Here we take a look at the players who grabbed the attention with their performances in their debut season in the Bundesliga. From zeroes to heroes, these ten players certainly hit the ground running and became instant hits with their clubs.
Randal Kolo Muani (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Let’s start with the biggest success of them all- Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani. In terms of business alone, turning a free signing into a potential €100+ million player in twelve months shows just the career progression the French striker has had this season.
Largely unknown when arriving from Nantes, he made an instant impact with a debut goal from the bench against none other than Manuel Neuer in the matchday one defeat to Bayern Munich. He never looked back scoring 15 goals and providing a further 16 assists. He made the French World Cup squad and now looks destined to be snapped up by a ‘big’ club with his talent obvious to everyone after a stellar first year with Eintracht.
Danilho Doekhi (Union Berlin)
Union’s miraculous fourth place finish this season was built on the club knowing their strengths and playing to them. They conceded the joint-fewest goals this season along with Bayern (38) and the arrival of centre back Danilho Doekhi from Vitesse Arnhem on a free transfer was a major part of that.
The 24-year-old Dutchman formed an immediate understanding with fellow newcomer Diego Leite and was the rock upon which coach Urs Fischer could base his game plan. He was a big threat going forward for set-pieces and scored five league goals as well as one in the Europa League.
Micky van de Ven (VfL Wolfsburg)
Although VfL Wolfsburg defender Micky van de Ven made two starts previously for the club after joining in 2021 from Volendam, we’re bending the rules a bit to include him here as this was the breakout season where he went from a nobody to somebody.
He is deceivingly quick and was amongst the top ten fastest players clocked this season. He made the centre back position his own and was a guaranteed starter for Niko Kovac (missed just one game) with Maxence Lacroix and Sebastian Bornauw having to sometimes take a back seat. Rumours are already circulating that Liverpool are interested in him and with ex-Wolfsburg sporting director Jorg Schmadtke now at Anfield, there could be more than a little truth in it.
Andreas Hanche-Olsen (Mainz)
The January arrival of Norwegian defender Hanche-Olsen from KAA Gent added some much needed solidity to the Mainz back and coincided with a superb Rückrunde that saw the Nullfünfer almost achieve European qualification. The goals of Ludovic Ajorque grabbed the attention, but the impact of the centre back shouldn’t be overlooked. He missed just one game (suspension) for Bo Svensson after arriving for a mere €2.5 million.
Ko Itakura (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Itakura had a very impressive season for Schalke as they were crowned 2.Bundesliga champions in 2022 whilst on loan from Manchester City. The Königsblauen however couldn’t afford to make the move permanent so Borussia Mönchengladbach swooped in to sign the Japanese defender.
He settled in instantly at the Borussia Park and eased the loss of Matthias Ginter, who returned to Freiburg. Itakura stood out right from the start with his defensive awareness, passing and ability to bring the ball out from the back. He did receive two red cards, but overall a top first season in the top flight.
Mergim Berisha (Augsburg)
It took a while for 25-year-old Mergim Berisha to make it to the Bundesliga, but his arrival this season saw him instantly hit the goal trail for Augsburg. After starting in the youth ranks of RB Salzburg, he had various loans and then had a brief spell with FC Magdeburg in the 2.Liga before trying his luck in Turkey.
The Fuggerstädter signed him on an initial loan and were rewarded with nine goals and four assists in 23 appearances. His performances this season earned a call-up to Hansi Flick’s German national team. Augsburg look certain to exercise their €4 million option to buy.
Arne Engels (Augsburg)
The scouting department at FC Augsburg certainly came up trumps when spotting Arne Engels, but even more remarkable has been the way he instantly hit the ground running without having even made single appearance in the Belgian top flight. Signed from Club NXT in the Challenger Pro League, he was seen at first as one for the future, but Enrico Maaßen was convinced enough by what he saw to throw him in at the deep and the 19-year-old swam rather than sank.
His mature performances belie his inexperience and form-wise it became impossible to leave him out of the Augsburg starting XI.
Tom Krauß (Schalke)
Boyhood Schalke fan Tom Krauß arrived on loan from RB Leipzig and was a near ever-present (missed just two matches) and instantly endeared himself to the home support with a fighting attitude. He’s been nominated for the Bundesliga Rookie of the Year award and it’s very likely that based on this season, he will be remaining in the top flight despite Schalke’s demotion. The 21-year-old led the entire league for tackles made (112) and tackles won (68).
Kiliann Sildillia (Freiburg)
Like Micky van de Ven, the rules have been bent a little to accommodate Freiburg defender Kiliann Sildillia as he had previously appeared for the Breisgauer, but this season was the one where his name really resonated.
The 21-year-old had been on the fringes of the fringe players, but this season has played his way into Christian Streich’s first team with a series of consistently impressive performances. Playing at right back in a back four or as a wing back the Frenchman has looked comfortable and could be another player to really blossom under Streich.
Denis Huseinbašić (Köln)
It has been quite the rise for 21-year-old Denis Huseinbašić as one minute he’s in the Regionalliga-Süd in front of a crowd of 6,176, the next he’s in the Bundesliga scoring in the Rheinderby in front of 54,000. A meteoric rise if ever there was one.
The Köln midfielder signed from Kickers Offenbach for 50,000 was made just two appearances in the Regionalliga-West for Köln II before Steffen Baumgart called him up to the first team. He has taken no time at all to adjust to the higher level and looks set for a bright future at the Domstadt.