Erling Haaland, Jamal Musiala, Jude Bellingham, Gio Reyna, Matthew Hoppe & Co, are living proof of the old adage that if you're good enough, you're old enough. - © DFL
Erling Haaland, Jamal Musiala, Jude Bellingham, Gio Reyna, Matthew Hoppe & Co, are living proof of the old adage that if you're good enough, you're old enough. - © DFL

Erling Haaland, Jamal Musiala, Jude Bellingham, Gio Reyna, Matthew Hoppe and the top 10 U21 players of the 2020/21 Bundesliga season


The fertile grounds of Germany’s top-flight have once again seen incredible growth in 2020/21, with the likes of Erling Haaland, Jude Bellingham, and Jamal Musiala among a number of young players that either continued their rapid development or managed to lay already formidable roots over the past nine months. peaks into European football’s most bountiful greenhouse to see which youngsters aged 21 or under bore particularly impressive fruit this season…

Erling Haaland

Age: 20
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Striker
Key stats: 28 games, 27 goals, six assists

It’s sometimes easy to forget that Haaland is still just 20 years old when you see Dortmund’s battering ram centre-forward plunder goal after goal. The Norwegian scored 41 times in 41 appearances in all competitions for Dortmund in 2020/21, with his 27 Bundesliga goals only bettered by the record-breaking efforts of Robert Lewandowski and Andre Silva.

Haaland – who collected his own series of records over the course of the campaign - scored in multiples 16 times and bagged four in the 5-1 defeat of Hertha Berlin on Matchday 8 alone. The ‘Haaland Brace’ proved crucial for his club, with the striker scoring both goals in the 2-0 win at Wolfsburg on Matchday 31 that put Dortmund back on course to secure UEFA Champions League football next term, while his double in the DFB Cup final sealed the first major trophy of his career. An incredible season, from an incredible player.

Watch: Erling Haaland capped a 27-goal season with a brace against Leverkusen

Jude Bellingham

Age: 17
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Central midfielder
Key stats: 29 games, one goal, three assists

A German cup winner, Champions League quarter-finalist, and a Bundesliga bronze medallist in his first season playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues is some return for a 17-year-old. But Bellingham played a major part in all that success, featuring in every DFB Cup game, all 10 of Dortmund’s European assignments and 29 of 34 league fixtures.

He’s been described as "world-class" by teammate Jadon Sancho, "outstanding" by Dortmund interim coach Edin Terzic, and "fantastic" by former Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola. All that praise has been deserved for a teen titan who has got better and better with each passing week and now has his eyes on featuring at this summer’s UEFA European Championships. And he has a good chance, having also made his England debut – the first of two national team caps Bellingham has collected in 2020/21 - last November.

Jamal Musiala

Age: 18
Club: Bayern Munich
Position: Central/Attacking midfielder
Key stats: 26 games, six goals, one assist

One teenager with his ticket for Euro 2020 already stamped is Musiala. The Bayern breakout starlet actually played alongside Bellingham for England at youth international level, but opted to represent Germany instead and has already featured twice for Die Mannschaft. Clearly, those appearances - paired with 26 Bundesliga outings that saw him become the youngest player in history to reach six goals - were enough to impress head coach Joachim Löw.

The Germany boss is not the only one to be left awestruck by the teenager, though. "Already in his first training sessions with us, you could see that he can really do something special," club and country teammate Joshua Kimmich said. "When I think about where I was at his age - I was still in my youth at VfB Stuttgart. He's very advanced for his age." A Bundesliga, FIFA Club World Cup, UEFA and German Supercup winner at 18, Musiala is way ahead of the curve.

Watch: All six of Jamal Musiala's Bundesliga goals in 2020/21

Maxence Lacroix

Age: 21
Club: Wolfsburg
Position: Central defender
Key stats: 30 games, one goal, one assist, 13 clean sheets

Lacroix is a young man that has seemingly always been in a rush - fittingly so for the fourth-fastest Bundesliga player in 2020/21. He left home at 13 to pursue professional football, made his senior debut at 18, and was named captain of Sochaux at 20. That was prior to his move to Wolfsburg, where Lacroix’s immediate good impression looks entirely normal in hindsight. But 13 clean sheets for the league’s second-most miserly defence and emerging as one of the competition’s best defenders - all during your maiden top-flight campaign - is anything but "normal".

Next season’s reward will be a first taste of Champions League football for Lacroix, who somehow manages to keep his feet firmly on the ground, even as his career soars. He told "Even though I'm young, I always need to be fully concentrated and to improve. I'm part of a very good team and we have our objectives in the league. You have to be consistent. I always try to erase these small details that could be a blot on my record."

Gio Reyna

Age: 18
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Position: Attacking midfielder
Key stats: 32 games, four goals, five assists

As with Haaland - in fact, even more so – Reyna’s age still catches you off guard every time you see him glide past players with the ball seemingly glued to his foot. The England-born ace was only able to sign full-time terms when he turned 18 in November last year, and the Signal Iduna Park faithful will be delighted that the precocious young talent is committed to the club until at least 2025.

