Florian Niederlechner was still playing amateur football in his 20s, but has had a direct hand in over 50 per cent of Augsburg goals halfway into 2019/20. bundesliga.com profiles the late-blooming forward, who once upon a time was more interested in snaffling kebabs than goals...
Germany: Uncapped at all levels
Niederlechner wasn’t always so prolific. Released by the 1860 Munich U17s at 15, he spent two years in the youth sections of hometown club Ebersberg before representing sixth-tier outfit Falke. He climbed to the fifth rung on the German football ladder with Ismaning in 2010, scoring 19 goals in 34 appearances to earn a move to another team based in the Munich suburbs, Unterhaching, then of the 3. Liga. The early-career journeyman registered 16 goals in one-and-a-half seasons at the club, and a further 12 across roughly the time frame for league rivals Heidenheim, helping them earn promotion to the second division in 2014 with a team-leading 15 goals and 10 assists.
That was enough to convince Mainz to make their move, but Niederlechner featured just 14 times without scoring during the first half of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign, before dropping down a tier to join Freiburg. Eight goals in 14 outings were a significant contribution to some veritable Black Forest delight as Christian Striech’s side secured an immediate return to Germany’s top table following their relegation 12 months earlier. Niederlechner then made it a case of second time lucky with an impressive 11-goal haul in 2016/17, but struck only six times across the next two seasons, in part because of injury. Making up for lost time upon signing for Augsburg in summer 2019, he famously assisted three goals and won a penalty in the club's 4-2 win at Hoffenheim on 13 December 2019, and was already on 10 goals and six assists by the end of January. His next Bundesliga outing will be his 100th in the German top flight.
Plays a bit like: Jamie Vardy
Vardy's rise from amateur football to English Premier League winner with Leicester City is the stuff of legend, and he's a workhorse of a forward who can do the business with both feet. Niederlechner is stockier and a tad taller, but the mindset is there, as is that rare bi-pedal quality and the fairy-tale backstory.
Did you know?
Niederlechner used to sink five Macchiatos a night, and was a regular at his local kebab house back in his youth. "I never thought I'd be playing in the 3. Liga, let alone the Bundesliga, when I was kicking about in the Bayernliga 10 years ago," he admitted, looking back on his days in the amateur leagues. "It was pizza or kebabs in the afternoon, and there was always a party on a Thursday night I'd go to."
What they're saying
"He stood out [against Hoffenheim] with the three assists and winning the penalty. He played really well at the start of the season and scored goals, now he’s standing out as a provider because he’s a very good player in transition and on the break. What also makes him so important for us are his runs, especially in the opposition half and at the opposition’s central defenders. He’s our first defender. There’s also his mentality and the way he pulls the team along. If someone up front never tires, then no one behind can raise their hand and say they’re done. That’s his second role that he fulfils here as a leader. And then there’s the goals he’s had a hand in, which makes him incredibly important to us. He was at Mainz, with six months under me, and then Freiburg, and now he’s back home and blossoming. The air he grew up with is probably good for him, as well as our team." - Augsburg head coach, Martin Schmidt
Watch: Florian Niederlechner inspires Augsburg to victory at Hoffenheim
"He's doing a great job, we're working really well together. Perhaps it's because we eat porridge together twice a week." - Augsburg teammate, Philipp Max