The return of the Bundesliga after the enforced Corona virus shutdown has seen the established stars of German football back in action. The new five substitutes rule and the congested fixture list has also given coaches the chance to give some game time to some up and coming stars. Here is the lowdown on some of the new names appearing in the topflight for the first time.
The player to have grabbed the most headlines so far has been Bayer Leverkusen’s 17-year-old Florian Wirtz. He was surprisingly handed his full debut against Werder Bremen on matchday 26 and then broke Nuri Sahin’s youngest Bundesliga scorer record when he scored against Bayern Munich as a substitute aged 17 years and 34 days.
Wirtz was rather controversially lured away from the 1.FC Köln youth system and signed to the Werkself. “I knew a lot of clubs were interested and then we thought that before he went anywhere else, let’s try to get him to join us and stay at home. I’ve known the player since he was 14.” head of youth Simon Rolfes said.
With Julian Brandt gone, Kai Havertz soon to follow, Leverkusen look to have a ready-made young talent to step up to the plate.
Jessic Ngankam/ Lazar Samardzic
Hertha Berlin’s new coach Bruno Labbadia has impressed with the start he has made at the Olympiastadion and his willingness to blood some of the club’s youth players has been a feature of his opening tenure.
After scoring 11 goals in 22 matches and providing 11 assists in the Regionalliga Nordost, and with Salomon Kalou suspended, 19-year-old striker Jessic Ngankam was called up to the first team squad and so far has made 3 substitute appearances for die Alte Dame.
“Jessic has a great attitude. He has a very good physique and is extremely powerful. And he’s worked intensively to get his emotions under control on the pitch” U-19 coach Michael Hartmann has explained. With Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach sniffing about reports claim Hertha have tied him to a professional contract.
Another of Hertha’s ‘Golden Generation’ to be given his chance has been midfielder Lazar Samardzic, who we’ve profiled recently. The 18-year-old number 10 has made 3 appearances from the bench and clearly has a bright future ahead of him with the likes of Milan and Barcelona already keeping close tabs on his progress.
Ilay Emkies/ Melayro Bogarde
Hoffenheim may have parted with coach Alfred Schreuder, but not before the Dutch trainer handed debuts to two of the club’s up and coming starlets. 20-year-old Israeli midfielder Ilay Emkies has literally only had the briefest of cameos (against Hertha) but it should the start of his Bundesliga journey.
He has long been earmarked as a talent following some excellent displays for the U19 side in the youth Champions League and he has already been compared to Thiago Alcantara in style. After impressing further at the club’s January training camp in Spain, he was called up to the TSG first-team squad.
The name Bogarde may ring some bells, and that’s because Melayro Bogarde the nephew of Ajax’s Champions League winning defender and current Jong Ajax assistant Winston.
Two days after his 18th birthday, the defender became the youngest Dutchman to ever feature in the Bundesliga as he made his debut in Hoffenheim’s 1-0 victory over Mainz. A yellow card in the first half saw him subbed at the break, but there will be plenty more chances for the versatile defender.
Borussia Dortmund fans must have been wondering when they were ever going to get to see their young Spanish defender on the pitch having only witnessed him sitting on the BVB bench this season. However, with the onset of the five-sub rule, Lucien Favre gave him some game time against both Paderborn and Hertha Berlin.
The graduate from Barcelona’s La Masia academy provided the assist that allowed Jadon Sancho to complete his hat trick against Paderborn and his hope will be that before the end of the season he gets more time to impress and stake a claim ahead of next season.
Manager Michael Zorc was impressed with the youngsters debut saying: “Mateu’s appearance on Sunday was the well-deserved reward for his hard work. And even if it was only a short assignment and we already led when he was brought in, he still did his job well. He didn’t get nervous and put his ball skills to good use.”
Can Bozdogan/ Jonas Hofmann
Schalke’s Rückrunde has been one to forget with a club record winless streak, but the one light in the storm has been the opportunities given to two youth players with the club experiencing a crippling injury crisis.
Against Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 31, a full debut was given to U-19 captain Can Bozdogan in midfield. Although normally a central midfielder, the fearless youngster was put on the left side of an orthodox 4-4-2 and he showed no sign of nerves and put in a highly polished performance.
He showed awareness, composure, and wasn’t afraid of trying an ambitious ball. He completed three take-ons and created a single chance, modest figures, but a fine start, nonetheless.
“The morning before the game we had another short session” he said following his debut. “It was beginning that I could be in the starting line-up. Then David Wagner spoke to me again. I was very happy. Of course, I was also excited, especially in the minutes immediately before the kick-off.
“Of course, we would have liked to have got all three points, but in the end the result is deserved, I think. Leverkusen had a lot of possession, and also good chances.”
His fellow Schalke II midfielder Jonas Hofmann also got his first action as a first teamer- albeit for just the final few minutes plus stoppage time.
Paderborn may be going down this season, but not before they have handed some invaluable Bundesliga action to some of their youngsters. With Uwe Hünemeier suspended and Luca Kilian still out injured a full debut was given to the 20-year-old centre back and it was to be quite the baptism of fire as Werder Bremen hit five goals.
It looks likely that any further first-team action might be taking place next season in the 2. Bundesliga.