They've already hit the ground running in Germany's top-flight, but with the 2018/19 season almost upon us, get ready to see teenage sensations Josh Sargent, Mickael Cuisance, Kevin Danso, Arne Maier and Gian-Luca Itter take their game to the next level.
Club: Werder Bremen
Bundesliga appearances: 0
How many players can say they have made their senior international debut – and scored – before playing their first club game as a pro? Well, Josh Sargent is among that very elite group after finding the net for the USA in a friendly win over Bolivia earlier this summer.
If it is a precursor of things to come, the powers-that-be at Bremen will be mightily pleased to have won the race to sign the Missouri native. He has been forced to bide his time after moving to Germany earlier this year due to FIFA regulations regarding underage non-European Union citizens, but now that he is legally an adult, Sargent is champing at the bit to get going in 2018/19. Werder coach Florian Kohfeldt has backed the young forward to "kick on" this season, so he can be hopeful of getting his chance.
Club: Borussia Mönchengladbach
Bundesliga appearances: 24
As a club, Gladbach pride themselves on blooding gifted youngsters into the first team, and of the handful of teenagers thrown in at the deep end in 2017/18 – including Reece Oxford, Mandela Egbo and Julio Villalba among others – central midfielder Mickael Cuisance was arguably the pick of the bunch.
The Frenchman joined the Foals from AS Nancy in the summer last year and on his debut against Stuttgart on Matchday 5 it was soon apparent that he was a gifted technician, oozing class on the ball and with a superb range of passing in attacking midfield. He went on to play 24 times (starting nine) in the Bundesliga, and such is his standing in the team that he takes set-pieces whenever he is on the pitch.
"He's the type of player we need to allow to take risks," said head coach Dieter Hecking. Fellow midfielder Christoph Kramer was even more effusive in his praise upon witnessing Cuisance in training last year: "It's unbelievable how well trained young players are nowadays. At 17 he's as far along as I was when I was 22." With a full Bundesliga campaign already behind him, the France U19 international is only going to get better and better.
Bundesliga appearances: 23
Augsburg have a real gem on their hands in Kevin Danso. Standing at 6'3" he's deceptively quick for someone once described by RB Leipzig striker Timo Werner as "a colossus" and is good in the air and fearless in tackles.
Already a full Austria international with six caps to his name, Danso made his Bundesliga debut in early 2017 after joining the club as a youngster from English side MK Dons. He pushed on last season, making a further 16 league outings, starting 13 times and scoring twice. With that solid foundation to build on, he will push compatriot Martin Hinteregger and Jeffrey Gouweleeuw for the starting berths at centre-back this season. “I have great respect for how he deals with things as a character," said head coach Manuel Baum. "He hasn’t lost his humility even though he is a big, beefy player!”
Club: Hertha Berlin
Bundesliga appearances: 18
After making the briefest of first-team cameos at the end of the 2016/17 season, Maier featured prominently in central midfield for Hertha last term. Although he stands at 6'0", his slender frame means he is less of a battling hard man than he is deep-lying playmaker, able to spray balls across the pitch: in 2017/18 a whopping 85.9 per cent of his passes found a teammate.
"For him it's something natural to pick the ball up in defence, turn, switch play or make a run into the channels," said Hertha head coach Pal Dardai of the Germany youth international. "The things he does now come as standard with him […] At some point he'll take the next step. When that happens he'll get even better but we need to be patient." Given Maier's rapid ascent thus far, expect that next step to be taken sooner rather than later.
Bundesliga appearances: 5
With Wolfsburg's squad decimated by injuries for large parts of 2017/18, Gian-Luca Itter was thrown in at the deepest of deep ends for his Bundesliga debut: away to Bayern Munich on Matchday 6. Aged just 18 at the time he handled himself brilliantly and helped the Wolves to an unlikely 2-2 draw at the Allianz Arena.
Itter made another four appearances, including going the full 90 minutes against Bayern once again on Matchday 23 in a game where he excelled. His pace and positioning kept Arjen Robben in check until the very last kick of the match, when the Dutchman won a penalty after a foul by Itter. "That's just the brutal world of football," Robben said afterwards, before dispensing advice for his young adversary: "But that's how you learn, that's how you grow." Such an experience can only stand the Germany U19 international in good stead as he prepares to establish himself at left-back for the Wolves ahead of William and Marcel Tisserand.