In an era, where the total net worth of squads in the Premier League (4.4billion Euros) is double that of the Bundesliga teams (2.38 billion), and the third richest/most valuable clubs in Germany (Leverkusen and Schalke are around 200 million Euros) would barely crack the top 10 in England (West Ham and Newcastle are tied for 9th at 182 mil each) moving to the English top flight after one or two great seasons has increasingly become the norm for Bundesliga talents.
The recent influx of young Bundesliga talent into the Barclay’s Premier League has by and large been a success. It can take some adjustment, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg) needed two bites at the cherry after a false start with Chelsea, while for others like Tottenham’s Heung-Min Son (Leverkusen) and Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim) have taken time to bed in at their respective clubs. Even teams like Stoke City are able to spend close to 10 million Euros each on 22-25 year olds, Xherdan Shaqiri (Bayern via Inter), Marko Arnautovic (Werder Bremen) and Joselu (Hannover 96 and Hoffenheim before that). Liverpool have already locked up Schalke’s 24-year-old center back Joel Matip and look to be favorites to snap up his teammate, 20-year-old wunderkind Leroy Sané to the tune of 60 million. Gladbach’s 25 million Euro man, the tough-tackling Granit Xhaka, Wolfsburg’s Julian Draxler and Ricardo Rodriguez (combined transfer value = 50 million Euros) are all 22-23 years old and virtual locks for summer transfers to England as well.
So, those are the obvious candidates, now let’s take a look at five players (under the age of 23) that could be next to make the switch from the German league to the English one.
Mahmoud Dahoud – Borussia Mönchengladbach
The Syrian born playmaker has seen his value skyrocket from 600,000 Euros to a whopping 8 million since July, thanks to a breakout first Bundesliga season. Having played exactly 1 minute prior to the current campaign, Dahoud was mostly a substitute (50 minutes in 4 games) under Lucien Favre, who promptly got fired for losing the first five matches of the season. Since then, he has orchestrated the Gladbach renaissance with 2 goals and 4 assists in around 1100 minutes, as the Foals have earned 32 points, third only to Bayern’s 44 and Dortmund’s 36 in just 17 games. Despite his inexperience (turning 20 in January), he is a rare breed of a modern central midfielder, capable of winning tackles in the midfield and launching an immediate counter-attack and finding the right pass, just as he did in the buildup to the first goal of a 5-1 win over Werder Bremen. It should perhaps come as no surprise then, that he has been put on new Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola’s wishlist.
Timo Horn – FC Cologne and Loris Karius – FSV Mainz 05
The 22-year-old goalkeepers for the 6th and 9th place Bundesliga teams are nearly identical in age (1 month apart) and in most statistical categories. Both have exactly 59 saves and save percentages of 77%, second only to Manuel Neuer, with Karius edging Horn with 6 clean sheets to 5, having conceded 25 goals to 27 in the Bundesliga’s 21 games so far. Horn is the better distributor with a weakish 64%, but Karius (58%) also boots the ball 43 meters on average, and comparing them to Manuel Neuer, benefiting from a bevy of great options to receive the ball from his at 86%, is unfair. With both netminders enjoying stellar seasons for two teams who struggle to score (Cologne 24 and Mainz 27 goals in 21 games respectively) and are valued at around 65 million Euros, Karius for 7 million, or Horn for 8 million would be terrific options. If only there was a former Mainz manager in the Premier League, whose goalkeeper has just signed an extension despite struggling mightily. Oh wait…
Jonathan Tah – Bayer Leverkusen
Another recent member of the twenty-something club, and more importantly a key reason why his team are second only to Bayern in goals allowed with 22. At 1,94 meters and 204 lbs the German U21 international has tremendous size, and his 1 yellow card despite playing every minute this season suggests he has the disciple to succeed as well. In a comparison with top Bundesliga defenders, Joel Matip (18 million Euros), Jerome Boateng (40 million), Mats Hummels (32 million), the Hamburg native comes out looking like a stud: His Squawka defensive score is higher than any of those three, he has more interceptions and only Matip has more clearances than Tah does. The one improvement he can make is in pass completion, where his 78% is a bit below par. The good news is that in the Champions League and in last year’s Bundesliga those numbers were at 83%, so at just 10 million, he would be an ideal fit for a team struggling to find a central defender, like Manchester United, but could also be a replacement for Per Mertesacker at Arsenal.
Filip Kostic – VfB Stuttgart
This youngster is the poster boy for Stuttgart’s Jekyll and Hyde season. Under manager Alexander Zorniger, the 22-year-old Serbian left-winger was a borderline disaster, with no goals, no assists and a pass completion percentage close to 60%. Sure, bad luck played a part in it, as Stuttgart lost a game in the last 5 minutes to HSV, outshot Cologne 29 to 8 and lost 3-1 and somehow lost 4-1 to Frankfurt despite allowing 6 shots and taking 15.
New coach Jürgen Kramny eased back on the manic pressing of Stuttgart and moved Serey Die behind a flat 4 in midfield, moves that were no longer putting insane pressure on a shaky defence, and Stuttgart were no longer behind all the time. (If you want to get technical, the Swabians were behind 40% of the time in games up to late November, a huge discrepancy from a normal 25-25-50 split – ahead/behind/tied). Call it a coincidence, but in Kramny’s first game, a 4-1 beating from Dortmund, Kostic registered his first assist, to be followed by another one the week after in a draw versus Werder. Stuttgart of course have won five straight games, and Kostic has contributed three goals (tying last year’s total), one assist while collecting two man of the match performances.
In the eight games since the coaching change VfB’s 17 points are only trailing Bayern and Dortmund’s 19. His obvious flaw is the low passing percentage, but it’s actually the same 62% as Leicester hero Marc Albrighton. Aside from both being speedy left-wingers with a penchant for counterattacking, the two are completely different players, as Kostic is tall and bulky at 1.84m and 83kgs, while the former Villa man is 1.75m and 67 kgs. Unlike one of the best early ball strikers in the BPL in Albrighton, Kostic is notoriously inaccurate with his crosses, (his 114 is nearly double that of 2nd place Konstantin Rausch’s 64), but gets the job done in other ways: His 45 key passes are second only to the great Henrikh Mkhitaryan of Borussia Dortmund, who is largely considered the best attacking midfielder in the league. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that while most experts consider Dortmund to be an offensive juggernaut and 52 goals are certainly a testament to that, Stuttgart have actually generated more shots 312 to 308, and Kostic has been a huge reason behind that. If he improves his passing to 70% and wins more of his duels (42% is not great) he could be a great young asset at 8 million Euros. Although, as far as his personality, he might not be a great fit at Leicester, but if they lose Riyadh Mahrez, the Serbian should get some consideration.
Pascal Groß – FC Ingolstadt
As one of the unknown heroes of the Bundesliga, being the leader in chances created, the reason you might not have heard about him is that, despite creating 57 chances in 19 games, his team have just scored 14 goals in 21 games. Ingolstadt sport a 20% shooting percentage, which is the same as Aston Villa, but sit in 12th place thanks to a stingy defence that has conceded only 23 times. The 24-year-old Mannheim native has somehow never played a single Bundesliga minute up to this season and is a bargain at just four million Euros. Don’t be fooled by his low pass completion percentage (his team is 2nd worst in possession), he measures really well against elite central attacking midfielders like last year’s Kevin De Bruyne, or this season’s Ross Barkley, Christian Eriksen and Dmitri Payet. Teams like West Ham (playing with Payet!), Southampton or Watford should be throwing money at him.
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