What do Kai Havertz, Timo Werner, Julian Brandt, Leon Goretzka, Mario Götze and Toni Kroos have in common? Apart from being brilliant footballers, they all count a Fritz Walter Medal in their collections.
The Fritz-Walter-Medaille is a group of annual awards that has been bestowed upon the best young footballers in Germany since 2005. A jury made up of members from across the German Football Association (DFB) — from the youth coaching system to technical staff and executives — decides which players should be awarded the gold, silver and bronze medals in each category.
Who was Fritz Walter?
Who can win it?
After originally being broken down into four categories - Under-19, Under-18, Under-17 and Female — for the last three years, the award has only been handed out to the best male U19 and U17 players as well as the top young starlet in the women's game.
Why does the award matter?
"The Fritz Walter Medal is the most prestigious award at youth level, especially when you look at all the players who have won it in the past." So said previous winner Jonathan Tah of Leverkusen. "The winners have extraordinary quality, huge sporting ambition and also excel off the pitch thanks to their team spirit and behaviour," DFB sports head Joti Chatzialexiou added. "For us, it's important that these talented players are motivated by the medal; their goal has to be constant development …"
Watch: Havertz wasn't finished after becoming youngest player to reach 50 Bundesliga games
2005: Florian Müller (Bayern Munich)
bundesliga.com takes a look at some of those who have won the most prestigious individual prize — the U19 category — for young players in German football.
A shining star at Union Berlin, midfielder Müller switched to Bayern's second team but was largely frustrated in his attempts to forge his way onto the A list at the Allianz Arena. Spells at FC Magdeburg and Alemannia Aachen followed for the former Germany U19 international, whose later career was hampered by knee injuries. A promising Schalke goalkeeper by the name of Manuel Neuer was second that year. You might have heard of him…
U18 winner: Marc-Andre Kruska (Borussia Dortmund)
U17 winner: Sergej Evljuskin (Wolfsburg)
Female winner: Anja Mittag (Turbine Potsdam)
2006: Kevin-Prince Boateng (Hertha Berlin)
2008:Dennis Diekmeier(Werder Bremen)
Awarded the Fritz Walter Medal on the back of several outstanding performances at right-back for the victorious Germany team at the 2008 UEFA European U19 Championship, Diekmeier also excelled at the time in Bremen’s reserves, occasionally making it into the first-team squad. Later, he helped Nuremberg to promotion to the Bundesliga before joining his boyhood idols Hamburg.
U18 winner: Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)
U17 winner: Manuel Gulde (Hoffenheim)
Female winner: Jana Burmeister (Jena)
2009: Lewis Holtby (Schalke)
2010: Peniel Mlapa (1860 Munich)
Born in Togo, Mlapa moved to Munich at the age of two. In 1999, he signed up with 1860s youth side, eventually shining for the club’s U19s. Some 10 years after joining the Bavarians, the Germany U21 international moved up to the senior side where his second-division scoring exploits prompted a move to Hoffenheim. Mlapa later gained experience in European competition with Borussia Mönchengladbach before trying his luck at Nuremburg, Bochum and Dresden.
U18 winner: Mario Götze (Borussia Dortmund)
U17 winner: Timo Horn (Cologne)
Female winner: Svenja Huth (Frankfurt)
2011: Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Mönchengladbach)
2012: Antonio Rüdiger (Stuttgart)
Stuttgart's reputation for cultivating young talent is well documented, and Rüdiger enhanced it further. Unsurprisingly for someone measuring 6'3" (1.91m), the defender made great strides after his Bundesliga debut in January 2012 to become one of the German top-flight's most accomplished centre-backs. A senior international debut soon followed as did a loan move to Roma in 2015 that was then made permanent a year later. Though he flourished in the Eternal City, his stay was only fleeting as he moved to Chelsea in summer 2017 before helping Germany win the FIFA Confederations Cup.
U18 winner: Matthias Ginter (Freiburg)
U17 winner: Leon Goretzka (Schalke)
Female winner: Lena Lotzen (Bayern Munich)
2013: Matthias Ginter (Freiburg)
2014: Niklas Stark (Nuremberg)
The fact Stark finished ahead of Max Meyer and Joshua Kimmich tells you much of what you need to know. The versatile Bavarian made his Bundesliga bow less than two weeks after turning 18, appearing for Nuremberg's first and reserve team over the next two campaigns. His summer 2015 switch to Hertha Berlin has seen him develop into a bona fide Bundesliga player while his international career has also progressed, topping out — for now — with his impressively mature displays in Germany's UEFA Under-21 EURO victory in 2017.
U18 winner: Julian Brandt (Leverkusen)
U17 winner: Benedikt Gimber (Hoffenheim)
Female winner: Sara Däbritz (Freiburg)
2015: Jonathan Tah (Leverkusen)
The Billy Goats' 2017/18 campaign may have ended in relegation from the Bundesliga, but the emergence of their gifted homespun midfielder provided some comfort. Spotted by Cologne scouts aged nine, Özcan made his Bundesliga bow in September 2016, and has since added experience to his considerable potential, featuring in 23 league games and five UEFA Europa League encounters in a 2017/18 season that was fruitful for the teenager, if not his club. "I see no limits for Salih," said his former Cologne teammate Mergim Mavraj. Cologne will be hoping he is proved right.
U17 winner: Jann-Fiete Arp (Hamburg)
Female winner: Jana Feldkamp (Essen)