Christopher Nkunku, Martinn Hinteregger, Marcus Thuram, Christopher Trimmel and Alphonso Davies (l-r.) have burst onto the Bundesliga scene this season in more ways than one. - © DFL
Christopher Nkunku, Martinn Hinteregger, Marcus Thuram, Christopher Trimmel and Alphonso Davies (l-r.) have burst onto the Bundesliga scene this season in more ways than one. - © DFL

Alphonso Davies, Marcus Thuram and the top five surprise success stories of the 2019/20 Bundesliga


From Alphonso Davies to Marcus Thuram, Christopher Nkunku, Martin Hinteregger and Christopher Trimmel, the Bundesliga has been witness to a number of surprise success stories during the 2019/20 season. tells the stories of new faces going above and beyond expectation, and veteran Bundesliga talent that have shone during this campaign...

1) Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)

There were several surprises at Bayern this season, not least that they found themselves seventh in the standings and seven points off the top after Matchday 14. That they recovered to win an eighth league title in a row was in large part thanks to new coach Hansi Flick, but also thanks to the players he relied on in a difficult situation.

Jerome Boateng’s impressive comeback was a real bonus, having slipped down the centre-back pecking order in 2018/19, but the biggest surprise of all was Davies. Last year the Canadian made six appearances off the bench, and most observers would have been expecting the teenager to gradually gain more experience during his second season.

Jerome Boateng and Alphonso Davies have been part of Bayern Munich's brick-wall defence since early in the season. - imagoimages

Instead, the 19-year-old became a hugely important member of the defending champions’ first-choice team. Davies earned his maiden Bundesliga start at the end of October – but at left-back rather than on the wing. His conversion from winger to attacking full-back was so smooth, in fact, that he then started 30 competitive games in a row.

The Canada international helped compensate for injuries to defenders Niklas Süle and Lucas Hernandez, allowing regular left-back David Alaba to form a rock-solid partnership with Boateng in central defence. Davies’ form, meanwhile, was so good that teammate Thomas Müller dubbed him the “FC Bayern roadrunner” after a particularly eye-catching display in the Matchday 28 showdown with title rivals Borussia Dortmund. The former Vancouver Whitecaps player followed that up by setting a new Bundesliga speed record of 22.7 miles per hour when Bayern were crowned champions on Matchday 32.

Quick, perceptive and improving all the time, Davies was given a new contract in April after developing into one of the best full-backs in Europe. Further reward for a stunning breakthrough campaign came a month later, when the Canadian speedster was named the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Season.

Watch: Alphonso Davies under the tactical microscope

2) Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig)

Attacking midfielder Nkunku arrived in Germany last summer with obvious potential but something of a point to prove. The France U21 international had started 13 league matches for Paris Saint-Germain the previous season, but could he perform in a team that faced more regular challenges than the French champions?

The answer soon became clear. Nkunku had to bide his time to work his way into Leipzig’s starting 11, but he did so by impressing with every opportunity he was given. He came off the bench to score in the opening day win at Union Berlin, and proved a supersub when he netted a vital equaliser away in Leverkusen on Matchday 7. After ten appearances – including only four starts – the summer signing had three goals and four assists.

“Creating chances, being decisive, making things happen in an offensive sense, and scoring goals – those are my main strengths,” Nkunku told

Christopher Nkunku has been a roaring success at RB Leipzig in his debut season for the club. - imago images/Picture Point LE

The 22-year-old soon became a more regular starter, and his rapid progress helped make Leipzig autumn champions.

The versatile attacker is quick – clocking a highest speed of 20.8 mph on Matchday 27 – but he’s also assured on the ball. His passing accuracy for the season was close to 90 per cent, and he’s lethal with the dead ball – seven of his set pieces led to goals for teammates.

A high point came in February, when the Leipzig number 18 was named Man of the Matchday for Week 23 after getting four assists in his side’s 5-0 success at Schalke.

Nkunku’s journey from the Paris suburbs to the east of Germany – via the PSG academy – has been a fruitful one for Leipzig. He ended 2019/20 with a hugely impressive tally of five goals and 13 assists in 32 league appearances.

Watch: All FOUR of Nkunku's assists at Schalke!

3) Christopher Trimmel (Union Berlin)

The biggest revelation of the Bundesliga season was arguably Union Berlin, who made sure their first top-flight campaign was memorable for all the right reasons. Momentous home wins from the first half of the season will forever be remembered, with those victories – over Dortmund, Borussia Mönchengladbach and in the derby against Hertha Berlin – going a long way to ensuring that Union would stay up.

