In Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Manuel Neuer, the Bundesliga has long since boasted some of the most recognisable names in world football. Yet every season there is a fresh influx of stars to wow the crowds.
Now it’s your chance to vote for your Rookie of the YEAR!!! Simply head to rookie-award.com to have your say.
Full list of monthly winners
Tatsuya Ito (April)
There were few reasons for Hamburg fans to smile this season, but Tatsuya Ito provided some of them. Diminutive in stature, the Japanese grew into a central role for the northerners thanks to his dribbles and penchant for the daring.
Christian Titz's appointment as boss saw the pocket-sized winger become instrumental in the team's brave, but ultimately fruitless, late surge for safety. "Ito has great qualities one-on-one. He's difficult to predict in those situations and almost impossible to stop," Titz explained. "I call him 'Lionel' now," revealed Rick van Drongelen after seeing his teammate's virtuoso display against Schalke at close quarters.
"Ito has great qualities one-on-one. He's difficult to predict in those situations and almost impossible to stop" - Christian Titz
The positive impression Ito gave is backed up by his stats. The Rookie of the Month for April had a team-high 44 dribbles in much less playing time than many of his teammates, and caused opponents to resort more to foul means than fair to stop him, winning 36 free-kicks which — relative to his playing time — was the most of any HSV attacker. Ito also upped the physical stakes in the Rückrunde, winning 49 per cent of his duels during Titz's tenure, making light of his slight 5' 3" frame. "It's not a disadvantage for a winger to be small," he stated confidently. "Lots of world-class players are small."
Valentino Lazaro (March)
It was a move that paid off handsomely for Hertha Berlin when they brought Valentino Lazaro to the German capital from Salzburg last summer. The youngster, who had made his first-team debut in Austria aged just 16, immediately sought to repay the Old Lady's faith in him, despite an ankle problem. "In spite of my injury, it was important for me to take the step to come to Germany. At the start, I had to learn that every mistake is punished in the Bundesliga."
Lazaro quickly learned his lesson, and brought the prodigious talent that earned him his senior international debut with Austria at 18 to bear.
"I'm happy to have him. Valentino is a winner" - Pal Dardai
"I'm happy to have him. Valentino is a winner. He's a good guy who also has his own opinion," explained Hertha boss Pal Dardai regarding his exciting dribbler, who was voted March's Rookie of the Month.
Now 21, Lazaro has shown he can excel in a variety of attacking roles, adapting himself to a wide position just as effectively as a creative, central role. Since becoming a regular fixture in the first team, he has blossomed, picking up all but one of his goals and assists since Matchday 17, finishing second only to Germany international Marvin Plattenhardt in the latter category with five. The fact Davie Selke and Salomon Kalou scored two goals from a Lazaro final pass and Vedad Ibisevic was teed up for one strike highlights an ability to connect with all his fellow forwards, something that will surely serve Hertha well in the future.
Benjamin Pavard (February)
He was there every step of the way. Literally. Benjamin Pavard played every single minute of VfB Stuttgart's Bundesliga campaign — the only outfield player in the squad to do so, and just one of four Bundesliga-wide. That is more than sufficient proof of the young Frenchman's fundamental role in the Swabians' set-up where the 22-year-old's Swiss Army knife-ability to switch seamlessly from full-back to centre-back and even into defensive midfield has been employed this term, all with equal success.
"If I play on the right, the left or as centre-back, it doesn't make a big difference to me. A defender, first of all, must defend well. Of course, as a left-back or right-back I have to go forward more, I'm more attacking. But I feel good in any position," the February Rookie of the Month told goal.com. Given his time on the pitch, you can imagine the contribution Pavard made to Stuttgart conceding just 36 goals last season, a record for a newly-promoted team and a stingy tally second only to champions Bayern Munich.
"If I play on the right, the left or as centre-back, it doesn't make a big difference to me" - Benjamin Pavard
New Stuttgart coach Tayfun Korkut opted for Pavard at the heart of his back four, and the former Lille youngster did not disappoint. In 13 games at centre-back, he won a super-solid two-thirds of his duels. "When he came in, we worked a little on tactics," Pavard revealed. "He taught me to position myself higher up the pitch. He also told me to have a different body language, and be more intimidating for opponents."
The right-footer clearly heeded his boss' instructions. He made 507 interceptions — the third-most in the Bundesliga behind Salif Sane and Naldo — and had 2,391 touches, the fourth-most of any top-flight player, surpassed only by Kevin Vogt, Joshua Kimmich and Matthias Ginter. No Stuttgart player enjoyed more than the 70 touches Pavard averaged every 90 minutes, while just 13 per cent of his passes failed to find their intended target. Now THAT is what we call a debut season!
Jadon Sancho (January)
Watch: Sancho, a worthy Rookie winner!
A lot of clubs were green with envy when Borussia Dortmund snapped up up-and-coming English starlet Jadon Sancho last summer, convincing the teenager to swap Manchester City for the Ruhr Valley. The 18-year-old may not yet be the finished article, but the goal and four assists he contributed in his maiden season, including his maiden Bundesliga strike and teeing up two others in the Matchday 31 romp over Bayer Leverkusen, have left the Signal Iduna Park regulars drooling.
The BVB fans have been quickly won over by Sancho, while his teammates have been just as impressed. "With his incredible speed and his crafty ball tricks, he has already left some opponents dizzy," Maximilian Philipp said. "His acceleration is devastating."
