Borussia Dortmund's best youth academy players

BORUSSIA DORTMUND YOUTH ACADEMY PLAYERS

HOHENBUSCHEI

Borussia Dortmund is one of the leading clubs in world football when it comes to youth development. Here are brief profiles on the next generation coming through their academy. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.

You can find more in-depth player reports in the Scouted Football Handbook, our quarterly magazine in which we profile 25 of the world’s best up-and-coming talents, with additional original features and exclusive interviews included.

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LAST UPDATED: APRIL 21, 2022

Samuel Bamba

Borussia Dortmund's Samuel Bamba

DATE OF BIRTH

13/02/2004

positions

Winger

FIRST-TEAM APPS

0

NATION

Germany

HEIGHT

1.77 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Samuel Bamba is Bradley Fink’s right-hand man. Or left-hand. It all depends on which wing Bamba is playing on – and he is equally effective on either. The 2004-born winger has sprung to prominence in 2021 as a key creative outlet for Dortmund’s under-19s at all levels.

STYLE OF PLAY

While Bamba is capable of playing well on the left wing, he seems to have a penchant for playing on the right, where the emphasis is on his ability as a wide creator using his preferred right foot, rather than cutting inside from the left and attacking the goal.

He thrives in transition, proving himself to be a good decision maker when he is able to pick the ball up and attack space, also possessing the quality to play team-mates through or find runners out wide.

Bamba is a player that likes to play in space. He is quite small and does not like playing shoulder to shoulder with his marker or as a defender, and he is a better ball carrier over longer distances than he is as a technical dribbler in traffic.

To take the next step, Bamba needs to get into more opportunities to score himself. He is already a high level creator, especially when he attacks the by-line, but adding some flexibility to his attacking approach will make him much less predictable and a lot harder to mark.

Soumaïla Coulibaly

Borussia Dortmund's Soumaila Coulibaly

DATE OF BIRTH

14/10/2003

positions

Centre-back

FIRST-TEAM APPS

0

NATION

France

HEIGHT

1.91 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Soumaila Coulibaly joined an extensive list of Paris Saint-Germain academy products that ditched the French capital for pastures new in 2021, when he left to join Borussia Dortmund. As they do with most of their elite youth recruitment, Dortmund had a plan for Coulibaly, which now sees him on the brink of the first team.

STYLE OF PLAY

As a left-footed French centre-back at Borussia Dortmund that was developed at PSG, it is easy to draw comparisons between Coulibaly and Dan-Axel Zagadou. After now recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament tear he sustained while still at PSG, Coulibaly has completed his rehab, and is not showing any signs of ill effects from his knee injury.

Coulibaly is less robust but more athletic than Zagadou. He is a composed and relaxed player that always looks in control defensively. He has the speed to cover space and he can play at left-back too. It is a physical profile that allows Coulibaly to approach a range of defensive situations with confidence.

The key improvements need to come in possession. He is clumsy on the ball and loses the ball needlessly too often. While he is a smooth mover off the ball, he tends to look slightly robotic in possession. Passing, and especially passing long, he lacks precision to be a true threat distributing from deep. In order to break into the first team, he will need to become more reliable and accurate in possession.

The strongest attribute that he does bring to the table is his ability to burst into space in possession really quickly, which can help open up the field in transition.

Bradley Fink

Borussia Dortmund's Bradley Fink

DATE OF BIRTH

17/04/2003

positions

Striker

FIRST-TEAM APPS

0

NATION

Switzerland

HEIGHT

1.93 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Both

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Haaland, Moukoko, and now Bradley Fink. Dortmund are certainly not lacking in striking talent. Fink has been a goal-scoring machine his entire youth career, and has essentially been a goal-per-game striker for Dortmund since his move from Luzern in 2019. He has been doing the exact same thing for Switzerland at youth level too.

STYLE OF PLAY

Fink is an athletically dominant striker at youth level. While we’ll have to wait and see how this eventually translates to senior level – a lot of strikers of this ilk take a few years to adapt against senior bodies – he’s very effective at under-19 level, using his strength and speed to stretch and overpower defensive lines. He doesn’t chain himself to the centre of the pitch or the penalty area though. He’s more than happy to slide his runs out into the channel to receive and combine there too.

