In the first part of the series examining some future stars of the German game, we selected several young Bundesliga talents destined for England in the near future. Timo Horn and Loris Karius; a couple of great young goalkeepers who are ranked 2nd and 3rd in save percentage in the Bundesliga featured, alongside 20-year-old central defender Jonathan Tah, Mahmoud Dahoud who has recently been linked with Liverpool, and the sparkling 22-year-old winger Filip Kostic. The intention is to keep the format covering all parts of the pitch, but to discuss only players under £25-30 million, thus discounting the mercurial Leroy Sané, the tenacious Granit Xhaka or the silky Julian Draxler. Andreas Christensen; who turned 20 in April, is on loan from Chelsea until 2017 and has been a revelation this year, but is ineligible due to his existing ties to the London side. A note on the financial figures – they are all according to Transfermarkt, which is typically at least 40-50% lower than what clubs will actually pay for a player. This can vary wildly depending on the age of the player, with Leroy Sané valued at £18 million for example, rumoured to be commanding at least €50 million from Barcelona, Real Madrid and company.
1 – Bernd Leno – Leverkusen
A product of the VfB Stuttgart academy, Bernd Leno has just turned 24 and his value is at €16 million. He was loaned to Leverkusen in 2011 after the club chose Sven Ulreich (who started for four years before switching to Bayern to back up Manuel Neuer this summer) and eventually caused the team to ship number one goalie Rene Adler (who has made 12 appearances for Germany) out to Hamburg by 2012. He was the youngest ever Champions League stopper when he featured against Chelsea in a group stage match in September of 2011. Lenohas already amassed 160 Bundesliga appearances, equating to five full seasons at the top level in Germany. This season, Leno is the fifth-highest rated goalkeeper in the Bundesliga according to Squawka , as he has conceded 33 goals in 28 matches. He is tied for second with 11 clean sheets, with the great Manuel Neuer leading the league with 17. His distribution; a must for a modern goalkeeper, is very good at 69% – 7th in the league. His greatest strength is stopping shots from close ranges, thanks to his cat-like reflexes. In his latest match; the Rhine Derby against Cologne, Leno pulled off 9 saves to keep a fourth consecutive clean sheet for die Werkself, a performance that earned him Bundesliga Team of the Week honors. Given the mistake-ridden displays of Simon Mignolet (61% save percentage) this season, Leno could be a great option for Liverpool.
2 – Niklas Süle – Hoffenheim
Niklas Süle has all the physical presence to excel in physical battles that the Premier League is renowned for, standing at 6ft 4in, and weighing in at 194 lbs (the same as Leicester City star Robert Huth). In addition, Süle possesses good speed, excellent anticipation (two interceptions per game) and commits under one foul per match (the 2nd lowest mark in the league) despite playing the full 90 minutes all 29 times. Despite being able to boast these impressive figures, he is only 20 and missed eight months of action due to an ACL tear from December of 2014 to July of 2015. Süle has already made over 70 appearances in the Bundesliga and is considered alongside the previously featured Jonathan Tah to be the future centre-back of Germany.
Overall, Squawka rates him as the 9th best Bundesliga defender, behind superstars like David Alaba, Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels or the new Liverpool signing Joel Matip. He also has scored five goals in his career, and has been winning 69% of his duels this season. An excellent passer of the ball at 85%, he does not neglect his defensive duties with nine defensive actions per 90 mins – 11th among all defenders in the Rückrunde. Hoffenheim have allowed the secondmost shots in the league, and are ranked in the bottom 3 in every advanced defensive metric but concede only the 8th most goals with 44 in 29 games, or 1.5 per match. Since 11th February; the date that 28-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann finally took over, Hoffenheim are the third best team in the Bundesliga behind Dortmund and Bayern, with 17 points from just nine games. Chelsea and Liverpool are not that far off at 1.37 per match, with the Merseyside club blogs already scouting him. UEFA.com already ran a feature on him in December and were drawing Vincent Kompany comparisons. €8 million seems like a bargain for such a rare talent.