20 Under-the-Radar Bundesliga Players Set to Shine in 2014
As one of the top leagues within European and world football at the moment, the German Bundesliga comes with a number of reputations that it often has no trouble living up to.
One of those reputations is that in a league that is full to the brim with young and exciting talent raised, developed and then eventually played by each of the top clubs in a countrywide system, the German national team has become one of the most abundantly talented sides in the world.
Young, exciting players are constantly popping up across the league, and as such we thought we'd take the time to write them down and earmark them for the future.
Here are your 20 under-the-radar Bundesliga players who look set to shine in 2014.
Borussia Moenchengladbach have found themselves at the heart of a welcome reputation of late when it comes to nurturing young and exciting strikers.
The latest talent from this production line is none other than Branimir Hrgota, the Bosnia-born Swedish international.
He's quick and incredibly composed in front of goal, yet Hrgota has only scored two goals in 15 appearances for the club and has actually yet to start a single game for the Foals this season. This young striker is posed for a breakthrough.
The next player in our list is 18-year-old Danish central midfielder Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg from Bayern Munich.
Hojbjerg is one of the few players on this list who has yet to make more than one appearance in the Bundesliga this season, yet we think we'll let him get away with it since it is Bayern's first team he's trying to break in to.
The young Dane is best described as a player most like Javi Martinez in the sense that he brings raw physicality to the table as well as faultless passing and technique. Hojbjerg is a standout central midfielder who could be playing alongside Bastian Schweinsteiger and Co. before too long.
In Wolfsburg, Diego is king. Or at least that used to be the case for the Bundesliga's Wolves. Yet this season has finally seen a new contender to the throne in the form of 19-year-old Maximilian Arnold, a central attacking midfielder who has gone to great lengths to dislodge the Brazilian No. 10.
With five goals in just 10 games for Wolfsburg this season, Arnold has seen his stock rise quicker than most in the league. And with a whole host of talents that make him deadly on the edge of any defence's box, it comes as no surprise that Dieter Hecking's side have seen their fortunes skyrocket. Expect this debutant to hit double figures before the end of the season.
Emre Can takes his place in this list as something of an exception. A former Bayern Munich player who currently plays for Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League is hardly under the radar, yet the formidable progress that Can has made this season could make him something of a hot topic this summer.
From left back, Can has made Leverkusen's left flank his own as one of the Factory Squad's standout performers this season, and at only 19 years of age he can only be regarded as one of the most exciting defenders in the Bundesliga today.
Another Wolfsburg player to make the list is 21-year-old Ricardo Rodriguez. The Swiss left back has quickly cemented his place as something of a star in the Bundesliga this season, with admirers across the continent, such as Chelsea, sniffing around for a quick buy before his value gets even higher in the summer.
Rodriguez is an excellent attacking full-back, with three goals and three assists so far this season, and has been a key part in his club's march up the table. The Wolves will be lucky if he's still playing in green this time next season.
Wolfsburg may currently be sitting in fifth place in the Bundesliga at the moment, yet their defensive record should actually see them sitting in fourth, with only Bayern, Leverkusen and Gladbach sporting fewer conceded goals so far in this current campaign.
At the heart of that success is young Robin Knoche, a 21-year-old German central defender who has been ever-present for the Wolves this season and until now received very little credit for his hard work. Despite only playing his second full season for the club, the towering central defender has already forced his way in to a starting role, where he looks certain to stay.
Despite the constant circus act that is Schalke 04, the club have actually done rather well to hone in on local talent throughout Germany and sign them up to their inconsistent cause.
Max Meyer is a player who characterises that perfectly, as a young talent at just 18 years old who is undoubtedly considered one of the most promising attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga today.
Three goals and a solitary assist aren't exactly groundbreaking statistics after a dozen starts for Schalke this season, but as we can see from the club's dismissive seventh-place finish before the winter break, very few at the club are currently thriving.
Thomas Tuchel is a talented manager who relies heavily upon the essence of balance to push his sides forward throughout a season. At Mainz, his side currently sit comfortably in mid-table with little drama or disappointment to write home about.
Yet one player who has excited fans each week is 20-year-old Johannes Geis, a young German defensive midfielder who has been at the heart of any success the small club have enjoyed this season.
As well as a being a solid central defender, Geis has an interesting talent in picking out wonderful long passes. Three assists this season are hardly anything to get too excited about, yet the anchored midfielder has been incredibly useful with his quarterback-like setups for numerous plays.
With four goals and four assists for Stuttgart this season, 17-year-old Timo Werner is undoubtedly one of the standout youngsters of the year in the Bundesliga.
What makes the young winger so useful for the Swabians is the manner in which he plays his game; jinking in and out of tackling defenders and cutting inside is something every football fan loves to see, and with pace and skills aplenty, Werner looks set for a very bright future in German football.
