Sasa Kalajdzic, Andre Silva, Jamal Musiala, Marvin Friedrich and Christian Günter have all exceeded expectations in 2020/21. - © 2021 DFL
Sasa Kalajdzic, Andre Silva, Jamal Musiala, Marvin Friedrich and Christian Günter have all exceeded expectations in 2020/21. - © 2021 DFL
bundesliga

Jamal Musiala, Andre Silva and the top 5 surprise players of 2020/21

Regular Bundesliga watchers have come to know to expect the unexpected - and the 2020/21 campaign was no different, with a number of players emerging from the shadows and into the spotlight.

Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich)

Before this season: Signed from Chelsea's youth academy in summer 2019, Musiala hit the ground running in Munich. Born in Germany to a German mother, he was already fluent in the language before he moved to England, and upon arrival in Bavaria he scored six goals in 12 appearances in the U17 Bundesliga before being promoted to the reserve team, where he scored two goals in eight outings. Still just 17 at the time, he made his Bundesliga debut as a late substitute on Matchday 33 of the 2019/20 season.

This season: Bayern came into 2020/21 as treble winners, with Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Leroy Sane and Douglas Costa all ahead of him in the Bayern hierarchy, so few - if anybody - could have suspected Musiala's career to take off as it has done. The attacking midfielder came off the bench to score a stunning first top-flight goal on Matchday 1 in the victory over Schalke, becoming the club's youngest Bundesliga scorer in the process.

He would also go on to be the club's greenest scorer in the Champions League, while he ended the campaign with 26 Bundesliga appearances, including seven starts, as well as six goals and an assist. Despite playing for England's U21's earlier this season, he accepted a nomination from Joachim Löw to play for the senior Germany team and made his debut in March 2021 - before being included in Die Mannschaft’s squad for Euro 2020.

Christian Günter (Freiburg)

Before this season: A local lad born and raised, Günter has spent his entire career at Freiburg and stayed at the club even after relegation in 2014/15. Regarded as solid and dependable, rather than spectacular, the left-back has long since been a first-team regular for the Black Forest outfit, even if he had only managed four goals in eight seasons as a professional prior to 2020/21.

This season: Günter played every minute of every game for Freiburg, a key component of a team that narrowly missed out on European qualification - having long since achieved their annual primary objective of avoiding relegation. He retained his customary defensive solidity while adding a greater attacking threat: three goals, three assists and 108 crosses from open play - the third highest total in the league – were the result.

"He's worked extremely hard on his game," said Freiburg coach Christian Streich of his captain. "He's more alert when defending in his own box and he's regularly practise getting forward. He's got pace, power, determination and a good left foot." Günter was deservedly rewarded with a place in Löw's Germany squad for the upcoming European Championship.

Sasa Kalajdzic (VfB Stuttgart)

Before this season: Kalajdzic arrived in Stuttgart ahead of the 2019/20 season from Admira Wacker after hitting 11 goals in 33 top-flight outings in his native Austria. However, he struggled to make an impact at VfB in his debut campaign at the club, owing largely to the fact that Nico Gonzalez and Mario Gomez were ahead of him in the pecking order. Kalajdzic made just six Bundesliga 2 appearances totalling 165 minutes in that promotion-winning campaign, scoring just once.

This season: All of which gave no indication that the tallest player in the Bundesliga at 6'6" would scale such heights this term. Gomez may have retired, but Kalajdzic still began the campaign as back-up to Gonzalez, while Mateo Klimowicz even started ahead of him against Freiburg on Matchday 1. However, he came off the bench to score in that 3-2 loss, and also hit the target in the subsequent two games.

The 23-year-old didn't score again until Matchday 12, when he registered twice against Union Berlin, before a seven-game goal drought. Teething problems and inconsistency are to be expected in a debut top-flight season, but once Kalajdzic adapted to the rigours of the league, there was no looking back. He set a club record by scoring in seven straight Bundesliga fixtures between Matchdays 19 and 25 and ended the campaign as the team's top scorer - and sixth highest overall - with 16 goals as well as five assists.

Watch: All of Kalajdzic's goals in 2020/21

Marvin Friedrich (Union Berlin)

Before this season: A Schalke academy graduate, Friedrich made his Bundesliga debut in 2014/15 and even played in the UEFA Champions League that term, but he left in 2016 after struggling to break into the Royal Blues' first team, making just seven league appearances. Eighteen months in the lower leagues with the Augsburg reserves followed, before the centre-back moved to Union Berlin in January 2018. He soon established himself in the side in Bundesliga 2 and had a solid 2019/20 campaign in Union's maiden top-flight season.

This season: "Every week I try to perform to my best," Friedrich said earlier this term. "I constantly want to improve and help the team." He did exactly that. The 25-year-old was one of only three outfield players not to miss a single minute of league action all season, a vital part of a backline that conceded fewer goals than Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Friedrich, whose sister Melissa plays for Bayer Leverkuen's women's team, won a huge 328 tackles as well as 105 aerial duels - putting him 13th overall in the latter category, while he finished as the league's joint-highest scoring defender with five goals (plus two assists). All of which ultimately played a big part in Urs Fischer's side finishing seventh and securing a place in the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League next term.

Marvin Friedrich was one of the leading lights for Union Berlin in 2020/21. - Lukas Schulze/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Andre Silva (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Before this season: Silva had given a tantalising glimpse of his immense potential after the coronavirus-enforced hiatus in 2019/20, scoring eight times in 10 games following the restart to finish the campaign on 12 goals. It was the exception rather than the rule, however, as the Portuguese forward had played for a different club in each of the previous three seasons, scoring nine, two and 16 respectively - the latter tally a personal best set in his homeland in the 2016/17 campaign.

This season: The big question mark coming into 2020/21 was whether Silva could maintain his incredible form. He quickly silenced any doubters, though. The 25-year-old scored in the Matchday 1 draw with Arminia Bielefeld and the Matchday 2 victory over Hertha Berlin, and was so consistent that he scored in 21 different league games, never going more than two matches without finding the target.

Watch: Silva's Portuguese roots

Silva ended the campaign with 28 goals, breaking the club's single-season record of 26 set by Bernd Hölzenbein in 1976/77. "He's a young and flexible attacker, and he's still got potential to improve," said Frankfurt's CEO for sport Fredi Bobic after the striker was rewarded with a contract extension through to summer 2023. "We're confident we can take him to another level here in Frankfurt."