A quintet of Bundesliga youngsters are hoping to dethrone Germany at the 2023 U21 Euros. - © DFL
A quintet of Bundesliga youngsters are hoping to dethrone Germany at the 2023 U21 Euros. - © DFL

5 non-German Bundesliga players to watch at the U21 Euros


When France trio Mohamed Simakan, Amine Adli and Kouadio Kone, and Netherlands duo Micky van de Ven and Ryan Gravenberch feature for their countries at this summer's UEFA U21 Euros, everyone will see the quality Bundesliga fans are already very familiar with.

bundesliga.com goes full focus on the quintet who will look to lead their nations to glory in Romania and Georgia.

Mohamed Simakan 

Club: RB Leipzig

2022/23 Bundesliga (goals+assists/appearances): 1+1/24

Country: France

"Sometimes, it's a bit of a rollercoaster for me. There are times when it's very good and others when it's less good," said Simakan earlier this season. Clearly, there are more ups than downs though: why else would Leipzig offer him a one-year contract extension through to 2027 in December?

The simple answer is that since Simakan arrived at the Red Bull Arena from Strasbourg in summer 2021, he has mostly been very very good. There were certainly downs midway through the 2022/23 campaign, though, when injury meant he dipped in and out of Marco Rose's side.

Mohamed Simakan (l.) helped RB Leipzig win away to Bayern Munich in May. - Sebastian Widmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

But then came the ups: he featured in 12 of the last 13 league games as Leipzig secured a podium finish and Champions League group stage football for next season.

The biggest surprise, perhaps, is that he only has two U21 caps to his name, both won during the 2022/23 season. But while recognition from his country has taken its time in coming, that of his talents from suitors around Europe remains constant. Not that Simakan is interested in moving on.

"RB Leipzig are a big club," he said in April. "Extending my contract and then leaving immediately afterwards makes no sense to me."

Ryan Gravenberch

Club: Bayern Munich

2022/23 Bundesliga: 0+0/24

Country: Netherlands

The summer 2022 arrival from Ajax made just three starts for Bayern, but given he was involved in as many league matches as he was, as well as six in the Champions League, in a ferociously competitive squad, Gravenberch can consider his maiden campaign in Germany a success.

"He sometimes goes unnoticed, but he does the little things well," said Bayern boss Thomas Tuchel, whose eye was caught by Gravenberch's display in the crucial Matchday 31 win versus Bremen. "He's hard-working, assured, and carries the ball well through midfield. He was involved in dangerous passes in the penalty area. A good performance."

Already into double digits for caps with the senior Dutch squad, Gravenberch is unlikely to be with the U21s much longer with EURO 2024 in his newly adopted home an undoubted goal for a youngster whose ambitions encompass elevating his standing at Bayern.

"A year of training and playing at the highest level is nice and educational," he said. "But when I do play, it's mainly in training. That has to change next season, then I really want to play weekly again.

Kouadio Kone 

Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach

2022/23 Bundesliga: 1+1/30

Country: France

Unlike Simakan, Kone did not feature heavily in the French top flight prior to arriving in Germany, making just 12 starts for Toulouse. But an exceptional 2020/21 campaign in the second tier convinced Gladbach of his potential. Clearly, they weren't wrong.

He has carried the "school, eat, football, eat, sleep" philosophy that fuelled his dream as a kid into his life as a pro, albeit exchanging academic learning to daily education on the training pitch surrounded by players such as FIFA World Cup winner Christoph Kramer, Germany internationals Jonas Hofmann and Lars Stindl, and France forwards Marcus Thuram and Alassane Plea.

Borussia Mönchengladbach's Kouadio Kone should be one of France's key men at the tournament. - Maja Hitij/Getty Images

After playing 27 games in his first season in Germany - a tally that would surely have been higher but for injury and suspension - he earned his U21 debut, and started three of five U21 games for Les Bleuets in the 2022/23 campaign.

"I could be labelled an 'up-and-coming player', but I wouldn't say I'm a 'young player', as I've already picked up quite a few things," explained Kone, who turned 22 in May. "But I still have a lot to learn. I can improve and perfect certain things. You have to keep working and not rest on your laurels."

Micky van de Ven

Club: Wolfsburg

2022/23 Bundesliga: 1+1/33

Country: Netherlands

It has taken the 6'3" defender some time to make an impact as big as his imposing physique, but his second season in the city Volkswagen built could aptly described as 'breakthrough'.

After leaving second division side Volendam in his native country to join compatriot Mark van Bommel at Wolfsburg in summer 2021, his first full campaign in Germany was as disappointing as the former Bayern Munich captain's tenure was short.

He played just five games — all under Van Bommel's successor Florian Kohfeldt — but the arrival of Niko Kovac last summer propelled him into the front line. He missed only the Matchday 30 win over Mainz - due to suspension - and was immediately back in the team, and played every minute of the 33 matches he featured in.

Wolfsburg's Micky van de Ven (r.) won 254 challenges across his 33 Bundesliga appearances in 2022/23. - IMAGO/Matthias Koch/IMAGO/Matthias Koch

"If someone had come in for a big fee, it wouldn't have been easy for me," admitted Van de Ven, whose access to playing time was significantly eased by Wolfsburg not dipping into the transfer market when USMNT defender John Anthony Brooks left the club last summer.

"In the end, no one came - and that's not only a show of faith in me, but also Sebastiaan Bornauw and Maxence Lacroix. I think we are three young defenders with a lot of potential."

Amine Adli

Club: Bayer Leverkusen

2022/23 Bundesliga: 5+3/26

Country: France

Adli made even fewer Ligue 1 appearances for Toulouse than his ex-teammate Kone before joining Leverkusen in summer 2021. Not that you would know it.

Born in south-west France's rugby union stronghold, Adli has shown immense quality as well as resilience in the colours of Die Werkself.

Watch: Adli's devastating strike against Eintracht Frankfurt

A promising first season was cut short by a thigh injury sustained on international duty with the U21s, while his second — his best to date, though surely better is to come — got off to a bumpy start as he missed five games after fracturing his collarbone in the Matchday 1 loss to Augsburg.

"There's no secret to explain my current success, it's just work," said Adli in April as he finished the season with four goals in 12 appearances, including the opener in the decisive win over Frankfurt that helped secure European football for Xabi Alonso's side next season.

"After my two injuries, I had to work a lot to get back to my best. And it's also a question of things just going 'tilt' in my head. When you score or create a goal, you want to do that in every game."