Playing in the Bundesliga can be quite daunting, given the array of talent strutting their stuff week in, week out in the top flight of German football. To succeed, you need quality and determination, and that is what set five young stars apart in what, for many, was a first taste of Bundesliga football.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at five players who were relatively unknown a year ago, but whose names now roll off the tongue.
The 21-year-old may not be a newcomer to the Bundesliga, with several seasons under his belt already with Stuttgart, but it was with Leipzig this season that the former under-19 European champion really caught the eye. After netting just 13 goals in three seasons with the Swabians, Werner scored a staggering 21 for the league newcomers in just 31 appearances, setting up a further seven. That meant Werner was involved in a Leipzig goal once every 116 minutes, and it was no surprise he earned his first cap for the Germany senior team as a result. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Robert Lewandowski and Anthony Modeste may have led the way at the top of the scoring charts, but Werner was not far behind.
The 20-year-old arrived in Dortmund last summer from Stade Rennais with high expectations, and he delivered on his promise in a yellow and black shirt. Thrust straight into regular action by Thomas Tuchel, the France international adjusted to his new surroundings in astounding speed, making it look like he had been a Bundesliga player all of his life. With six goals and 13 assists, he ended his first season in Germany having made his mark, while the UEFA Champions League also now knows all about him. Dembele also helped Dortmund win the DFB Cup, deservedly getting his hands on some silverware at the end of his first year in Germany, with the promise of even more to come.
The 21-year-old had long been touted as a future star, but since he was not getting a game at Premier League club Arsenal, Werder Bremen gave him that opportunity in the Bundesliga this season, with mutually beneficial results. Even when things were not going too well for the northern Germany side in the first half of the season, Gnabry was delivering consistent performances, with 11 goals and two assists.
His performances also led to him earning his first two caps for Germany, including a hat-trick on his debut against San Marino, and widespread recognition as Bremen embarked on an 11-game unbeaten streak which so nearly saw them qualify for Europe. Injuries prevented him from getting more action, but he showed enough promise when he was fit to give Bremen fans hope for next season.
The left-sided midfielder became a leader of a promoted Freiburg team who sensationally qualified for the UEFA Europa League on their return to Germany's top table. His technical quality combined with his battling qualities saw him emerge as one of the stars not only of Freiburg's season, but of the entire Bundesliga campaign – and he is still only 24.
With six goals and 12 assists, despite a knee ligament injury which curtailed his season in April, he carried on from where he had left off with 14 goals and 15 assists in Bundesliga 2. His transition appeared seamless and as he made himself a hot commodity on the summer transfer market, with Gladbach snapping up his services ahead of next season.
Unsurprisingly another Leipzig newcomer hit the headlines this season, with Naby Keita stealing the show week after week with his eight goals and eight assists ensuring that eyebrows were not raised even when the 22-year-old claimed he would like to become the best player in the world. He is already well on his way, showing uncanny creativity, strength and assurance on the ball.
"Naby's come on leaps and bounds here," said Leipzig's sporting director Ralf Rangnick. "He's very happy here and plays outstanding football." His coach Ralph Hasenhüttl labelled him an "incredible footballer" and you get the feeling that superlative does not do justice to a man who can "find solutions in such tight spaces" and was therefore so important in Leipzig becoming the best promoted side in the history of the Bundesliga.