Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham (l-r.) are delivering performances that belie their teenaged years. - © Imago
Jamal Musiala and Jude Bellingham (l-r.) are delivering performances that belie their teenaged years. - © Imago
bundesliga

Jude Bellingham, Joe Scally, Jamal Musiala and the top five U21 players of the Bundesliga season so far

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It is no secret that Germany’s top flight has often acted as fertile ground for the relentless growth of young players, with the likes of Jude Bellingham, Joe Scally, and Jamal Musiala among several prodigies in the past few months to have continued their inexorable development and truly established themselves at this level.

bundesliga.com takes a look at some of the top performers aged 21 or under as we approach the midway point of the 2022/23 Bundesliga campaign.

Jude Bellingham
Age:
19
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Central Midfielder

After a stellar World Cup campaign with the England national team, Bellingham’s development into a top box-to-box midfielder seems simply unstoppable.

It is easy to forget that the Englishman is still only 19 years old, as his demeanour on the pitch exudes a maturity way beyond his years. Bellingham has already won the DFB Cup during his time in Germany and has played and scored in a Champions League quarter final. This season, though, while on occasions captaining the side, he became the first midfielder in UEFA Champions League history to score in three consecutive appearances while still a teenager, before subsequently breaking Wayne Rooney’s record for the most goals in the tournament in a single season by an English teenager, netting four times in just five appearances.

But it is in the Bundesliga where Bellingham is growing immeasurably. Although not quite as prolific as in continental competition, the Stourbridge-born whizz-kid has scored three times and assisted twice more. No player has been fouled as often this season - another strong indication of how seriously Dortmund's opponents take his threat - whilst his pass completion rate amounts to an impressive 83.41 per cent. He also leads the league rankings for successful duels having come out on top on 211 occasions, simultaneously persisting as the frontrunner in terms of total number of sprints – a staggering 356 times – sitting at the top of the pile with Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies. As if all this was not breathtaking enough, Bellingham became the youngest captain in Bundesliga history in October, leading his side in their 3-2 defeat to Cologne – an act he duly described as “a dream come true”.

Watch: Is Bellingham the world’s most complete midfielder?

Joe Scally

Age: 19
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Position: Right Back

One of the many talented Americans currently plying their trade in Germany’s top division, Joe Scally has become a Borussia Mönchengladbach regular. He made his Bundesliga debut at the beginning of the previous campaign, being thrown in at the deep end as Gladbach hosted champions Bayern Munich. Since then, the New York-native has not looked back. He went on to make 30 league appearances in 2021/22, including 20 starts, before dispatching his first Bundesliga goal in a 3-1 win over Wolfsburg.

Scally has started every single game for The Foals in the 2022/23 campaign so far, emphasising just how highly rated the young American truly is at Borussia Park. He has become a mature figure; a trusted lieutenant at the back, in a side teetering on the edge of the European spots. Scally has been on the receiving end of 30 fouls so far and is currently the fourth-most fouled player in the division along with Wolfsburg’s Maximilian Arnold. A pass success rate of 82.07 per cent, Scally’s on-ball qualities are evident, with the Gladbach youngster entirely comfortable in getting up and down the wing, providing timely challenges, expert crosses, aerial leaps, and general width for his team. His tackle success rate appears relatively low at 57.22 per cent, but Scally prides his game a lot more on reading the play and intercepting passes, rather than lunging in to atone for mistakes of which he is rarely making.

While Scally did not feature at the FIFA World Cup for the USMNT, he was an obvious squad member, with head coach Gregg Berhalter clearly excited by his future prospects. If Scally can perform in the second part of the Bundesliga season with similarly dignified quality, then current USMNT right-back Sergino Dest may well be dislodged as internal competition for the spot hots up.

Joe Scally celebrates a rare goal. - Revierfoto via www.imago-images.de/imago images/Revierfoto

Jamal Musiala

Age: 19
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Central/attacking midfielder

Despite Germany’s disappointing exit in the group stage at this winter’s FIFA World Cup, Musiala is perhaps the only Nationalmannschaft player to leave with his reputation enhanced. Attacking plays flowed through the youngster with therapeutically aesthetic ease for Hansi Flick’s side, with the 19-year-old having already shown that he is central to Germany’s plans going forward, particularly as the team approaches a home Euros in 2024.

