5 Young Prospects Set to Break Through at Borussia Dortmund
Since the successes of Nuri Sahin, Mario Goetze and Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund have increased investment in their youth academy. The "Footbonaut" training machine is just one example, but overall the club has increased its commitment to training young talent. And the performance of their youth teams shows just that.
Although fourth in the West region, BVB's under-19 team is just two points behind second-placed Monchengladbach. The under-17s are doing much better and are first, a point clear of Leverkusen. It appears that Dortmund will within the next few years have a very enviable crop of young talents on the rise. But it will take these players some time to mature to the point of being playable at senior level.
In the meantime, however, there are some burgeoning prospects at BVB who are closing in on making a breakthrough. Click "Begin Slideshow" to take a look at the young Dortmund players to watch this spring.
Three seasons ago, Marvin Ducksch was one of Germany's top talents for the striker position. As a 17-year-old, he scored 33 goals in just 18 games for Dortmund's under-17s and hit the target seven more times in 11 games for the under-19s. The next season he was promoted to the Dortmund reserves.
The 2012-13 campaign could have been a breakthrough season for Ducksch, but the youngster sustained an injury in August and did not make his return until mid-March. This season, Ducksch has shown intermittent glimpses of his talent. He's scored nine goals and assisted four more in 15 appearances for the reserves, but only recorded 154 minutes—49 of which were against lower-league sides in the DFB-Pokal—with the senior team.
With Ji Dong-Won set to arrive in the summer, Ducksch could be loaned out until he has more match practice. He has the tools: A strong and accurate shot with both feet, a soft touch, quick acceleration and a striker's instincts. Now he just needs time to refine his abilities.
Those who have seen Jeremy Dudziak play football may be reminded somewhat of David Alaba. A quick, technical, left-footed player of West African descent who can play as a full-back, winger or in central midfield, Dudziak is a raw talent with a very well-rounded skill set.
Dudziak first emerged as a top talent in 2012, when he played on the left of defense in Germany's under-17 team at the European Championship. He entered the current campaign ready to take the next step in his career, but a pair of muscular injuries have limited him to just eight games for BVB's under-19s—in which he, primarily used as a playmaker, has scored seven goals and given four assists.
This spring will be a key time for Dudziak, who in spite of his talent has yet to assert himself on a stage above youth level. Should he make his way into the BVB reserves and impress at the under-19 Euros, he could soon find his well into Jurgen Klopp's senior team.
Trained as a striker at Mainz, used as a winger for the Dortmund reserves and converted to a left-back when brought into the first team, Erik Durm has had a very unusual career thus far. Although he is the eldest player on this list and is approaching his 22nd birthday, the fact that he has only recently found what seems to be his permanent role suggests that with time and experience he could develop substantially.
Jurgen Klopp is quoted by BundesligaFanatic.com's Archie Rhind-Tutt as stating that Durm is "the most extraordinary player [Dortmund] have," physically-speaking. With outstanding pace and incredible endurance (even by BVB's lofty standards), the Pirmasens native has the ideal physique for a defender. Yet, having spent so many years training in attack, Durm is very effective moving into the opposite third. Like Kevin Grosskreutz, he has the potential to one day become a starter in a full-back position at Dortmund.
Last summer, Dortmund had to choose which of Jonas Hofmann or Leonardo Bittencourt they should keep and which they should offload. Perhaps surprisingly, it was the latter who was sold to Hannover despite him having played professionally last season. Hofmann had impressed in preseason training and, in spite of his inexperience, was named in the BVB professional squad.
Hofmann has since been used very sparingly, starting only once and typically featuring as a second-half substitute. He impressed on a couple of occasions, though: Despite having some physical limitations, the 21-year-old made his impression felt with some very clever passing. He is rather creative and is very adept at measuring his through passes and crosses. If trusted with more playing time, he could become a reliable option off the bench.
Many will recall Marian Sarr as the young defender who slipped and cheaply conceded a goal to Hertha BSC in Dortmund's last match of 2013, but the 18-year-old is actually a top prospect.
A year ago, just shy of his 18th birthday, the center-back left Leverkusen for BVB. It was a huge loss for B04, and CEO Wolfgang Holzhaeuser admitted Sarr's sale was a bitter pill to swallow:
"He could have earned more money with us than any other youth player before him," he said (per Sky). "We did everything, tried everything. It was not an easy decision for us."
A Germany under-19 international, Sarr missed a month earlier this season due to a broken toe. However, a blight of injuries among the Dortmund center-backs forced him to make the professional leap into Jurgen Klopp's starting lineup towards the end of the first round. In three appearances, he twice completed the full 90 minutes.
As Dortmund prepare to resume their campaign, it remains uncertain as to what role Sarr can expect to play. If BVB sign a new center-back, the youngster could be set for a spell on loan. In any case, with more match practice and maturity, Sarr could one day be a star.