Kai Havertz, Jadon Sancho and the Bundesliga wonderkids to watch out for in 2019/20


Every club has a hero – that one player who can change games in an instant – but in the Bundesliga they also all have a wonderkid, a prodigious youngster making waves among the senior pros. From Jadon Sancho and Kai Havertz through to some less familiar names, we shine the spotlight on the fresh-faced starlets to watch in each team this season.

Bayern Munich – Fiete Arp

Where will he play? That the 19-year-old striker has been signed to Bayern’s first-team squad is indication enough of how highly he is regarded, but realistically Arp may have to bide his time initially. Niko Kovac tended to play a 4-2-3-1 formation last season with Robert Lewandowski in the lone striker’s role. It will be tough to oust the Polish hitman outright, but as the only other recognised forward in the squad, Arp should still be given plenty of playing time with Bayern competing in three competitions.

Why you should be excited: Arp made history in 2017 with Hamburg by becoming the first person born in the year 2000 to play and score in the Bundesliga. He added another goal in 18 appearances that season and scored one in 17 outings in Bundesliga 2 last term, although he only started five times. Blessed with pace, power and a keen eye for goal, the prospect of Arp learning the ropes from Lewandowski can only mean good things.

Watch: Kovac on Arp

Borussia Dortmund – Jadon Sancho

Where will he play? On the right side of attack in the starting line-up is where! Sancho’s breakout season last term made him one of the first names on head coach Lucien Favre’s teamsheet, his 12 goals and 14 assists a key part of Dortmund’s title charge that ultimately fell just short of the line

Why you should be excited: Now a full England international and a year older and wiser, the 19-year-old is very much the real deal. The arrivals of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard provide extra competition for places in the wide attacking positions, but that is only likely to spur Sancho on to even greater heights. Expect plenty more dribbles, tricks, assists and goals.

Watch: Sancho’s Bundesliga Mixtape

RB Leipzig – Ibrahima Konate

Where will he play? At centre-back, no question. The 20-year-old played more minutes than any other defender at Leipzig last season, so his part in helping the team keep the stingiest defence in the Bundesliga (just 29 conceded) cannot be overstated. “Ibrahima’s developed brilliantly here so far and his qualities have led to him becoming an integral member of our defence,” said former head coach Ralf Rangnick. “We are convinced of his huge potential and think that he will take huge strides with us over the coming months and years.”

Why you should be excited: Football fans everywhere are familiar with the unbridled joy of watching a goal being scored, but there is an almost equal – if more subtle – pleasure in witnessing a masterful defender snuff out opposition chances. Konate is already exceptional, with his pace, strength and expert positioning among his key strengths. And given head coach Julian Nagelsmann’s track record of turning gifted youngsters into world-beaters, the sky really is the limit for Konate.

Bayer Leverkusen: Kai Havertz

Where will he play? In central attacking midfield, without doubt. Havertz is still just 20 but is already going into his fourth Bundesliga season as a professional, having enjoyed his finest campaign so far in 2018/19, registering 17 goals and three assists. Peter Bosz’s attack-minded playing style aligns perfectly with that of Havertz, who became a full Germany international last term.

Why you should be excited: With Brandt having departed for Dortmund, creative responsibility in the final third will fall even more heavily on the Leverkusen No.29’s shoulders – a task you suspect he will fulfil with aplomb. It will also be fascinating to see him link up with exciting new arrivals Kerem Demirbay and Moussa Diaby as Die Werkself look to improve on last season’s fourth-placed finish.

Watch: Havertz’s top 5 skills

Borussia Mönchengladbach: Florian Neuhaus

Where will he play? A central midfielder who is all about the passing, Neuhaus could be the beating heart of the Gladbach game under new coach Marco Rose. The 22-year-old, however, faces stiff competition in the centre of the pitch. Mickael Cuisance, Christoph Kramer and Denis Zakaria are all in contention for those central midfield spots, while Tobias Strobl also fulfils a more defensive role.

Why you should be excited: Neuhaus is currently one of the hottest young midfielders in Germany. He featured in all five games at the U21 Euros this summer, providing two assists while running the German game. Last season the 22-year-old set up eight goals in the Bundesliga – a league high for an outright central midfielder – and scored a further three himself after returning from a loan spell at Fortuna Düsseldorf with a Bundesliga 2 winner’s medal. You can assume there will be much more to come from the youngster under Rose this term.