As our second Dane on the list so far, Jannik Vestergaard of Hoffenheim comes in as an exception to the rule that the small village club can't defend.
Markus Gisdol's side—and the tactics he puts forth every week—may be tailor made for fast, attacking football and very little regard for defensive stability, yet Vestergaard has been a standout performer for the side despite only being 21 years old.
If Hoffenheim do achieve anything this season, this young defender will deserve as much applause as the flashier players further up the pitch.
Another club who often disregard the need for defensive stability are Hamburg, and it just so happens that they too have a young central defender who seems destined to buck the trend of leaky defences having poor defenders.
Jonathan Tah has only really been introduced to the squad this season, yet through some very consistent performances—at least in comparison to Heiko Westermann and Johan Djourou—new coach Bert van Marwijk has come to rely upon him as a first team starter. At just 17 years old, this young defender has a very bright future.
Another Hamburg youngster who makes it to our list is 23-year-old Maximilian Beister. The German international has really come in to his own this season, with stints on Hamburg's right-hand wing and as a true striker at times with deadly results.
In just 15 starts for the club, the forward has scored five goals and created three assists for his side and proven himself as a useful attacking option for the new coach.
With recent transfer rumours linking him to clubs such as Borussia Dortmund, it's not hard to understand why young Matthias Ginter of Freiburg is so heavily sought after throughout the country.
The 19-year-old central defender has shown an excellent degree of maturity and technical ability to seamlessly move between defence and midfield throughout Freiburg's bumpy season. We'd be very surprised if he's still fighting away for Christain Streich's side next season.
Another member of Hamburg's potent attack is 19-year-old attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu, who joins Beister and Tah as one of the country's most interesting youngsters this season.
Although Calhanoglu is primarily a central, attacking midfielder, he has spent most of the season on the left wing and has already repaid the trust shown in him with five goals and two assists in this current campaign.
Freiburg may be having something of a seasonal hangover following the success of last year's Bundesliga campaign, but there are some things for the club from the Black Forest to be hopeful about.
One in particular is young left-back Christian Gunter, who has stepped in to the role with unquestionable professionalism and remained a steady rock in what has been a very unsettling time for the club and manager Christian Streich. At just 20 years of age, Gunter has plenty of time to embed himself in as a competent Bundesliga defender.
It would be easy to look at Nurnberg's winless season thus far and deduce that Der Club weren't having the best of times this season. Yet, an alternative way to look at it is by counting up the 11 draws that they've claimed from 17 games and assuming that they were doing well just to ensure they didn't lose more of those.
One man who has made sure of that is Niklas Stark, an 18-year-old German international defensive midfielder who has gone to great lengths to ensure that Nurnberg don't lose each and every week.
The midfielder has been ever present throughout the difficult season and offered a slight sign of hope for a club that seem all out of solutions at the moment.
Another potential gem in the rough at troubled Nurnberg is 21-year-old Swiss striker Josip Drmic.
To put the club's reliance on Drmic's goals into context, the closest opponent to his six goals this season in 13 starts is central defender Per Nilsson, who, as you probably guessed it, has a certain affinity with scoring from set-pieces and corners.
Of course, that isn't to take away from Drmic's own talent. The young striker has often been a lifesaver for the club as they continue their battle for relegation and is quite simply the only attacking card, aside from Hiroshi Kiyotake, that coach Gertjan Verbeek can often play.
From Nurnberg to another club in even worse trouble, we move on to Eintracht Braunschweig and their star player of the season, Karim Bellarabi.
Bellarabi, a 23-year-old attacking midfielder, is currently on loan from high-flying Bayer Leverkusen and has set about making the most of the move to a club that will offer him more playing time.
In 12 games, the midfielder has two goals and two assists at a club that has scored just 10 goals in 17 games.
Our next player is another Stuttgart youngster in the form of central defender Antonio Rudiger.
The German international has been active this season for a Stuttgart side that has looked steadier and defensively able than past versions. Alongside Daniel Schwaab, Rudiger forms one half of an effective and young centre-back pairing that could well have more potential than any other in the league.
Don't expect these two to stay together for too long.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga concludes our list of the top 20 under-the-radar youngsters in the Bundesliga as something of a contradiction considering the fact that every Bundesliga fan the world over will know exactly who this young man is.
Lasogga, a youth team striker at Hertha Berlin who was then loaned to Hamburg this season, has had an outstanding breakthrough campaign and now sits on nine goals in just 11 starts for the club that decided to take a gamble on his talents.
At 22 years of age, Lasogga can no longer be considered a teenage prodigy, but his talents are comprehensive enough to warrant the striker as something of a Bundesliga top-goalscorer-to-be. This youngster looks as though he'll be scoring a lot of goals in the German top division for many years to come.