The youngest player to grab a hat-trick of assists in a single Bundesliga match, Reyna made his international debut the same month he penned that new club deal and now has two goals in four appearances for the USMNT. He also has a DFB Cup winners' medal around his neck, so what’s next? "I already feel like I'm becoming part of the new generation of big players. I don't want to become just a good American player. I want to consistently be one of the top 10 players in the world."

Watch: Gio Reyna's learning curve in 2020/21

Florian Wirtz

Age: 18
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Attacking midfielder
Key stats: 29 games, five goals, five assists

The Wirtz trajectory has been similar to Reyna’s, the Bayer sensation backing up an eye-catching introduction to first team football in 2019/20 by doubling down on his efforts the following year. They’ve both proven that the hype is real and each stepped into some illustrious shoes: Wirtz proving the heir to Kai Havertz’s Leverkusen throne, just as Reyna has emerged as a more than worthy successor to Christian Pulisic in Dortmund.

Wirtz also received a first Germany call-up in 2020/21 and was an unused substitute for the trio of FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Iceland, Romania, and North Macedonia. His 10-goal involvement in 29 Bundesliga games saw Wirtz – Leverkusen’s youngest-ever top-flight debutant - become the first player to score five Bundesliga goals before turning 18. He's also the greenest to reach six all told. When he did turn 18 in May, Wirtz put pen to paper on a fresh, five-year deal at the BayArena and, despite narrowly missing out on Löw’s Euros squad, his Germany debut is surely just around the corner.

Watch: Florian Wirtz's moment of history

Silas Wamangituka

Age: 21
Club: VfB Stuttgart
Position: Winger/Striker
Key stats: 25 games, 11 goals, four assists

The breakout of Bundesliga breakouts this year, Wamangituka was named 2020/21 Rookie of the Season as he starred for Stuttgart in his top-tier bow. The 21-year-old DR Congo native hit the ground running with goals in each of the first two matchdays, and grabbed two goals and an assist in VfB’s statement 5-1 win over Dortmund on Matchday 11. They formed part of his 11 strikes and four assists in 25 appearances before injury on the Matchday 26 loss to Bayern cruelly put a premature end to a superb campaign.

But Silas will be back, and he’ll be hell bent on going one better when he is. "It's always nice to have your hard work recognised," he said after claiming one of three Rookie of the Month gongs that lead to his seasonal award. "But you can't stop there – you need to keep working hard in the hope of picking up more awards in the future."

Watch: Silas named Rookie of the Season

Moussa Diaby

Age: 21
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Position: Winger
Key stats: 32 games, four goals, 10 assists

Diaby recently described the Bundesliga as "the perfect league for me", and it’s easy to see why. The Frenchman’s 10 provisions led the way in the Leverkusen ranks, and just five players across the entire division boasted more assists at the end of the season. His 14 combined goals and assists – bulked out by four Europa League goals, three UEL assists and two more domestic cup goals – are an improvement on his 10 goal involvements in the league the previous year (five goals, five assists), as Diaby’s development continues apace.

It’s little wonder then that he’s enjoying life so much in Germany: "I'm well suited to the Bundesliga. It's a league with a lot of good teams, who play good football and always look to attack… I like high-intensity games with lots of chances and lots of space. I'm very happy playing here."

Watch: Skip to 02:14 for a closer look at what Moussa Diaby brings to the party at Leverkusen

Matthew Hoppe

Age: 20
Club: Schalke
Position: Striker
Key stats: 22 games, six goals, one assist

Hoppe was thrust into senior action against Borussia Mönchengladbach on Matchday 9 and three further appearances followed without him finding the back of the net. But the Californian put an emphatic end to that against Hoffenheim on just his third start. His sensational hat-trick - the first by and American in the Bundesliga - earned an emphatic first win of the campaign for his side, and he went on to score in each of his next two matches.

It would end up a miserable campaign for relegated Schalke, but Hoppe’s emergence has been a ray of sunlight through stormy clouds for Die Knappen. He ended 2020/21 as the club’s top scorer with six goals, culminating in a first call-up to the USA senior side in May. Hoppe now has the chance to impress coach Gregg Berhalter during his country’s upcoming training camp ahead of a friendly against Switzerland in St. Gallen on 30 May. No wonder Hoppe says his "dream is coming true".

Watch: Hoppe up close and personal

Christoph Baumgartner

Age: 21
Club: Hoffenheim
Position: Central midfielder
Key stats: 31 games, six goals, three assists

The Austrian was one to watch in 2019/20, and continued to hog the limelight in his second full season in the Hoffenheim first XI. Baumgartner scored his six league goals operating in his preferred central midfield role, as an attacking midfielder and second striker, as well as from the left wing. It highlights both the 21-year-old’s versatility and his goal threat from all over the pitch.

Injury ended Baumgartner’s Bundesliga season two games earlier than planned, but there’s hope he will add to eight Austria caps at the Euros. Hoffenheim coach Sebastian Hoeneß is equally hopeful of seeing his influential midfielder feature in Franco Foda's final squad this summer.

Watch: Christoph Baumgartner turned on the style against Cologne on Matchday 28

"Baumi has matured into a very central player for all of us. He was almost always reliable, which is unusual given his young age," said Hoeneß. "Now it's about getting fit for the European Championship and the Austrian team. But we can be optimistic to see him at the tournament."