Wolfsburg: Josip Brekalo

Where will he play? Brekalo made 25 Bundesliga appearances last season, starting 15 games, mostly as the left-sided attacker in a 4-2-3-1 formation under Bruno Labbadia. Predominately right-footed and able to cut inside and shoot or use his pace to go down the line, he has an instinctive understanding with left-back Jerome Roussillon that could prove decisive as new boss Oliver Glasner seeks to settle on his preferred starting XI.

Why you should be excited: Already a full international for Croatia, Brekalo featured for his country at the UEFA European Under-21 Championship this summer, memorably scoring twice as his side fought back three times to draw 3-3 with England. He is hard-wired to burst forward whenever he gets the ball and is likely to play an important role in a Wolfsburg team with renewed confidence after a successful 2018/19 season that saw them qualify for the UEFA Europa League group stage.

Dejan Joveljic (l.) is looking to fill the boots left by Luka Jovic (r.) in Eintracht Frankfurt’s attack. – imago/ getty images

Eintracht Frankfurt: Dejan Joveljic

Where will he play? Luka Jovic’s departure to Real Madrid has opened up a space in Frankfurt’s front line alongside Sebastien Haller and Ante Rebic. Goncalo Paciencia is another candidate to fill the vacancy, but as he is more of a similar player to Haller, summer arrival Joveljic is likely to be given every chance to make the place his own.

Why you should be excited: Still just 19, Joveljic is good with both feet and in the air. He scored eight times in 17 league games last term – nine of them starts – his strikes coming in at an extremely healthy rate of every 96 minutes played. With Haller, Rebic, Filip Kostic and Danny da Costa teeing up chance after chance, Joveljic will be relishing the prospect of getting stuck in at the Commerzbank-Arena.

Werder Bremen: Josh Sargent

Where will he play? Sargent is a natural-born goalscorer, so the closer he is to the opposition penalty area, the better! Head coach Florian Kohfeldt is a big fan of the 19-year-old USA international and looks set to continue giving him game time.

Why you should be excited: Sargent already has two Bundesliga goals to his name in just 205 minutes of action after making his debut last season. And after being omitted from the USA’s final Gold Cup squad, the Bremen No.19 will be more determined than ever to prove his worth at the highest level this term. Max Kruse’s departure means several players, including Johannes Eggestein, Claudio Pizarro and Niclas Füllkrug are jostling for berths up front. Can the Missouri native take his chance?

Watch: Sargent starts Bundesliga adventure with a bang

Hoffenheim: Joelinton

Where will he play? If last season is anything to go by, Joelinton will form part of the side’s attacking trio in a fluid 4-1-2-3 formation alongside Andrej Kramaric and Ishak Belfodil, though much will depend on how new head coach Alfred Schreuder, who was assistant to former boss Nagelsmann at the club until January 2018, wants his side to play.

Why you should be excited: The 22-year-old was one of the revelations at Hoffenheim in 2018/19, registering a respectable seven goals and five assists in his first full Bundesliga campaign. The Brazilian would surely have had more but for a knee injury that forced him to miss a large chunk of the latter stages of the campaign.

Fortuna Düsseldorf: Dawid Kownacki

Where will he play? The departures of fellow attackers Dodi Lukebakio and Benito Raman make the club’s signing of Kownacki on loan for another season all the more important. The Polish attacker is set to be the focal point of Düsseldorf’s forays forward as they attempt to retain their top-flight status for another year.

Why you should be excited: The 22-year-old scored four goals in just 10 Bundesliga outings on loan from Sampdoria in the second half of last season – including against Dortmund and Schalke – giving a glimpse of his promise in the final third. Having now adapted to life in Germany and with a full pre-season behind him, Kownacki should be able to burst out of the blocks.

A Polish striker with a keen eye for goal? Yup, now there’s two of them in the Bundesliga, with Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Dawid Kownacki (r.) joining Robert Lewandowski in Germany’s top flight. – imago/ZUMA Press

Hertha Berlin: Arne Maier

Where will he play? A defensive midfielder by trade, Maier is one of the unsung heroes in the Hertha team. He rarely puts a foot wrong or gives the ball away, and is the link between defence and attack for the capital club.

