2016 was a breakout year for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim's Niklas Süle, but 2017 could be one of the most defining for the rising star.
A mainstay in a Julian Nagelsmann side enjoying an unprecedented unbeaten start to the current campaign, the 21-year-old is now set to take the next step in a career brimming with potential after agreeing to join German record titleholders FC Bayern München in the summer.
Watch: Highlights as Hoffenheim extended their unbeaten start to the season to 16 matches on Matchday 16:
Record-breaker at an early age
Having come through Hoffenheim's academy, Süle has been a regular fixture in the Sinsheim side's first team ever since he became their youngest-ever debutant in May 2013. While there was a steep learning curve during his first full season in Germany's top flight, the centre-back's physical and athletic prowess was clear to see from the off even though his first steps as a footballer were in a more advanced role.
"I was a super striker really," the Olympic silver medallist told bundesliga.com when asked about his impressive haul of 100 goals in a single season at youth level. "I cannot explain why (laughs). No, seriously, somehow the coaches gradually shifted me further back because of my size. And I have done quite well."
'Boateng is a similar type of player to me'
Beyond that though, the German international brings a different set of qualities to the table. His willingness to carry the ball forward is reminiscent of Lucio, while the threat he poses in an opponent's box could be compared to Daniel van Buyten. Nevertheless, it is one of Bayern's current crop of centre-backs that Süle is most looking forward to working with.
"Boateng is, in my eyes, a similar type of player to me," Süle remarked in a recent interview with sport1.de. "He's someone I've studied a lot because he's already where I want to be." As of next season he will be able to study Boateng at a much closer proximity and, if his career continues to maintain it’s current trajectory, then Süle could well be considered the natural successor to his idol at both club and international level.