BEST YOUNG GERMANY PLAYERS
SOME OF GERMANY'S MOST INTERESTING YOUNG TALENTS
After Das Reboot, Germany have turned into a powerhouse of youth development which has culminated in great success at senior and youth level. Here are reports on some of their up-and-coming players. 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.
Niklas Dorsch is Bavarian through and through. Born in the southern German state, he started his initial youth development at 1. FC Nürnberg before moving to FC Bayern München. After a couple of years in the B team there, he dropped down to the 2. Bundesliga to join 1. FC Heidenheim, where he excelled.
An exciting move to KAA Gent was short-lived; he spent a year in Belgium before returning to Bavaria with FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga after impressing for Germany in the U-21 European Championship last summer.
STYLE OF PLAY
Dorsch is a fairly typical defensive midfielder – he does exactly what you would expect someone of that role to do. He screens in front of his team’s centre-back pairing, providing tenacity in defensive phases as well as continuity and progression in build-up.
He’s a textbook technical player. Dorsch does the basics really well in possession; scanning regularly, receiving securely, passing crisply. His simple but clean skillset coupled with his intelligent awareness enables him to play at a quick tempo, which he uses to great effect. Dorsch moves the ball quickly, often finding the open space or spare man with no more than a couple of touches. His up-tempo style destabilises defensive structures.
Tenacious is the word that best describes his defensive approach. Compact in size, Dorsch is dogged in the way he harries and hassles opponents – but at not expense of any technique. Whilst he’s unlikely to improve much now, he could easily play at a European-level Bundesliga side. Expect to see him at that level in a couple of years.
Lukas Nmecha has always had pedigree. Once a Manchester City youth product and Under-19 Euro winner with England, then a loanee with Preston North End, Wolfsburg, and Middlesbrough it took a little while for his career to kick into gear until a strong loan spell with Anderlecht. Liking what they saw again, Wolfsburg decided to bring him back to Germany, signing him permanently in the summer of 2021.
STYLE OF PLAY
Nmecha’s goalscoring form has been rewarded at international level, but not with an England cap, but with an Under-21 Euro win with Germany and his first senior international cap after he decided to switch his allegiance.
He has truly deserved it. He continues to emerge as an athlete at senior level, combining his physicality with an underrated ability to move into the channel and be highly functional in those spaces.
He does not turn this into dominance in the air though, which is a key area where he will need to improve should his team try to use him as more of a focal point. At Wolfsburg though, this is normally Wout Weghorst.
But for what he is, Nmecha is really good. He continues to improve his goal output off the back of some really good ball striking technique, though he needs to continue to get into easier goalscoring positions to maximise his output.
After a few league appearances for SC Freiburg in 2019, Nico Schlotterbeck was sent on loan to 1. FC Union Berlin, and it was in the capital where the Schwabian really broke out. He put together an impressive season, battling with injuries along the way. Upon returning to Freiburg in the summer of 2021, he was immediately integrated into Christian Streich’s first-team and has since gone from strength to strength in a team that has exceeded expectations.
STYLE OF PLAY
So far in his senior career, Schlotterbeck has played largely on the left-side of a back three, both at Union and now Freiburg. Playing in such a system enables him to make the most of his mobility as a progressor and defender.
He’s a good size and shape for a defender; standing at 1.91 metres, his frame is lean and athletic. He’s a fluid mover that can shift his feet and switch direction sharply, enabling him to be the proactive defender that he is.
As part of a back three, Schlotterbeck has license to be more aggressive in approach. He steps up to engage opponents regularly, utilising his reading of the game to nip in ahead of attackers to impact the ball. He’s also pretty strong in the air, with good conviction and timing in technique.
He’s also aggressive in possession, not least in the way he carries the ball into midfield, driving down the left-side channel into higher areas of the pitch. Schlotterbeck is also a talented passer, especially when smacking switch passes to the opposite wing with his left foot.
All in all, Schlotterbeck has the profile and skillset to become a Champions League-level defender in the near future. He’s likely to make that leap in 2022.
As a young teenager, Florian Wirtz was regarded locally as one of the best emerging youngsters in Nordrhein-Westfalen, the industrial heartland of Germany. Coming through 1. FC Köln’s youth set-up, he was poached unceremoniously by Bayer Leverkusen, who reneged on a gentleman’s agreement between clubs in that region not to pilfer each other’s youngsters.
STYLE OF PLAY
Wirtz is a jet; he’s quick, agile, intelligent and knows where the goal is. He’s an attacking midfielder with poise, clarity and refined end product.
He’s capable of executing nice touches between lines, combining well with team-mates in tight spaces throughout the final third and seems altogether undisturbed by playing at the very top level despite being just 18 years of age – he’s so calm making plays under pressure even though he’s relatively inexperienced.
There’s such variety to the way he creates chances as well, which again is another reason his output will remain high. Whether it’s passes from open play, dribbles into the final third, one-twos on the edge of the penalty area or even pressuring opponents into making mistakes high up the pitch – he’s all action, already, and knows how to turn it into good value chances either for himself or his teammates.
Positionally, he’s rather hard to define owing to his fluidity and freedom in Leverkusen’s attacking setup. Wirtz asks questions of flat-footed defenders with his ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude to ball progression, even if his execution isn’t always finely tuned.
Florian Wirtz and Karim Adeyemi and the two big breakout stars of the emerging German generation; both have enjoyed a rapid rise to prominence over the past couple of seasons, and for good reason. Nico Schlotterbeck is on a similar trajectory as well.
Everyone should know the protagonists in German youth development – they include Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04, VfB Stuttgart, and, of course, FC Bayern München. SC Freiburg are also a club that develop young players, both from their own academy and elsewhere.