Marius Bülter was certainly a surprise package for Bundesliga defences, as he finished his first top-flight season with seven goals. His tally included an unforgettable double in Union’s first ever Bundesliga win – 3-1 against Dortmund on Matchday 3 – and another matchwinning brace at Werder Bremen on Matchday 21.

Christopher Trimmel has become European football's set-piece king during the 2019/20 season for Union Berlin. - City-Press GmbH/City-Press GmbH

Perhaps more surprising, though, has been just how influential Union’s captain has been. Trimmel had previously only ever played second-tier football since moving from Rapid Vienna to the German capital in 2014. But the veteran full-back – who turned 33 in February – has seized his moment in the spotlight.

Trimmel provided more set-piece assists than even Liverpool star Trent Alexander-Arnold. Around half of Union’s goals in 2019/20 came from dead-ball situations, with their consistent and talented number 28 making eight of them. Towering Swedish forward Sebastian Andersson was often on the end of a Trimmel set piece – finishing with 12 Bundesliga goals – and defender Marvin Friedrich was another to benefit.

“We knew that for most people we were the number one relegation candidate,” the Austria international said after Union secured their safety thanks to a 1-0 win over Paderborn on Matchday 32.

“But we did a super job throughout the season and caused a surprise in a lot of games. I'm very proud of the whole squad.”

Watch: Trimmel is one of the Bundesliga's corner kings

4) Martin Hinteregger (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Another Austrian who caught the eye in 2019/20 was Hinteregger. He had already enjoyed quite a ride with the Eagles in the previous campaign, joining on loan in January to help them reach the last four of the UEFA Europa League. After some excellent performances, the combative defender’s move from Augsburg was unsurprisingly made a permanent one over the close season.

The 27-year-old would continue to make his mark in Frankfurt, giving a swift demonstration that he planned to be an attacking asset as well as a defensive one. The former Gladbach centre-back volleyed home from a corner inside 36 seconds to give Eintracht a 1-0 victory over Hoffenheim on the opening weekend.

With the likes of Serbian winger Filip Kostic and his wicked left foot supplying the service, Hinteregger continued to offer a serious threat in the air and on the ground at set-piece time. Scoring in the 5-1 win over Bayern on Matchday 10 was a highlight, and he netted two more in the reverse fixture as the Eagles briefly threatened to do Dortmund a major favour in the title race.

Come the end of the campaign, the ex-Salzburg stalwart had scored eight times in the Bundesliga – making him the highest-scoring defender in Europe. The Austria international played almost 50 games across all competitions in 2019/20, adding a Europa League goal against Standard Liege to his Bundesliga tally.

Only Andre Silva scored more Bundesliga goals for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2019/20 than Martin Hinteregger. - Jan Huebner/Vogler via images/Jan Huebner

5) Marcus Thuram (Borussia Mönchengladbach)

The son of France legend Lilian, Marcus Thuram is used to coping with expectation. Nevertheless, there was a lot of pressure on the attacker’s shoulders when he arrived in Germany last summer.

Granted, he had just scored nine goals in his second season in the French top flight. That was for a small team, however, who – as well as reaching the Coupe de la Ligue final – had finished rock bottom of the Ligue 1 table. Gladbach, meanwhile, are five-time German champions, and had finished fifth in the 2018/19 season.

Marcus Thuram has not only been a surprise success this season for Borussia Mönchengladbach, he is also one of the stars of the entire league in 2019/20. - Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty

Adapting to a new country, culture, and the demands of being at a top club, then, would test Thuram’s character.

The 22-year-old soon showed he was up to the challenge, but the speed at which he did so was something to behold. The tall, fleet-footed attacker won the Bundesliga’s Rookie of the Month award three times in a row between September and November, with the Foals’ flying start seeing them lead the standings with 10 wins from their opening 14 matches.

Watch: Marcus Thuram making his own name

Thuram also returned with a bang when the league resumed following the coronavirus-enforced season break. The France U21 international netted four times in four matches in May, and his understanding with compatriot Alassane Plea allowed Gladbach to finish fourth and secure UEFA Champions League football for next season.

Ending with 10 goals and eight assists in 31 appearances, the summer signing has surpassed all expectations in his first year in Germany.