Julian Nagelsmann took the plaudits as the brains behind Hoffenheim's top-three finish last season, but it was his young apprentice Dennis Geiger - a man whose surname translates as 'violin' in German - who pulled the strings out on the pitch.

Dennis Geiger

Age: 20
Position: Defensive midfielder
Club: Hoffenheim
Country: Germany (U21)

Key stats

Geiger has not looked back since making his Bundesliga debut on the opening weekend of the 2017/18 campaign, aged 19. As well as producing two goals and one assist in 21 top-flight outings, he won 42.3 percent of his attempted challenges and hit the mark with 88.2 percent of his attempted passes from open play as Hoffenheim secured UEFA Champions League group stage football for the first time. The 5'7" midfielder missed the business end of the season through injury, however.

Plays a bit like: Sebastian Rudy

When club captain Sebastian Rudy announced he'd be joining Bayern Munich, Geiger - in the reserves at the time - was probably the last player Hoffenheim fans would have expected to fill the void. He's made the role his own, though; his reading of the game, confidence in possession, defensive and offensive contribution all hallmarks of a top-class holding midfielder. It's almost as if Rudy never left.

Did you know?

Geiger, who joined Hoffenheim at the age of 11, is very much a Nagelsmann guy. The midfielder won the South/Southwest U19 championship under his self-styled mentor in 2016, before answering the call of the senior side last term.

Dennis Geiger's first Bundesliga goal came against eventual 2017/18 runners-up Schalke. © imago

What they're saying

"Julian Nagelsmann's had a huge effect on me. He gave me my chance in the first team. It's gone well so far." - Geiger

"I always knew he could play, but his awareness is something not all youngsters have straight away. It's early days, but he's going in the right direction." - Nagelsmann

"He's an extraordinary talent and we want to build him up carefully." - Hoffenheim sporting director Alexander Rosen

Click here for more Hoffenheim news, views and features!