Five Bundesliga youngsters fit for Premier League stardom

Germany's embarrassment of riches in the youth department is plain to see - just imagine FFT's plight as we attempted to whittle down a huge shortlist to pick out five of the Bundesliga's most prized assets. 

We eventually did, though, without the likes of Mario Götze, Julian Draxler, David Alaba, Ilkay Gündogan, Kevin Volland, Heung Min-Son (well, duh). The list goes on. 

So read on and find out more about the ones who did make the cut. You'll be hearing much more about them soon enough...

Timo Werner

Who is he?
Stuttgart’s 17-year-old forward has been nothing short of a revelation in the first half of his debut Bundesliga campaign. With four goals and as many assists in his cluster of appearances for the southern side (14 in the league), so far there’s been much to admire about the local boy come good.

Although having learned his trade centrally, Werner’s impact from the left wing this season has made him an integral part of Thomas Schneider’s plans at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Effective trickery and pace helps too, of course. Without being built like a proverbial brick structure he’s also surprisingly strong, as he demonstrated in his brace-netting display against Freiburg.

Why you need to know him
The lad born just a mile-and-a-half away from Stuttgart’s home is the most exciting attacking prospect to emerge from the club since Mario Gomez. He’s been at the club since he was six, soared through the various age groups with ease and last season left behind youth football with 24 goals in 23 appearances in the Under-19 Bundesliga. 

No surprise, then, that Chelsea have already come sniffing if you’re to believe reports. Most worrying for Stuttgart is that youngsters don’t turn professional in Germany until 18, meaning the prospect of a worrying premature exit. 


Thankfully for the Bundesliga side, though, Werner isn’t concerned about the riches of Roman & Co. just yet. “I cannot envisage playing anywhere else, ever,” he revealed, echoing the declarations of sporting director and former Germany hitman Fredi Bobic: “We've had some good talks and we're already at quite an advanced stage.”


There’ll be no exit clause either, meaning potential suitors will have to cough up or sit back down if they’re to get anywhere near this prodigious prize. 


Who does he remind you of?
At 5ft 11in he’s somewhat taller than your conventional winger – not surprising given his upbringing as a striker – and in time it wouldn’t be too surprising to see him move centrally for good. Looks-wise, you can’t help but scream “Andrey Arshavin!” but for now, though, think a slightly quicker Thomas Müller.  


Would be perfect for
Chelsea, Arsenal. 

Roberto Firmino

Who is he?
The flamboyant Brazilian with an ever-changing appearance has shone in a free-scoring Hoffenheim side this season.


With eight goals and six assists from attacking midfield, the 22-year-old has run defences ragged and proved himself as one of the Bundesliga’s brightest talents. Indeed, he is one of the main reasons why his team are the league’s third-highest scorers. 


Don’t be surprised to see his dodgy celebrations, bad hair – bleach-blonde at the moment – tattoos and utterly horrendous fashion choices (“I like to try something new,” he admitted) transferred from German to English screens soon. We want it to happen. 

Why you need to know him
Firmino still harbours hopes of making Brazil’s World Cup squad, such are the quality of his performances this season. “I hope that I can still slide into the squad,” he told Bild. “It would be a dream if I could play with Luiz Gustavo (a former team-mate who owns the house Firmino currently rents) at the World Cup. That's extra motivation for the second half.”

Although he doesn’t appear to have any immediate plans to leave Sinsheim (“I feel at ease here”), it seems only a matter of time before his talents force him elsewhere. But beware – clubs looking to snap up the young Samba star would have to part with around £9m to prise him away from the contract that still has a year-and-a-half left to run.  

Who does he remind you of?
Being given something of a free role in the hole makes him something of a Philippe Coutinho – and potentially perfect competition for his even younger Liverpool compatriot. Firmino has proved effective drifting from wide areas to central ones, as shown by his ever-increasing heap of goals and assists. 

Would be perfect for
Liverpool, Tottenham. 

Max Meyer

Who is he?
He missed out on Maxi Arnold’s newcomer of the season award by half a per cent, but in truth the Schalke star looks an even more intriguing prospect.  


A central attacking midfielder with an exquisite touch and confidence to dribble at will, Meyer has taken advantage of injuries to become an established member of Jens Keller’s first team set-up this season. 


Already linked with Chelsea after an eye-catching Champions League display against the Blues (what you buy can’t hurt you, right?), Meyer’s breakthrough displays are helping Schalke deal with the uncertain future of boy wonder Draxler. 


The player with “God-given abilities,” according to sporting director Horst Heldt, is one of the few positives in an otherwise dreary season for the Gelsenkirchen club. 

Why you need to know him
Thrown in at the deep end but unfazed by it all. Meyer, dubbed “Mini-Max” by his team-mates, featured in five of Schalke’s six Champions League group stage matches as they reached the knockout stage and should be rewarded with the opportunity to pit himself against Real Madrid in the last 16. 

