A breakout star in 2019/20, Hoffenheim's Christoph Baumgartner has gone from something of an unknown quantity to key first-team member this season. bundesliga.com profiles the Austria U21 international midfielder...
Position: Attacking midfielder
Country: Austria (14 U21 caps, 2 goals)
Born in the small town of Horn, in the north of Austria, Baumgartner began his footballing life at local club SV Horn before moving to AKA St. Pölten as a teenager. It was from Pölten that the Austrian playmaker attracted the attention of Hoffenheim and joined the Bundesliga club in the summer of 2017, aged just 16.
In his first season with the U19 side at Hoffenheim he scored nine goals and added 15 assists to quickly grab the attention of first-team coaches, and at the end of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season, Baumgartner was handed his Bundesliga debut at the age of 19 by then coach Julian Nagelsmann. In his second first-team appearance, and first start in the German top-flight, Baumgartner was sent off for receiving two yellow cards against Mainz. "It's a nice development opportunity for him, it's always good to get a damper so early in your career," said Nagelsmann at the time, and develop he has.
After a slow start to the 2019/20 season, Baumgartner burst into life in 2020 - scoring three goals and adding two assists in his eight appearances since the turn of the year. The attacking midfielder has played in a variety of positions, too, from left wing to No.10 and even centre-forward. Baumgartner has also become a key part of the Austria U21 side since making his debut in November 2017 aged just 19, scoring two goals and assisting two more in his last four international appearances.
Plays a bit like: Michael Ballack
While he was played in several different positions for Hoffenheim this season alone, Baumgartner does have a preference and it's the one he plays for Austria. "In a 4-2-3-1 as the No.10, that's my favourite position," Baumgartner told Kicker. "I also enjoy playing deeper, but growing up I was always that attacking midfielder.
Watch: Baumgartner's tidy finish to seal the win vs. Union!
Baumgartner is an intelligent player, able to find space in-between the lines to pick locks in his opposition's defence. He matches his brains with his talent on the ball. Equally as comfortable using his left foot as he is using his predominant right foot, Baumgartner is able to control the ball with ease no matter what position he's in. Another strength of his is one-on-ones, which the Austrian says he loves. Running with the ball and even making late runs into the box to get a shot away at goal, Baumgartner has all the attributes of a top attacking midfielder and is showcasing them all on more frequent basis.
Did you know?
Baumgartner's older brother, Dominik (23), is also a professional footballer, playing in Austria for Wolfsberger AC. The pair played twice together for the Austria U21 side, beating Macedonia 5-0 and Greece 1-0 respectively.
What they're saying
"It suits Kramaric well, they're both technically good, they both work in behind well. 'Baumi', in particular, does the work in behind opposing defences very well. In the beginning, the last punch was often missing, but it's since become more and more successful for him. We've always seen his potential." - Hoffenheim head coach Alfred Schreuder.
"'Baumi' is an extremely talented player with strong technical skills and a good sense for space in attack. As a result, he always develops solutions in tight game situations and is also dangerous around goal." - Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen.
"He definitely has what it takes to play many, many Bundesliga games. You can see that he's a great footballer. Unfortunately, he's now realised how hard football can be." - Hoffenheim goalkeeper Oliver Baumann after Baumgartner's red card vs. Mainz.
Keep an eye on...
Posch, 22, is into his third season as a first-team starter for Hoffenheim. He has taken to one of the modern game's most demanding positions like a duck to water, and has done so playing for a team that demands some of the most of its centre-backs. The Austrian is tall, strong and good on the ball - and already gathering valuable experience.
It's much the same for Geiger who, despite being a year younger than Posch, has made only five Bundesliga appearances fewer than his defensive teammate. The 21-year-old midfielder is the key between defence and attack for Hoffenheim, pulling the strings from in front of the backline. He earned his first cap for the Germany U21 side in September last year, and there will be more to come.