Justin Diehl has swapped Cologne for Stuttgart and could take the Bundesliga by storm - © IMAGO/Eibner-Pressefoto/Bahho Kara
Justin Diehl has swapped Cologne for Stuttgart and could take the Bundesliga by storm - © IMAGO/Eibner-Pressefoto/Bahho Kara

Justin Diehl: Who is Stuttgart’s Neymar-inspired sensation ready to stun the Bundesliga?


Cologne had no choice but to make Justin Diehl a first-team regular at the tail end of last season thanks to his stunning form for their second team. Now heading to the Champions League with Stuttgart, bundesliga.com profiles one of German football's most exciting young talents.

Stats correct as of 6 July 2024

Justin Diehl

Age: 19 (born 27 November 2004)
Club: Stuttgart
Position: Forward
Country: Germany U19 (7 caps / 1 goal)

Key stats

Diehl was born in Cologne, and began playing with his hometown club with the Under 8s. In 2020, aged just 15, the Billy Goats realised what they had and signed him to a four-year deal. It took less than three years for the youngster to make his senior debut when Steffen Baumgart brought Diehl off the bench with nine minutes to play against Werder Bremen in January 2023, and the score was already 7-1 to Cologne

Diehl only managed one more appearance to close out the season and didn’t break his goalscoring duck at senior level. More chances were to come, but not for a while. Baumgart dropped Diehl from the first team as he wouldn’t sign contract extension, opening the door for a free transfer in the summer of 2024. "I want him in my team and would like to train him to be a Bundesliga player. But not for half a year,” the then-effzeh coach said.

Instead, Diehl used that time wisely and dropped down to the Regionalliga West with Cologne’s second team, still playing against men at a professional level, and still impressing. The forward managed a whopping 12 goals in 19 league games, leading German football magazine Kicker to describe him as, "the best goalscorer and probably the most talented player in the Regionalliga West."

That was more than enough for new Cologne coach Timo Schulz to reverse Baumgart’s decision upon his arrival at the RheinEnergieStadion in January, bringing Diehl back into the first team for the side’s survival push. Sadly for the striker, injuries stopped him making the impact he was hoping for, and he finished the season without a goal in seven brief appearances as a substitute, later announcing he was on his way to Stuttgart.

"A new chapter in my career begins for me now with the transfer to VfB Stuttgart," said Diehl in a tweet on his new club's official X feed. "Following the talks with the management, it quickly became clear to me that VfB is the right club for me. I'm already looking forward to getting started in pre-season and getting to know my new teammates."

Plays a bit like: Jamal Musiala

While Diehl’s career highlight was his impressive half-season with Colgone’s second team, the numbers hide the fact he has far more to his game. A forward who makes the game look easy, Diehl is just as comfortable dropping deep and setting up plays by beating his marker.

His languid running style and ability to dart either way when fronted up to by a defender is certainly reminiscent of Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala, who could well end up playing alongside Diehl at national team level if Stuttgart’s new wonderkid continues to excel.

Did you know?

Diehl’s hero is Brazil, Barcelona and Paris Saint-Germain icon Neymar. He even uses a shot of O Seleção’s all-time top scorer as his profile picture on social media.

Diehl has already been opening his bag of tricks while on pre-season training with Stuttgart - IMAGO/Pressefoto Rudel/Robin Rudel

What they’re saying

"Justin Diehl is one of the most exciting players in Germany in his position. He took his first steps in the Bundesliga last season, and at VfB we want to further develop and promote his skills. We are delighted that Justin has chosen VfB." Stuttgart sporting director Fabian Wohlgemuth

"Justin is one of our top talents. Even though he is still very young at 15, we want to use this step to show him the long-term prospect of becoming a professional with us. We are firmly convinced of that." former Cologne managing director Horst Heldt

"He is developing really well, He can make the difference for us. The boys know how to use him. But in the end it is always a team effort.” Cologne II coach Evangelos Sbonias

"He’s a good boy and a good footballer. He will go his own way. But he - or whoever - has decided not to join us. That's part of football.” former Cologne coach Baumgart