As the Bundesliga gears up for the new season, we at the Bundesliga Fanatic are looking at the players to watch ahead of the new campaign. For each club we bring you one key summer signing to keep an eye out for, as well as one up-and-coming young talent that could make a real impact this season.
Key Signing: Luca Kilian
Luca Kilian’s playing time in the Bundesliga was limited last season at Paderborn due to injury and then contracting Vovid-19, but the form he showed at the start of the season gave plenty of indications that he is more than capable of performing at the top level and Mainz have made an astute signing in bringing him to the Opel Arena.
The 21-year-old centre back made 15 appearances for Paderborn last season after joining from Borussia Dortmund’s U-19 side. He will provide competition for both Jeremiah St. Juste and Moussa Niakhaté and will be looking to improve upon the positive start he made last year.
“Luca Kilian fits perfectly to what we’re looking for: he is an immensely talented, highly trained German-speaking player who already has experience playing in the Bundesliga, despite his young age. We had a favourable opportunity to sign him, which we took in order to be well-equipped for the future,” said Mainz sporting director Rouven Schröder.
“Luca is physically robust on the one hand but also has pace, in addition to a strong character. Despite his young age, he managed to become a key part of Paderborn’s starting line-up and was able to impress with strong performances. An injury was the only thing to slightly delay his development. We are pleased that he is ready to take on this challenge of firmly establishing himself in the Bundesliga with Mainz 05.”
Young Star: Jonathan Burkardt
Burkardt scored his first goal for Mainz in only his second start for the Nullfünfer last season when he grabbed the first goal in their shock win over Borussia Dortmund on matchday 32. The win all but secured Bundesliga survival making it all the sweeter for the young striker.
The 20-year-old youth product will want to push on this season and add to his solitary Bundesliga strike. He has Jean-Philippe Mateta, Karim Onisiwo and Adam Szalai to compete with, but should trainer Achim Beierlorzer give him the playing time, then the U-21 international should repay him with goals.
Key Signing: Mark Uth
With money too tight to mention at the Veltins Arena summer signings are something coach David Wagner can only dream about. The onus on the club is to cash in on it’s existing assets in a fire sale that will bring in much needed funds as well as removing expensive wages from the budget.
The return of Mark Uth from his loan at Köln could be the key ‘arrival’ for the Königsblauen this summer (that is if the Geißböcke don’t sign him). Schalke were not exactly blessed with goals last season with Ahmed Kutucu scoring just three, Michael Gregoritsch one and Guido Burgstaller failing to find the net. Uth enjoyed his loan spell in the Domstadt scoring five times in the Rückrunde.
If the player can return to anywhere near the form he showed at Hoffenheim, which led to his original transfer to Gelsenkirchen in 2018, there may be a few more smiles at Schalke than were witnessed last season.
Young Star: Malick Thiaw
Trainer David Wagner is going to have little option than to give his younger players a chance this season with incoming transfers next to non-existent. Last season saw 19-year-old defender Malick Thiaw break into the first team making four appearances.
The 6ft 3inch centre back is quick, good in the air and confident in possession. He signed a contract extension at the end of last season, which came at a time when Liverpool were reportedly interested in triggering his release clause.
Schalke have Salif Sané and Ozan Kabak as their first-choice pairing at the back but expect Thiaw to be given the nod should either of them not be available. He has been favourably compared to former Schalke and current Liverpool player Joel Matip and if he develops as those in the know believe, a certain Jürgen Klopp might one day be returning to make enquiries.