"With his incredible speed and his crafty ball tricks, he has already left some opponents dizzy. His acceleration is devastating" - Maximilian Philipp
The numbers Sancho puts up give more than a hint of the enormous potential the England U19 could unleash: involved in a goal every 137 minutes — Marco Reus ended the season at every 134 — his four assists were bettered only by Christian Pulisic (six) in the BVB squad. His average of 36 sprints per game were not only a Dortmund high, but helped tear open opposing defences in a similar way to his idol. "My favourite player and role model is Neymar," Sancho explained. "He plays at the highest possible tempo, turning opponents inside out. That makes his extremely dangerous in front of goal."
Amine Harit (December)
Amine Harit won the hearts of Schalke fans in what was quite the debut campaign for the France-born Moroccan. The former Nantes midfielder turned heads by the week with his fleet of foot and silky runs. He even won 53 per cent of his attempted challenges – some stat, for an attacker. It was his dribbling that stood out from the crowd, though: no other Bundesliga player ran at the opposition more. In total, Harit attempted 214 dribbles, coming out the other side with the ball at his feet on 115 occasions.
“I’m like a gazelle the way I dart around on the pitch and run past players,” the 20-year-old told Sportbuzzer with a smile. Harit’s blistering runs came at price: along with Eintracht Frankfurt’s Kevin-Prince Boateng he was the most fouled player in the Bundesliga in 2017/18, being unfairly impeded every 22 minutes (94 times in total).
“I’m like a gazelle the way I dart around the pitch and run past players” - Amine Harit
“I came here determined to make an impact. My objective was to improve as a player. Schalke’s the perfect place for me to develop and became a very good footballer in the coming years,” explained Harit, the December Rookie of the Month.
He’s been true to his word. Only Bastian Oczipka and Daniel Caliguri laid on more goal attempts than Harit (48), but not one of his Schalke teammates created as many clear-cut chances as the World-Cup bound tyro (eight). Head coach Domenico Tedesco didn’t always start the Morocco international towards the end of the season, but knows he has a bona fide game-changer at his disposal.
Fiete Arp (November)
Watch: Fiete Arp and a maiden season to remember
Fiete Arp carried the hopes of an entire club on his young shoulders in 2017/18. The 18-year-old was heralded as the one Hamburg player to stave off relegation – and for a while it looked like he might succeed. On 30 September, Arp became the first millennial to appear in the Bundesliga. A week later he became HSV’s youngest-ever goalscorer and the youngest of the season, aged 17 years, nine months and 22 days. After debuting against Werder Bremen and finding the net against Hertha Berlin, the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month winner for November struck again on Matchday 11 – this time on home soil, against VfB Stuttgart.
“At 18, Arp is already streaks ahead, but he still has massive potential to get even better” - Christian Titz
Arp’s emphatic induction only increased expectation levels.
“It’s unrealistic that I can save HSV on my own,” Arp said during the winter break. Indeed, the pressure took its toll for a kid, who also had his high-school exams to think about. Arp failed to score in his next 15 Bundesliga appearances, and watched on as Hamburg were relegated for the first time.
“Fiete’s development is completely normal. At 18, Arp is already streaks ahead, but he still has massive potential to get even better,” said HSV head coach Christian Titz. “It’s uncomfortable and difficult to deal with when you’re in a relegation battle and people start seeing you as the saviour.” Not that Arp’s qualities as a footballer have ever been in doubt. He only averaged 29 touches per game, but still managed a shot on goal every 49 minutes.
Sebastien Haller (October)
A goalscorer and a battering ram, Sebastien Haller made a big splash at Eintracht Frankfurt in 2017/18. The Frenchman scored goals, and won a shed load of challenges: the second- and third-highest in the Bundesliga on the deck and in the air respectively. The October Rookie of the Month made things happen: if he didn’t finish moves, he started them.
“It was the right step, the perfect step. I’m really happy to be here,” the summer 2017 signing from Utrecht told the Frankfurter Rundschau.
“I have the team to thank for every single one of my goals!” - Sebastien Haller
First and foremost, however, Haller was brought in to score goals – and he didn’t disappoint. The 23-year-old hit the back of the net nine times in total – more than any other Rookie winner. What is more, Eintracht only lost one of the games – to Bayern on Matchday 32 – in which he was on target (five wins, three draws). The 6’ 2” front man also chipped in with five assists. Without him, Eintracht would have been 15 points worse off.
“The team helped me, it’s team work,” Haller said modestly. “I have the team to thank for every single one of my goals I’m really happy. I’m a quiet guy, I don’t like public speaking or being the centre of attention – unless it’s when I’m scoring goals.”
Dan-Axel Zagadou (September)
It was quite a start to his Bundesliga career for Dan-Axel Zagadou. After arriving at Dortmund from Paris Saint-Germain, the young defender was thrown in at the deep end as a regular fixture in the back four. The 6' 4" Frenchman swam brilliantly up and down the BVB left flank, using his imposing frame to win 67 per cent of aerial duels while his feet won him possession 54 per cent of the time. As precise with the ball as without it, he found his intended target with nearly 90 per cent of his passes. The reward for his lightning start? The Rookie of the Month for September award.
“Zagadou is a young player, who is coming on well” - Peter Stöger
“I try to play it as simple as possible. I don’t try to do things I can’t do,” he explained to the BVB match programme. On Matchday 10, he played at centre-back for the first time, and it was eventful to say the least: a first Bundesliga goal (at the time he was the season’s youngest scorer), and then was sent off in a 4-2 loss. The French youngster was seen less after that, playing his last minutes in the ding-dong derby 4-4 draw with Schalke.
“In spite of his size, he’s quite quick and has good technique,” former BVB boss Peter Bosz said. His successor, Peter Stöger, also has a high opinion of the France U19 captain. “Zagadou is a young player, who is coming on well,” said the Austrian.