Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Arne Maier lead a 10-strong list of Bundesliga players who are on the European Golden Boy shortlist for 2019. Who are the players getting their teenage kicks in Germany?
Country: Italy (U20 cap)/Germany
Position: Left winger/forward
Hoffenheim beat Manchester City, Lyon and Real Madrid on their way to last season’s UEFA Youth League semi-finals, and Domenico Alberico was central to the young Sinsheimer’s incredible run. The Pforzheim-born Italy U20 winger had a direct hand in five goals in nine games, his propensity to cut inside onto his favoured right foot proving impossible to handle for some of Europe’s best young defenders, and a two-way battle for his international allegiance could lie in wait.
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
Country: England (U19 cap)/Germany/Nigeria
Position: Left winger/left-back
A physical specimen, Bennetts is one of the fastest players on the books at Borussia Mönchengladbach, and his ability to play anywhere up the left or in attack have led to the Tottenham Hotspur youth product – perhaps inevitably – being compared to Gareth Bale. Those same short twitch fibres cost him playing time last season, though. Bennetts missed nearly 60 days of the campaign, and he will look forward to building on his promise more than most next term.
Country: France (U20 cap)
Position: Central midfielder
Still just 19, Cuisance has already racked up 35 Bundesliga appearances for Gladbach since joining from Nancy in 2017, although his progress slowed last term. A left-footed, ball-playing midfielder, Cuisance settled for less minutes with the emergence of Florian Neuhaus not helping his cause, but he still chipped in with an assist as Gladbach finished fifth. His eye for goal was on display this summer, too, with two strikes for France at the U20 World Cup in Poland.
With the world’s most expensive players Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, as well as Angel Di Maria and former Schalke favourite Julian Draxler for company, it’s fair to say Moussa Diaby had fierce competition for a wide attacking berth at Paris Saint-Germain last season. That he featured in 25 Ligue 1 games is achievement enough, but the left-footed winger – equally comfortable playing on either side – also chipped in with two goals and six assists, and Leverkusen look to have picked up one of the most promising talents in the game.
Country: Germany (3 caps)
Position: Attacking midfielder
Watch: Havertz: Europe's best young midfielder?
Havertz has been a mainstay of the Leverkusen midfield for three seasons, but he promised at the start of 2018/19 to score more goals, and that’s exactly what he did. Seventeen of them in fact, to finish the campaign as the top-scoring teenager Bundesliga history. Havertz also made his senior Germany debut last season – coach Joachim Löw said he looked “like he’d always played with the others” – and the future could hardly look brighter.
Real Madrid-bound Luka Jovic has left big boots to fill at Eintracht Frankfurt, but Die Adler are confident Dejan Joveljic can help put some wind beneath their attacking wings in 2019/20. Their optimism is well-founded. Joveljic, who hails from the same town as Jovic, found the target every 96 minutes he played for Red Star Belgrade in the Serbian top-flight last season. The striker has been known to complete a Rubik’s Cube inside 39 seconds. The question now is how quickly can he master Bundesliga defences?
Defensive midfielders rarely grab the same column inches as their more attacking teammates, but Maier has already become a paragon in his position at the age of 20. The Hertha Berlin academy graduate featured in 24 league games last season, starting 23, and his 90 per cent pass completion helped the Old Lady dictate play more often than not.
Country: Brazil (U23 cap)
The third Leverkusen player on this list, and also the youngest, Paulinho has yet to impact upon Die Werkself’s first team as comprehensively as Havertz, but he was given 15 outings from the bench in 2018/19. Leverkusen may be blooding their budding wing wizard carefully, but three goals in five games for Brazil’s U22s in June’s Toulon Tournament triumph suggest Paulinho – playing four age groups up for his country – could be ready to take on a bigger role next season.
Watch: Sancho under the tactical microscope
Frustrated with the first-team opportunities at Manchester City – or lack thereof – Sancho swapped North West England for North Rhine-Westphalia in 2017, but his talent truly exploded last season. His quick feet are matched by a speed of thought that belies his tender 19 years, and he finished the season with a league-high 14 assists as Borussia Dortmund missed out on the title by just two points. Only Chelsea’s Eden Hazard – a future teammate of Jovic at Real – laid on more goals across Europe’s five major leagues per UEFA coefficient.
Country: France (U20 cap)/Cote d’Ivoire
Dan-Axel Zagadou faced fierce competition from Abdou Diallo and Manuel Akanji and even a repurposed Julian Weigl for a place at the heart of Dortmund’s defence last season, but he still managed to bolt down 15 starts. The former PSG man did his part when called upon, too, his 6’5” frame disguising a deceptively quick player who won an average of nine challenges per game.