The 2012 Under-17 European Championship’s top goalscorer and best player is living up to his early promise. He’s currently tied down to a contract until 2018, and while Schalke are still a force to be reckoned with off the pitch it seems inevitable that the big clubs will come calling later down the line. 


Who does he remind you of?
“In addition to the three training sessions I had, there was an extra futsal session,” he once revealed. It’s evident. With the boldness to run at opponents and a handy knack of executing eye-of-the-needle passes, it’s not too surprising to hear about the second coming of Götze in German youth ranks. Whether he eventually ups sticks like his three-year senior remains to be seen.  


Would be perfect for
Arsenal, Manchester City. 

Jonathan Tah

Who is he?
A glimmer of hope in the Bundesliga’s leakiest defence. At just 17 years old the Hamburg teenager is already a regular for Bert van Marwijk’s side, who have endured the third-worst first half of a season in the club’s history.


That Tah has emerged from the rubble with immense credit, despite being part of a defence that has shipped a joint league-high 38 goals in the league so far this season, is a great testament. Mind you, he does have former Arsenal stopper Johan Djourou for company. 


The Hamburg local has been capped 13 times at U17 level for Germany, but is also eligible for the Ivory Coast.  

Why you need to know him
Scan through Europe’s top five leagues and you won’t find too many 17-year-old’s holding their own at the heart of defence on a weekly basis. 

When the Hamburger Morgenpost ran an online poll to determine the team’s player of the season so far, it wasn’t 10-goal Pierre-Michel Lasogga who came out trumps. Nor was it Arsenal-linked 19-year-old Hakan Calhanoglu, or the in-form Raphael van der Vaart. Instead Tah took the fans’ plaudits with 34% of the votes.


Unsurprisingly Hamburg have moved quickly to secure the services of their youngest-ever player. Although he doesn’t turn 18 until mid-February, Tah has agreed a new deal which will keep him at the Imtech Arena for another five years. The exact numbers aren’t known, but his release clause will be in the “double-digit millions,” according to reports. But when has that ever stopped the big boys from dipping into those deep pockets? 


Who does he remind you of?
At 6ft 3in and as stocky as the grown men he plays against, Tah isn’t your average 17-year-old. Comparisons will naturally be drawn with Bayern Munich’s Jerome Boateng, who became a Hertha Berlin first-team regular at a slightly older age before moving to Hamburg for a bargain €1m in August 2007. Tah wouldn’t be going too far wrong by following his lead.


Would be perfect for
Manchester City, Manchester United.  

Maxi Arnold

Who is he?
Only the player named the Bundesliga’s best newcomer by his peers this season. The 19-year-old scooped the league’s prize on the back of a super first half of the campaign in which he nailed down a regular first-team place in Dieter Hecking’s exciting Wolfsburg side. 


It takes a talented individual to play behind the lone striker, but Arnold’s five goals in just 11 appearances in that position have made him impossible to oust. Just ask former Brazil international Diego, shoved out wide to accommodate his young team-mate and who could yet leave this month despite declaring he’ll stay put until the end of the season. 


It’s been going this way since the back end of last season, in fact, when the goal-getting midfielder penned a four-year contract shortly after his 18th birthday. Wolfsburg’s youngest-ever player and goalscorer has plenty more to offer. 

Why you need to know him
There’s a good reason Wolfsburg aren’t too fussed about tying down Diego to a new deal. A gigantic ego doesn’t help, but it’s Arnold’s emergence that is really helping the club deal with the talented Brazilian’s contract situation (his deal expires at the season’s end).  

Hecking is building a youthful team in Lower Saxony, and Arnold is an integral part of it. The capture of Kevin De Bruyne from Chelsea only adds more quality, and if they play their cards right they could yet end up in next season’s Champions League with a strong run after the winter break.  


Who does he remind you of?
He’s already been painfully dubbed The New Özil, but in an interview with German magazine Kicker, Arnold revealed that a move to Manchester United would fulfil his boyhood dreams. It’s not like David Moyes couldn’t find a place for him now, is it?


He’s not like Özil, though, instead providing more of a goal threat than a creative one. If he can start asserting himself more in the Bundesliga, most notably chipping in with a few assists, Wolfsburg will find it difficult to hang on to their highly rated hotshot.  


Would be perfect for
Manchester United, Arsenal. 


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Joe Brewin

Joe was the Deputy Editor at FourFourTwo until 2022, having risen through the FFT academy and been on the brand since 2013 in various capacities. 

By weekend and frustrating midweek night he is a Leicester City fan, and in 2020 co-wrote the autobiography of former Foxes winger Matt Piper – subsequently listed for both the Telegraph and William Hill Sports Book of the Year awards.