Why you should be excited: Maier was a key member of Germany’s squad that finished as runners-up at the U21 Euros this summer. He made 24 league outings last season – only missing out due to injury, rather than form – and is expected to be a cornerstone of the Hertha team again this term. “He’s shown how much potential he has,” said sporting director Michael Preetz in 2018/19. “We’re convinced that his great development up to now is far from over.”

Mainz: Jean-Phillipe Mateta

Where will he play? The Frenchman is once again set to lead from the front for Mainz in 2019/20.

Why you should be excited: Why wouldn’t you be excited is the more pertinent question. The 22-year-old is a mobile, pacy frontman with a wicked left foot and the France U21 international has become a genuine talisman for Mainz. He had an incredible debut Bundesliga season in 2018/19, hitting 14 goals and two assists to help Mainz steer well clear of relegation trouble after flirting with the drop in the two previous campaigns.

Freiburg: Luca Waldschmidt

Where will he play? As a forward, likely to be off the shoulder of main striker Nils Petersen.

Why you should be excited: Have you been hiding away all summer? Waldschmidt took the U21 Euros by storm in Italy, smashing in seven goals – including a stunning long-range hit against Austria – to finish as the tournament’s top scorer. With confidence riding high from that achievement, the left-footed 23-year-old will be looking to better his haul of nine goals and one assist in the Bundesliga last season.

Luca Waldschmidt lit up the UEFA U21 EURO this summer, finishing the tournament as top scorer in seven goals. – imago images / DeFodi

Schalke: Weston McKennie

Where will he play? Good question. Last season he played at full-back, centre-back, central midfield and up front, so the American could pop up anywhere! McKennie has said, however, that he is most comfortable as a box-to-box midfielder.

Why you should be excited: The 20-year-old recently signed a contract extension at Schalke and is now going into his third full season as a pro. He’s long been adept at winning tackles and making timely interceptions, and looks to have added goalscoring to his repertoire after netting in back-to-back games for the US at the Gold Cup.

Augsburg: Marco Richter

Where will he play? Richter made 17 Bundesliga starts for Augsburg last term and will compete for a place in attack alongside Alfred Finnbogason, Sergio Cordova and Florian Niederlechner.

Why you should be excited: Richter didn’t score in the Bundesliga last term until Matchday 29, his goals coinciding with the arrival of
Martin Schmidt as head coach at the beginning of April. Once the dam was broken, however, the 21-year-old couldn’t stop finding the net. He hit four in the final six games of the season and added another three at the U21 Euros in Italy over the summer.

Watch: Richter hits a brace in a thumping win over Stuttgart

Cologne: Jorge Mere

Where will he play? The Spain U21 international was a staple in Cologne’s backline as they roared to the Bundesliga 2 title in 2018/19, starting 26 of the team’s 34 league games at centre-back, where he is set to be a starter again this term.

Why you should be excited: The 22-year-old was part of Spain’s European Under-21 Championship-winning squad this summer, even if he did not feature in the final. Robust in the tackle, composed on the ball and with excellent distribution from the back, Mere plays with a maturity beyond his years.

Paderborn: Sebastian Vasiliadis

Where will he play? The 21-year-old took Bundesliga 2 by storm in his maiden season in the division in 2018/19 and is able to operate anywhere across the midfield, although he is at his most effective in a central attacking role.

Why you should be excited: Promoted sides often struggle for goals in the top flight, but Paderborn may just be immune to that particular ailment thanks to Vasiliadis. Diminutive, agile and with superb vision, he scored six goals and provided 10 assists last season – meaning he had a hand in over 21 per cent of his team’s total, 76 – to help Paderborn earn promotion. Their hopes of survival could hinge on Vasiliadis hitting the ground running in his maiden Bundesliga campaign.

One to watch: Sebastian Vasiliadis will be charged with unlocking opposition defences for Paderborn this season. – imago images / Team 2

Union Berlin: Lennard Maloney

Where will he play? A defensive specialist, the 19-year-old can play at both centre-back and right-back.

Why you should be excited: A dual German-American citizen, Maloney missed most of last season due to his academic commitments, but with his focus now fully on playing football, it will be intriguing to see how he adapts. He is held in such high regard at Union that he was awarded a contract extension in April this year – despite not playing.

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