Jonathan Burkardt has caught the eye with impressive club form for Mainz at the start of the 2021/22 campaign and the Germany U21 captain looks to be edging closer and closer to earning a call-up to Hansi Flick's senior side.
Country: Germany (15 U21 caps/ six goals)
Born 11 July 2000, Burkardt started his youth career at hometown club Darmstadt 98 before making the 45 minute journey across the Rhine to join Mainz at 14. Burkardt has been there ever since - first working with his future first-team coach Bo Svensson in the youth ranks - and made his senior debut on Matchday 3 of the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign in a 2-1 win over Augsburg. The then 18-year-old lasted the entire 90 minutes of the victory and made a total of four senior appearances that season.
The following term also saw Burkardt split his time between Mainz's U19s, reserves and senior side as he featured eight times in the Bundesliga and also made his DFB Cup bow. A maiden first-team strike came on Matchday 32 of 2019/20, with Burkardt opening his account after 33 minutes of a famous 2-0 win at Borussia Dortmund that went a long way to securing Mainz's survival. Two goals in 29 Bundesliga appearances followed in his third season of professional football, with both goals coming against record champions Bayern Munich.
Burkardt has moved things up a gear in 2021/22. After 10 rounds of matches in the Bundesliga, he had five league goals and an assist to go with three DFB Cup goals and a successful spot-kick in the 10-9 penalty victory over Elversberg in the first round of the cup. His brace in Mainz's 4-1 dismissal of Augsburg on Matchday 9 was his first Bundesliga double. It came in front of the onlooking Germany coach Hansi Flick.
A call-up to the senior international side seems a natural progression for Burkardt, who has represented his country at U15, U16, U17, U18, U19, U20, and U21 level. In total, he has 38 youth international caps to his name and 16 goals, including six in 15 for the U21s. The 21-year-old lifted the 2021 UEFA European Under-21 Championship trophy in the summer and has subsequently been made captain of the side.
Plays a bit like: Miroslav Klose
For over a decade, Miroslav Klose was on the teamsheet and among the goals for Germany. The striker was good with his head and with his feet and knew how to confuse defenders with his ability to find space - and to move into it with devastating effect. Mainz coach Svensson has noted a similar ability in Burkardt to do any job as a central striker, which the player showed with his performance against Augsburg. In that game he created one goal, scored once with a fierce shot and once more with his head. Burkardt has demonstrated that he can use his powerful frame to pounce on any attacking opportunity.
Did you know?
Burkardt completely avoids social media. He describes it as a “make-believe world with feedback that is far too positive on the one hand, but totally negative on the other. People want to show the perfect image of themselves there. I don't have to have that. I've done quite well without social media. I miss nothing, and I don't get distracted.”
Watch: Burkardt scores twice and makes another in Mainz win over Augsburg
What they're saying
"Jonny leaves his heart on the pitch in every match and is always ready to push himself to the limit for the team." - Mainz coach Bo Svensson
"Jonathan Burkardt has taken his chance and has already shown that he can make his mark in the Bundesliga. This clearly speaks to his great talent, commitment and desire to develop to the highest level." - Former Mainz sporting director Rouven Schröder
"The fact that I’ve got more attention after playing more games is totally normal. However, it’s still special for me because I came from the Mainz youth setup and have played at the club for a long time. That makes it even nicer to see that fans can identify with me and with the club. Also in everyday life I notice that the fans seem to like what we’re doing at the moment. It’s just a really good feeling." - Burkardt on his increasing importance and playing time at Mainz