Though he is just as important a player for his club Bayern Munich. Already a Bundesliga winner and Champions League regular, there aren’t many teenagers who have hit the lofty heights Musiala has. The 2021/22 Bundesliga campaign saw him become one of the leading Bayern players in terms of goal and assist output production, as well as showing his worth regarding tactical acumen, and importance to the team. Yet during the current season, those qualities have shot up even more expeditiously. In just 14 Bundesliga appearances so far, Musiala has scored a lofty nine goals, and has assisted his team-mates a further seven times. He has only been selected in the Bayern starting eleven 80 per cent of the time; present for just 74 per cent of the team’s total domestic minutes, though is disproportionately responsible for 33 per cent of Bayern’s goals (measured by goals, assists, and key passes).

With dribbling a huge strength of his, the Allianz Arena stands aloft whenever the wunderkind takes to the ball – a glowing endorsement of the quality being demonstrated. To become such a key figure for club and country at such a young age is frankly remarkable, and it does not look like that will change anytime soon. Nominated for the Golden Boy award and pipped to the post by Gavi, Musiala will certainly have his eyes on the senior’s equivalent prize.

Watch: Analysing Jamal Musiala

Georginio Rutter

Age: 20
Club: Hoffenheim
Position: Striker

Whilst perhaps not as internationally renowned as the likes of Bellingham and Musiala, the truth is that young Frenchman Georginio Rutter is having as equally impressive a domestic campaign. He has scored two goals and recorded two assists in a mid-table Hoffenheim side but has proven himself to be a reliable forward player who fits the club’s style.

Hoffenheim’s well-coached structure means that Rutter remains effective even immediately after the side has lost the ball. The youngster is adept at tracking back and fulfilling his defensive duties, as well as providing his manager Andre Breitenreiter with a resplendent blend of counter-attacking flair in transition. Rutter’s willingness to get on the ball and his apparent comfort in doing so has impressed many during the current Bundesliga campaign, whilst his aerial ability has also been noted, displaying yet another way the fine Frenchman can impact the game. Rutter prefers to stay central as a striker and seeks to receive the ball at his feet. Though whilst his personal goalscoring statistics are perhaps not exactly where he’d like them to be, Rutter has slowly become the key striker in the side as Hoffenheim switch between 4-4-2 and 3-4-2-1 systems.

Another member of France’s famed class of 2002, featuring the likes of Eduardo Camavinga, Kamaldeen Sulemana, and Hugo Ekitike, Rutter certainly retains the distinct possibility of playing for the French national team. Seemingly incredibly challenging to break into due to the nation’s innate depth, Eintracht Frankfurt striker Randal Kolo Muani has shown that a successful Bundesliga campaign can certainly force you in.

Georginio Rutter celebrates a goal as his team-mates race in. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Kiliann Sildillia

Age: 20
Club: Freiburg
Position: Centre Back/Right Back

To slot into a prodigiously well-drilled Freiburg side so seamlessly, one must be doing something right. Head coach Christian Streich has meticulously curated a sturdy yet malleable side down in Germany’s deep south, with young Frenchman Kiliann Sildillia having become an integral part of it.

Freiburg build out from the back in a 4+1 shape and Sildillia often acts as the third centre-back on the right-side of the defence. The French youth international has displayed a wide range of on-ball qualities, willing to progress with the ball up-field, passing into the midfield channels, or even sometimes acting as an inverted defensive-midfield player himself. Sildillia has also often been deployed by Streich as a right-back, highlighting the versatility shown by the player amidst the current campaign. So far this season, he has proved time and time again that he is capable of playing pretty much anywhere in the backline with similarly commanding precision. Sildillia has really made a name for himself this season, with Bundesliga fans excited to see how he continues as the season progresses.

A fast and athletic player, positively aggressive in duels, and strong in the air, Sildillia is a player who can undoubtedly facilitate Freiburg’s unexpected title c.hallenge Streich has consistently praised the youngster’s high determination, bravery, and work-rate, with his mature and charismatic figure ensuring he’s rapidly becoming a fans favourite in the Black Forest. Having made several appearances for French national youth teams, Sildillia represents the next cab off the rank from France’s majestic talent incubator.

Sildillia and Tapsoba vie for possession. - IMAGO/Kirchner/Marco Steinbrenner/IMAGO/Kirchner-Media