Mario Götze’s sensational performances promptly saw FC Bayern Munich pluck him from the grasp of title rivals Borussia Dortmund, while David Alaba set tongues wagging as a result of his unparalleled partnership with Franck Ribery, which bore fruit both domestically and in Europe, to name but a few examples.
However, when it comes to ‘ones to watch’ in the upcoming campaign, neither make the cut, as in part one of a two-part series, bundesliga.com takes a look at the most promising players, who will be 20 years old or younger come the start of the forthcoming campaign.
Winner of bundesliga.com’s ‘Young Player of the Season’ award, Draxler became the first 19-year-old to reach 75 Bundesliga appearances on Matchday 34 of the previous campaign. The Royal Blues' new number 10 netted more than three times the amount of top-flight goals last season (10) than he had in his previous two seasons (3), while a move into the hole behind Klaas-Jan Huntelaar next season should see him improve on his three assists. With the FIFA 2014 World Cup on the horizon and a contract extension under his belt, 2013/14 promises to be a defining campaign for Draxler, who has been on the fringes of the German national team in recent months.
Germany’s most promising young centre-back, Ginter became the first defender to win the Gold Fritz-Walter Medal in the U-18 category in 2012, an award previously collected by Julian Draxler and Mario Götze. Capable of playing across the back-four, the 19-year-old's versatility came to the fore last season as he played in both defensive midfield and up front. In 36 Bundesliga appearances to date, Ginter has committed just 24 fouls. Rewarded with a place in Rainer Adrion’s U-21 squad at the European championships and a talented reader of the game, Ginter could prove to be an integral member of SC Freiburg’s backbone considering the players they’ve already sold this summer.
Since joining Borussia Dortmund in 2011, Leitner has struggled to make his mark in Jürgen Klopp’s exciting young side. However, after joining VfB Stuttgart on a two-year loan deal, the 20-year-old now has a chance to prove himself at the top level. Having made just eight starts for BVB last season, the Swabian side are likely to offer Leitner more first-team football. Despite being small of stature, the central midfielder won 51.7 per cent of his challenges on the ground whilst making 46 interceptions in 25 appearances in 2012/13. Furthermore, misplacing just 15.8 per cent of his passes, Leitner could turn out to be the ball-playing, link-up player Stuttgart have been so desperate for in midfield.
When Arnold came off the bench at half-time during VfL Wolfsburg’s encounter with SC Freiburg on Matchday 25, few had heard of the winger. Yet just six games later, Arnold became only the second 18-year-old, after Lukas Podolski, to score in three straight games, including sumptuous efforts against 1899 Hoffenheim and Werder Bremen. Both Wolfsburg’s youngest Bundesliga appearance maker and goalscorer, the left-winger recently signed a contract extension keeping him at the club until 2017. "Maximilian has proven he's brimming with potential and that he can become an important element within our side," said sporting director Klaus Allofs.
After eleven less than impressive appearances off the bench for Borussia Mönchengladbach, Swedish striker Hrgota finally made a real name for himself by becoming the first-ever Gladbach player to score a hat-trick on his starting debut against 1. FSV Mainz 05. With Mike Hanke and Igor de Camargo both leaving the club this summer, fleet-footed Hrgota could benefit from being the only back-up to the Foals’ record signing Luuk de Jong. Considering the Swede scored 28 goals in 39 appearances for Jönköpings Södra IF in the Swedish second tier, three goals from just nine shots as a Foal is a mere glimpse of Hrgota’s goalscoring abilities, underlined by his third effort on Matchday 33.
Compiled by James Thorogood