniard’s slot behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. A big ask, you might say, but having spent over a year in the public eye, the 18-year-old prodigy seems more than capable of shouldering the burden.
And who knows? Perhaps he could even help Schalke to their first national title since 1958.
Mehmet Ekici enjoyed a modest first season at Werder Bremen after moving to the Weserstadion last summer from Nurnberg, but after a summer of change at the club, he can be expected to step into a key role in the coming campaign as Thomas Schaaf looks to put his faith in youth.
Prior to a season-ending injury at the beginning of April, the Turkey international, who represented Germany at youth level, was showing signs of improvement, Still, his latter performances have been rewarded with the No.10 shirt.
If Bremen are to achieve their goal of re-establishing themselves amongst Germany’s elite, the 22-year-old will surely be critical to their plans.
While Marco Reus stole the headlines with his performances for Borussia Monchengladbach last year, he was aided by a very able supporting cast. Juan Arango and Mike Hanke were already known quantities, but Patrick Herrmann surprised everyone.
A tricky winger with a fantastic cross, he was devastating for Lucien Favre’s side at times, not least in their commanding 3-1 victory over Bayern Munich in January, and was touted with a potential call-up to Germany’s preliminary squad for Euro 2012.
The nod from Low did not come, but with the likes of Luuk de Jong and Granit Xhaka joining the Foals’ squad, he may well win his place in the national side over the course of next season.
Another star to leave Borussia Park for pastures new after Gladbach’s extraordinary 2011-12 season was Roman Neustadter. However, with the acquisition of former Basel player Xhaka, the Schalke-bound midfielder does not seem to be a loss by any stretch of the imagination.
The 19-year-old was a key cog in the side that shocked Manchester United in the Champions League. He was chased by a host of Bundesliga clubs going into the new season, but his compatriot Lucien Favre has managed to convince him that his future lies at Borussia Park.
With a young set of team-mates, and an ambitious, well-run club, the stage is set for Xhaka to set Germany alight in the coming seasons.