Kai Havertz and Jadon Sancho have been performing far beyond their years in recent months, but which other Bundesliga youngsters have earned a place in the U21 Team of the Season so far…?
bundesliga.com presents its all-starlet XI…
Injury has reduced Florian Müller to a spectator role since late October 2018, but the fact he is the only goalkeeper aged 21 or under playing regular Bundesliga football this season speaks volumes.
Müller made a big splash on his Bundesliga debut in March 2018, saving a penalty and keeping a clean sheet in a goalless draw with Hamburg. He’s shared goalkeeping duties with Robin Zentner ever since, although he did start the 2018/19 campaign at the top of the pecking order, with veteran stopper Rene Adler on the sidelines.
In his nine Bundesliga appearances before suffering a knee ligament tear, Müller recorded two shut-outs and only shipped more than one single-game goal in defeats to second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach and defending champions Bayern Munich.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
The best U21 full-back in the Bundesliga for sure, Achraf Hakimi makes a strong case for being the most complete defender of his type in any age bracket.
The Real Madrid loanee has been a virtual ever-present in the Dortmund back four since making a goal-scoring debut on Matchday 5, racking up a string of assists in games against Bayer Leverkusen, Augsburg and Hertha Berlin.
What’s more, the Morocco international only falls a few per cent short of Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich in terms of challenges won and passes completed, and is yet to taste defeat in 12 Bundesliga appearances. He operates on both flanks, too!
Club: RB Leipzig
If you’re wondering why RB Leipzig boast the meanest defence in the Bundesliga after 17 matchdays, look no further than Dayot Upamecano.
The king-sized Frenchman only joined the Bundesliga ranks in January 2017, but has already made the centre-back position his own.
This season alone, Upamecano’s averaged 69 per cent for attempted aerial challenges won as well as a laser-guided 85 per cent for passes completed, while Leipzig have only lost three and conceded 13 on the towering sentry’s watch.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Fellow top-four hopefuls Eintracht Frankfurt boast their very own version of Dayot Upamecano, in French counterpart Evan N’Dicka.
The 19-year-old only had 14 appearances in France's second division with Auxerre on his CV before arriving in Frankfurt in summer 2018, but is now doing the business with cut-throat regularity for a side whose potency at one end tends to overshadow their dog work at the other.
N’Dicka does the rump of it, and is even outdoing Upamecano for challenges won at the half-way stage of the campaign.
Weston McKennie anchors the midfield - although he could just as easily have earned a spot in defence or even as a striker.
The USA international has been deployed in all manner of positions at club level this season – versatility rewarded in the form of his first Bundesliga and UEFA Champions League goals in games against Düsseldorf and Lokomotiv Moscow respectively.
He’s had injury problems, seen competition for places increase tenfold and played in a Schalke side performing below expectations, but remains one of the Royal Blues’ most consistent and reliable performers.
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
Much like McKennie at Schalke, Havertz is barreling through the collective rough and tumble with Leverkusen.
The catalyst in a hot-and-cold ensemble, the 19-year-old has started every match at league level, producing six goals and three assists, and has replicated his world-beating form in the UEFA Europa League (three goals & three assists in five games) and at senior international level (two Germany caps, one assist).
Awarded the Fritz Walter gold medal as Germany's top U19 player of 2018, Havertz has been likened to Mesut Özil and Michael Ballack, but early indications are that he’ll surpass both on his way to the pinnacle of world football.
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
It turns out Dieter Hecking wasn’t experimenting when he named Florian Neuhaus in the Borussia Mönchengladbach starting line-up against Leverkusen on Matchday 1.
The 21-year-old summer signing from promoted Fortuna Düsseldorf played 88 minutes of the 2-0 win, setting the tone for things to come with his first of seven Bundesliga assists so far this season.
That puts him only one behind pace-setting provider Sebastien Haller (Frankfurt) in the assist charts, but it’s a race he could end up winning with a mean pass completion rate of 84 per cent.
Club: Fortuna Düsseldorf
The Belgian has struck seven times in 15 Bundesliga appearances so far this term, with four of his efforts coming against the Bundesliga’s traditional big two. He also scored four goals in two DFB Cup outings - which makes you wonder why English Premier League outfit Watford allowed a player with such a potent combination of pace and end product to spend the season on loan elsewhere.
Fortuna aren’t complaining, mind. As long as Lukebakio’s bagging in the goals in red and white, Die Flingeraner have every chance of avoiding an immediate return to the second tier.
Watch: The moment Dodi Lukebakio became the first player to score a hat-trick past Manuel Neuer
Club: Borussia Dortmund
You know how Road Runner runs rings around Wile E. Coyote? Well, that’s basically what Sancho has been doing to Bundesliga defenders for months.
The former Manchester City trickster has hit seven goals and 11 assists in 24 appearances in all competitions this term, becoming the first player born in the 2000s to score a Bundesliga brace, the youngest player to do so for Dortmund and the eighth-youngest to achieve the feat in the Bundesliga's 55-year history, as well as the youngest English player to make his Champions League debut for a foreign club in the competition's history.
A once-in-a-generation talent, Sancho’s already earned three senior England caps – and could yet become the first Englishman to claim German football’s top prize.
Watch: Find out what makes Jadon Sancho so special
Reiss Nelson made 16 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions last season, clocking up 764 minutes of action, before moving out on loan to Hoffenheim.
His decision to follow best friend Sancho to the Bundesliga has been fully vindicated, with six goals in 12 Bundesliga minutes - or one every 80 minutes - an eye-watering reminder of what the Gunners are missing.
His end product is one thing - those goals have come from only 19 shots on goal - but his ability to carve open battle-weary opposition defences is another. The England U21 winger has completed 18 of his 28 attempted dribbles and found the mark with 88 per cent of his passes.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
With more league goals in 2018/19 than Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo, it’s strange to think that Benfica-owned Luka Jovic started five of Frankfurt’s first six games of the season on the bench.
Times have long changed for the Serbian sharpshooter, though, not least since he became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to score FIVE goals in a single match thanks to a stunning individual display against Düsseldorf on Matchday 8.
Jovic currently sits joint-top of the Bundesliga scoring charts, and also rattled off five goals in six appearances as the Eagles sailed through to the Europa League last 32 with a 100 per cent winning record.
Watch: EVERY Luka Jovic goal for Eintracht Frankfurt so far!
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