The Swiss striker gets a lot of good shots in the penalty box, and scores in a variety of ways; headers, on the break, and off the dribble. He can essentially build a career off those talents alone, but he has the potential to become elite if he can further develop other aspects of his skillset.

His touch can be a little clunky, and his hold-up play is erratic. At times, he will receive and flick the ball on delightfully, but he either fouls or struggles to control the ball too often when he assumes a strong position as he backs up on a defender.

Julian Rijkhoff

Borussia Dortmund's Julian Rijkhoff

DATE OF BIRTH

25/01/2005

positions

Striker

FIRST-TEAM APPS

0

NATION

Netherlands

HEIGHT

1.83 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Right

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

Julian Rijkhoff has hit the ground running at Borussia Dortmund since his summer move from Ajax. In fact, he returned to his former club in the UEFA Youth League and put in a strong performance as he and strike partner Bradley Fink ran riot. Though Rijkhoff faces many challenges at Dortmund moving into the first team at a club stacked with attacking options.

STYLE OF PLAY

At this stage, it doesn’t look like Rijkhoff is going to be a focal point up front that commands the ball, but the 2005-born Dutchman looks like a very useful second striker that can mesh an attacking unit.

Playing above his age level at under-19 level, Rijkhoff should continue to develop physically and could turn into a player that can play alone up front. And he’s shown through his youth career that, despite not being a dominant physical force, he can score a lot of goals.

At Dortmund, the focal point is Fink, but Rijkhoff is a key component of the attack that can drop deep, carry the ball, be creative in possession, but also push into a true striking position to either expose the space created by Fink or draw attention from defenders to reduce the pressure on his strike partner.

But it’s Rjikhoff’s technical ability that shines through. He’s aggressive – sometimes overly – and extremely confident in attempts to beat his marker, and routinely goes on slalom dribbles through multiple defenders. At Ajax, a few of these runs ended in extraordinary goals.

Tom Rothe

Borussia Dortmund's Tom Rothe

DATE OF BIRTH

29/10/2004

positions

Left-back

FIRST-TEAM APPS

1

NATION

Germany

HEIGHT

1.92 metres

PREFERRED FOOT

Left

STRENGTHS

WEAKNESSES

background

St. Pauli has become a bit of a hunting ground for Borussia Dortmund. First came the prize acquisition of the highly-rated Youssoufa Moukoko, and then in 2021, Dortmund signed 16-year-old Tom Rothe. The 2004-born left-back has settled into the youth set-up well, becoming a key member of BVB’s under-19s at domestic and UEFA Youth League level.

STYLE OF PLAY

Rothe is a big boy. Listed at a touch under 6’4”, which is obviously enormous for a left-back. He is built pretty ruggedly too. He looks a tad robotic; he stands extremely upright when running and prefers to run in straight lines than shift laterally.

At the same time though, he looks surprisingly comfortable operating with the ball in traffic, though this will be something to monitor going forward. It is a very interesting athletic package for a full-back.

Rothe is a constant outlet out on the left flank, with no fear to hit the by-line, while he also showing a willingness to attack the penalty box whenever a team-mate occupies space on the left-wing.

The German looks like he has a really correct technique that allows him to deliver crosses with the perfect weight, and the right amount of curl to slide across the defensive corridor of uncertainty. He shows a good array of techniques as well, with low crosses and chipped crosses from both the by-line and from deeper areas.

It is pretty difficult to ascertain whether someone is a good crosser from watching a handful of attempts, but Rothe certainly has the technique that would suggest it is repeatable.

Defensively, the former St. Pauli player used his size to dominate his side of the field. Empoli’s brightest moments pretty much all came from the other side.

Mario Götze and Marco Reus are standouts; the former was a prodigious youth talent and the latter reached world class levels after returning to the club. Nuri Şahin was the club’s youngest-ever debutant and a key player in their two title-winning seasons at the start of the last decade too.

Youssoufa Moukoko is the best, but he’s already a first-team player. Of those currently still competing at an underage level, Tom Rothe is the standout – he has already made his first-team debut at 17 years old. Then there’s the likes of Bradley Fink, Samuel Bamba, Dennis Lütke-Frie, and so on.