So, who will it be for the Bundesliga Rookie Award by TAG Heuer for December? Will it be Schalke's Amine Harit, Hannover's Ihlas Bebou or Hoffenheim's Stefan Posch?
Allow bundesliga.com to introduce the candidates...
AMINE HARIT (FC SCHALKE 04)
The dramatic derby encounter with Borussia Dortmund in November ensured Amine Harit’s place in Schalke hearts. The young Morocco international was brought on in the 33rd minute with the Royal Blues 4-0 down and played a telling role, including bagging a goal, as Schalke turned the game on its head at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK to secure a famous 4-4 draw. Harit has since built on that form throughout December, starting in all four games throughout the month, providing an assist, winning a penalty, netting his second Bundesliga goal against Cologne and impressing with his precise passing ability. “He’s a player who brings so much. He’s unstoppable in those tight spaces,” said coach Domenico Tedesco on the performances of his new signing, but also urged some caution: “We want to see a progression with him but we also need the necessary time with him.”
Things have been moving quickly for Harit in his career of late. Born in Pontoise, northeast of Paris, to Moroccan parents, he joined the academy at Nantes at the age of 15, where he became one of the club’s standout players. In summer 2016 he lifted the UEFA U-19 European Championship with the French national team, contributing two assists in the final alone. It was no wonder then that he was quickly promoted to the first team at Nantes, making 34 competitive appearances in his debut season with the Ligue 1 club. Schalke were convinced of his talent and brought the young winger to Gelsenkirchen. It appears to be a move that has paid off with Schalke sitting an impressive second at the halfway point of the 2017/18 Bundesliga campaign.
IHLAS BEBOU (HANNOVER 96)
Once upon a time, Ihlas Bebou’s career was almost over before it had even begun: Joining the first team at Fortuna Düsseldorf, 19-year-old Bebou suffered a fractured skull and spinal cord injury after going up for a header in a pre-season tournament. However, the Togolese luckily overcame the drama without lasting neurological consequences. The midfielder eventually made his first-team debut in September 2013, but not long after that suffered yet another long-term injury. It meant the fleet-footed dribbler had to wait until April 2015 to score his first goal in professional football. However, things then took off at a pace for Bebou. Prior to his move to Hannover, the Togo international had 11 goals and 15 assists to his name in 70 Bundesliga 2 appearances for Fortuna, including a personal best last season of five goals and 11 assists.
Now at Hannover, Bebou is showing that his strengths can also bring rewards in the Bundesliga. The winger was an immediate shining light for the promoted side as their top scorer on five goals after Martin Harnik and has been clocked at a league-best 35.3 km/h (21.9 mph). Following his brace in the 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund, Bebou said, “Scoring two goals against such a team is unbelievable. Maybe even the game of my life.” He has already matched his personal best of five goals from the second tier and closed out the year in particularly hot form in December with two goals for himself, ten efforts on goal, winning over half of his challenges and also excelling in the air. The 23-year-old was already a nominee for the September Rookie Award, but a second bite at the cherry is certainly deserved this month.
STEFAN POSCH (TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM)
Stefan Posch had previously turned out for six different clubs in his homeland of Austria before the youngster left Admira Wacker for the Hoffenheim academy in summer 2015. It appears to have been the right decision from the Judenburg-born defender. In just his first season with the club, he finished second in the U-19 Bundesliga and the following campaign secured a regular place in the TSG reserves. Posch was promoted to the first team in June 2017 and did not have to wait long to make his Bundesliga debut. “He’s a good battler, who’s also calm, clear and serious on the ball,” said Hoffenheim assistant coach Matthias Kaltenbach.
Posch made his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 8 and has since become a regular in the side with Julian Nagelsmann deploying the Austrian in defence for nine of the ten games since then. Whether in his tackling or build-up play, the youngster has shown constant improvement in all the important areas of his game throughout December, as well as not picking up a yellow card. The young academy player has quickly become a guarantee for defensive stability. The calmness and composure the defender has shown is impressive. Or as coach Kaltenbach says: “He has no nerves.” The youngster does not crack under pressure, and that is why he is one of the three nominees for the Rookie Award in December.