So, who will it be for the Bundesliga Rookie Award by TAG Heuer for December? Borussia Dortmund's Jadon Sancho, RB Leipzig's Bruma or Freiburg's Lucas Höler?
Allow bundesliga.com to introduce the candidates...
JADON SANCHO (BORUSSIA DORTMUND)
After almost half a season bedding in, Jadon Sancho has truly arrived in Dortmund. The summer signing from Manchester City has used the winter break to make up ground physically and become a regular fixture in Peter Stöger’s team. Despite Borussia’s array of attacking riches, Sancho has played every minute of BVB’s three games in January, winning fans over with his refreshing style of play on the left wing. "Sancho is a really good lad who has pace and is good in one-on-ones," Stöger said on his young starlet, before adding, "He’s not the finished article just yet, but if he continues developing the way he is, recognising situations properly, then he’s got a great future ahead of him."
The name Sancho certainly featured in the notes of scouts come May 2017. He was key for England with his five goals in six games as the Three Lions finished second at the UEFA European Under-17 Championship in Croatia. Sancho was in fact named the tournament’s best player. He also chipped in with three goals at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India in October as England went on to lift the title, however he was called back to Dortmund after the group stage before making his Bundesliga debut days later. At the age of just 17, Sancho is the second-youngest player to appear in the Bundesliga in 2017/18. In January, he attempted more challenges than any other Dortmund player, assisted Shinji Kagawa’s equaliser in the 1-1 draw with Hertha Berlin on Matchday 19 and just the week before hit the post against VfL Wolfsburg. He is now just missing that maiden goal.
BRUMA (RB LEIPZIG)
"We had a great season together at Galatasaray," said Lukas Podolski in the summer on the previously unknown Bruma, who contributed an impressive 11 goals and six assists in the Turkish first division last season. "The lad has great potential. Of course the Bundesliga is a big step for him, but he can definitely make it," Podolski added. And he appears to have been correct. Although Bruma scored his first goal with a stunner on Matchday 2, the Portuguese failed to progress beyond the status of squad player at Leipzig in the first half of the season. The clocks were reset in the new year, though, and the Portugal international has been able to take advantage of Emil Forsberg’s absence through injury to make a name for himself on the left wing.
Bruma started all three Bundesliga matches in January, netting in the games against FC Schalke 04 and Hamburger SV. The 23-year-old was particularly impressive in one-on-one situations, attempting the most dribbles in the league after Schalke’s Amine Harit, December’s Rookie of the Month, and also won a proud 52 per cent of his attacking challenges. In January, he dribbled his way past almost as many players (12) as Bayern’s Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery combined (15). Bruma’s passing has also improved markedly, with his accuracy increasing from 79 per cent in the first half of the season to 89 per cent in January. The Guinea-Bissau-born winger won his first senior cap for Portugal in November with the clear aim of going to the World Cup in the summer. That could be a formality with the sort of performances he’s been showing.
LUCAS HÖLER (SC FREIBURG)
It would have been hard to predict the career path of Lucas Höler a few years ago. Freibirg’s winter signing did not come through a club’s youth academy and never represented Germany at youth level. His journey to the top has been exponential. After making his professional debut for Blumenthaler SV in the fifth-tier Bremenliga, Höler has moved up a division almost every season. Two years ago he was featuring in the Mainz reserves in the third tier with current Bundesliga coaches Martin Schmidt and Sandro Schwarz known fans. After an impressive 18 months at SV Sandhausen, where he scored 13 Bundesliga 2 goals, Höler had finally played his way into the focus of Bundesliga teams and in January made the move to Freiburg.
Höler immediately made it into the starting XI and in fact started all three games in January. The Breisgau club remained unbeaten against the likes of Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig and Dortmund, with Höler playing his part. The 23-year-old impressed coach Christian Streich with his tireless performances, playing with high physical intensity. He averages 31 sprints per game, 12.5 kilometres and attempts 27 challenges, winning an impressive 55 per cent of them for an attacker. "He’s very focused, calm, listens closely and tries to implement tips he’s given," said Streich in praise of his new man. "I’m really excited to see where he’ll be in a year’s time." If Höler continues as he is, there’ll be endless possibilities for him.