Deniz Undav has fired his way into contention for a Germany call-up ahead of UEFA Euro 2024. Get to know the VfB Stuttgart striker below...
Stats correct as of 16 February 2024
Age: 27 (born 19 July 1996)
Club: VfB Stuttgart (on loan from Brighton and Hove Albion)
Born in Achim, in Lower Saxony, Undav joined the youth academy of Werder Bremen in 2007 and spent five years on their books before being released, apparently because he was too small. "That really hurt," he told Kreiszeitung Syke. "Particulary because I was a little lad from the Bremen region. It took me a couple of days to come to terms with it, but then I just looked forward."
Forward was a move to SC Weyhe. Two years later, he joined TSV Havelse, a club at the time playing in Germany's fourth tier Regionalliga. His second season at the club set a very high standard, with 16 goals and 4 assists. He managed to match his goalscoring haul the following season, adding a further six assists and earning a switch to Eintracht Braunschweig's reserves.
He played only one season for Braunschweig, with injuries limiting him to just 18 appearances, though he still scored nine goals and was part of the matchday squad for the first team in Bundesliga 2 on the penultimate day of the season. He nevertheless left Braunschweig in the summer, joining SV Meppen in the third division.
Undav could only manage six goals in his first season, but delivered a return of 17 in his second campaign, with a further 13 assists. That caught the attention of Belgian second division side Union St Gilloise, whom he joined in the summer of 2020 and helped, with his 17 goals, to earn promotion to the Belgian top flight as second division champions. There, he really started to hit the headlines, scoring 25 goals to earn the league's top-scorer prize, although St Gilloise only narrowly missed out on winning the league title.
English Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albion swooped for Undav in 2021 – allowing him to end the season with St Gilloise – though when he did move to England, he struggled to break into the first team on a regular basis and scored only five goals in 22 Premier League appearances before moving back to Germay in 2023, joining Stuttgart on a season-long loan.
Undav's first seven goals for Stuttgart – coming in his first nine appearances – came with both feet (two right, two left) and three with his head, underlining his versatility and threat inside the box – something Germany would most certainly welcome in their pursuit of European glory. The Player of the Month winner for November, he added the January prize to his collection, thanks in no small part to his maiden Bundesliga hat-trick, against RB Leipzig. He's scored twice in as many games since to take his tally to 14 goals in 18 Bundesliga games.
Watch: Deniz Undav voted January Player of the Month
Plays a bit like: Niclas Füllkrug
Undav's return to Germany in the summer of 2023 was fuelled partly by his desire to represent his country at Euro 2024. Having never played for his nation before – not even at youth level – Undav is at a prime age for a footballer, and his goals have done plenty of talking on his behalf. Yet playing abroad makes it harder to beep on the radar of the Germany coach, which is why playing and – more importantly – scoring in the Bundesliga is the easiest route into the frame.
Germany already have a player in Borussia Dortmund's Niclas Füllkrug who provides a mould that Undav would fit in nicely, with a similar predatory presence in the penalty area and an aerial threat. He can lead the frontline as a targetman, holding the play up for teammates, or be the target for pinpoint crosses to nod at goal.
Did you know?
When Undav joined Brighton, it was only his third season as a professional footballer. His second season was with St Gilloise, having only been an amateur at previous clubs Havelse and Meppen. He was therefore philosophical about his first half year in England. "If I'm not playing from the start in six months or the first year, it's nothing to be ashamed of," he told The Athletic. "I'm trying to do something that's really hard. From Belgium to the Premier League is like five, six levels higher. The Belgian league was hard for me in the beginning too, because it was my second year as a professional."
What they're saying
"I'm just trying to do my best for my club and if the outcome is a call from [the Germany coach], then I'd be delighted." – Deniz Undav in November 2023.
"He's a genuine striker who has a gut feeling for being in the right place." – VfB Stuttgart sporting director Fabian Wohlgemuth.
"He's had a really interesting career: he's had to fight a lot to get where he is now and that shows a lot about his character. He’s a goalscorer who makes players better around him." – former Brighton manager Graham Potter
Deniz Undav voted January's Player of the Month!
The Stuttgart striker has been rewarded for a goal-fuelled start to 2024 with his second Player of the Month award of the season.
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