It seems slightly incongruous to call Julian Brandt a rising star, as many do. So well known and so talented is the Bayer 04 Leverkusen attacking midfielder, that it would not be far-fetched to describe him as one of the league's current stars. Whichever moniker you choose, however, one thing appears certain: Brandt is already well on his way to the very top of the world game.
The 21-year-old has impressed again this season – even as his club have endured an up-and-down campaign – continuing his own meteoric, seemingly unstoppable rise. It may have seemed like the typical hyperbole accompanying a transfer when Rudi Völler described him as "one of the most talented players in German football," upon his arrival at the BayArena in January 2014, but almost everything Brandt has done in black and red since has proved Völler correct.
Watch: Brandt found the net in Leverkusen's win at Darmstadt on Matchday 27:
If it feels that, despite his age, Brandt has been around for years, it is probably because he has been around for years. After joining Leverkusen from Wolfsburg, the tyro made 12 appearances in the 2013/14 Rückrunde, scoring two goals and picking up three assists. He is now closing in on 100 Bundesliga appearances (93, to be precise), and has appeared 21 times in the UEFA Champions League.
A burly attacking midfielder who on first glance would perhaps not appear a natural footballer, Brandt's effortless first touch and frightening speed of thought swiftly undermine that initial impression. In fact, Brandt is probably the most gifted of a ludicrously gifted crop of young German attacking midfielders (as underlined by the emergence of Kai Havertz alongside him at Leverkusen).
"I have relatively solid speed for someone of my height. I feel pretty comfortable when it comes to ball control," Brandt modestly told DW Sports recently. "Sure there are a few more [strengths], but they're definitely accompanied by a few weaknesses."
One of those weaknesses has perhaps been inconsistency – hardly uncommon in young players. In truth, it was probably only last season when Brandt properly burst onto the scene: he became only the second-ever teenager to score in six successive Bundesliga games – including finding the net in the Rhine Derby against Cologne – as he almost single-handedly dragged Die Werkself into the Champions League.
It was a run of form that propelled him into the Germany squad for the first time: Brandt won his first international cap against Slovakia in a pre-UEFA EURO 2016 friendly, although was one of four players cut from the provisional squad ahead of the tournament.
An impressive Olympics as Germany won a silver medal and fine performances this season (three goals and six assists) meant Brandt was included in Joachim Löw's most recent Germany squad.
He is widely tipped to play a key role at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017 this summer and then, if things go according to plan, in Germany's title defence at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. That's also where you can expect Brandt to start staking a claim on the global stage as one of world football's next Ballon d'Or winners.