Borussia Dortmund's best youth academy players

Borussia Dortmund youth academy players

Scouting reports on the best young players from Hohenbuschei

Borussia Dortmund is one of the leading clubs in world football when it comes to youth development. They invest heavily in their academy, signing some of the best talents within in their local region, Germany and across Europe.

Here are brief profiles on the next generation coming through the BVB academy. Each cover their backgrounds, styles, strengths and weaknesses.

What is Borussia Dortmund's academy identity?

Borussia Dortmund are one of the best talent-developing clubs in German and European football. The club as a whole place emphasis on young players, and a lot of them are developed from young ages in their academy.

As mentioned previously, they invest heavilyin their youth sector. That involves them recruiting the best talent within Germany and Europe. Recently, they’ve focussed quite a lot on France as a fruitful market, signing players from Paris Saint-Germain in particular. But they scour the rest of Europe to find high-level talent too.

What are Borussia Dortmund's academy pathways?

As touched on above, Borussia Dortmund place a huge emphasis on youth development. That means if the player is good enough, they’re old enough. Youssoufa Moukoko is a prime example – after an extremely advanced youth career, where he ripped under-19 teams apart as a 14-year-old, he was fast-tracked to the first-team squad as soon as he was eligible.

Mario Götze is another good example. He was earmarked for a key role in Jürgen Klopp’s title-winning teams at a young age, ultimately establishing himself as a poster boy of some iconic successes. Borussia Dortmund believe in youth.

Who are Borussia Dortmund's best academy graduates?

Marco Reus, Mario Götze, Nuri Şahin, Lars Ricken, Christian Pulisic, Kerem Demirbay – just a few of the most notable Borussia Dortmund academy products of recent decades. Giovani Reyna and Youssoufa Moukoko are two of the best of the current crop in their first-team squad.

Michael Zorc deserves a mention too. He is a bonafide club legend having played over 570 senior games, winning a couple of Bundesliga titles and a Champions League along the way. He later served as their successful sporting director until he retired in 2021.

What competitions do Borussia Dortmund's academy teams play in?

Borussia Dortmund’s youth teams playin in the regionalised Junioren-Bundesliga league system at every level, which then progresses into a nationwide play-off system. They’ve won that competition multiple times, as well as the domestic cup.

They’re everpresents in the UEFA Youth League as well, owing to the strength of their senior side which continually qualifies for the UEFA Champions League.

Last updated: September 2, 2022

Tom Rothe

Borussia Dortmund's Tom Rothe

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.

At the end of the 2021/22 season, Rothe played a string of games for the first-team.

Tom Rothe's 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.

Tom Rothe is a physical wing-back that is very mature for his age. He has dynamic straight-line speed as well as a strong physique which fits senior football already. He is also an excellent crosser on the run, whipping dangerous balls into threatening areas with regularity.

Given his size, Rothe can be cumbersome when having to move quickly in different directions and angles, rather than in straight lines. He can also be carless with some of his technical touches and shorter-range passing.

Samuel Bamba

Borussia Dortmund's Samuel Bamba

Samuel Bamba was 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.

Samuel Bamba's 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.

Samuel Bamba is a high-level athlete that possesses dynamic ability as a dribbler and ball-carrier. He thrives in transition as a winger that likes to play in space. He also has some creative qualities as a passer.

One of Bamba’s biggest weaknesses is poor decision-making in his final action. He also relies too muh on his right foot and needs to improve his technique and awareness against the ball.

Soumaïla Coulibaly

Borussia Dortmund's Soumaila Coulibaly

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.

Soumaïla Coulibaly's 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.

Soumaïla Coulibaly is a dynamic athlete with a flexible defensive skillset. A left-footed centre-back, he can cover space with his speed and defend in different situations with confidence.

Coulibaly’s biggest margin for improvement as a player is in his on-ball work. He can be clumsy in possession quite often, fumbling over the ball and poorly executing passes. If he can improve that aspect of his game, he can plat to a fairly high level.

Julian Rijkhoff

Borussia Dortmund's Julian Rijkhoff

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.

Julian Rijkhoff's 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.

Julian Rijkhoff is a goal-scoring attacker that can play different roles in attacking areas. He likes to carry the ball around the box, meaning he is adept at disrupting defences with his dribbling and movement. He also has a smooth change of speed.

Rijkhoff is prone to dribbling too much with the ball, and his decision-making in general can improve quite a lot.

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.