The Bundesliga has long been a home for the most promising youngsters in world football, and the current Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund squads are brimming with talents already making a huge impact. bundesliga.com checks out the pairs' young guns ahead of their Matchday 13 encounter...
The scintillating form of Leverkusen this season under Xabi Alonso has been a joy for their fans and many neutrals to behold. The fearlessness of their many young talents has undoubtedly played a key part in their rise, with the 22 players Alonso has fielded in the Bundesliga so far having an average age of 25.1 - the fifth youngest in the league.
Florian Wirtz has a strong claim to be the standout youngster of many sensational talents at Die Werkself so far this campaign. Having recovered well from a long-term injury to feature in the second half of last season, the 20-year-old playmaker has seized the chance to shine under the fluent and positive football Alonso has instilled.
Amid an impressive eight goal involvements (three goals and five assists) in his first 12 appearances this season, one, in particular, stands out. His mazy slalom into the box and finish inside the far post in a 2-1 win over Freiburg on Matchday 9 wowed onlookers, and the stunning strike helped him to the honour of Bundesliga Player of the Month for October.
Also nominated for that award was Jeremie Frimpong. The 22-year-old right-back is quite simply having the time of his life right now, providing four goals and five assists in his side's surge to the top of the table. His pace has been a constant thorn in opposing defences - with the Dutchman clocking up the joint-highest speed so far this season (35.97 km/h) and by far and away the most sprints so far (415).
While Frimpong's surges tend to catch the eye, youthful energy across the Leverkusen defence has helped give it a steeliness worthy of true title contenders - who have conceded just 10 goals in their opening 12 matches. Odilon Kossounou, 22, has appeared in every match so far, and 21-year-old Piero Hincapie has made six appearances - including the full 90 minutes of their past two matches, comprehensive wins and clean sheets over Union Berlin (4-0) and Werder Bremen (3-0).
Watch: Every Frimpong and Grimaldo goal and assist in the Bundesliga
Youthful vigour has also been on devastating display in the league leaders' attack via the imposing form of strike signing Victor Boniface. The Nigerian was in particularly explosive form in the opening weeks of the season, smashing three braces in his first five appearances. While the 22-year-old's rate of finding the back of the net has since slowed, it is impossible to say his start to the season has been any less than a resounding success - with seven assists to add to his five goals from the first 12 matches. The livewire has comfortably hit more shots than any other player in the Bundesliga this season (65).
With Leverkusen taking win after win this autumn (an incredible 13 in a row in all competitions since their 2-2 draw at Bayern Munich in September), it is to their credit that they have also been able to give some attention to the next wave of young talents waiting in the wings. Colombian midfielder Gustavo Puerta has made three substitute appearances at the age of 20. Noah Mbamba, 18, has come off the bench twice to play in the middle of the park, with a drilled cross from the right providing an assist for Adam Hložek (who himself is still 21) in a 5-1 win over Darmstadt in September.
Watch: All Victor Boniface's Bundesliga goals and assists so far
Dortmund themselves have gained an outstanding reputation as a finishing school for young talents destined to the top of the game in recent years - Erling Haaland and Jude Bellingham to name just a couple. While the current vintage in Westphalia has a greater average maturity than usual, there are still a number of exciting youngsters raring to shine as the Black and Yellows visit the leaders.
With Bellingham following Jadon Sancho in leaving Dortmund after rising to prominence in front of their famed Yellow Wall, perhaps this season will see Jamie Bynoe-Gittens become the next English talent to emerge into a fully fledged star at the club.
Teammate Julian Brandt praised the Londoner's carefreeness when he first began appearing for Dortmund in spring 2022, saying: "He has everything to take a big step here with us." The England U21 winger, who is just 19, netted his first goal of the season with a tidy finish from the edge of the box as Dortmund battled back to beat Gladbach 4-2 last weekend.
Watch: Bynoe-Gittens features in Borussia Dortmund's top 5 U20 goals in 2022/23
Surprisingly, 21-year-old winger Karim Adeyemi is yet to net so far this season, but it will surely not be too long until the Germany international gets his name on the scoresheet. His ferocious pace remains a menace for defenders, although given the range of attacking options available for Edin Terzić, Adeyemi has no guarantee of playing time currently.
Gio Reyna continues to push for inclusion. The 21-year-old, who has already made 24 appearances for the US national team, played the whole of the second half in the win over Gladbach, and will likewise be hoping to get his first goal of the campaign as soon as possible. Also introduced off the bench in the 4-2 win was Youssoufa Moukoko. The 19-year-old's sole goal so far this campaign came in a 3-3 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt in October. He has made a strong show of his wonderful eye for goal in smashing a flurry of goals for Germany U21 in the past two international windows - and he now has 12 goals in 11 appearances for the young national side.
Watch: The best of Youssoufa Moukoko
The pair of Bundesliga heavyweights clearly appreciate the value of experienced hands to guide their young talents. The headline signings of both Leverkusen and Dortmund this past summer are all around the age of 30 (Alejandro Grimaldo, Granit Xhaka and Jonas Hofmann vs. Niclas Füllkrug and Marcel Sabitzer). Yet given how intense their tussle might be in the forthcoming matchday, it will be no surprise to if the fearlessness of one of the many huge young talents on display proves decisive.
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