Scouting Report: How Great Is Hamburg Prodigy Jonathan Tah?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentFebruary 5, 2014

Hamburg's Jonathan Tah, left,  vies for the ball with Mainz's Shinji Okazaki during to the German Bundesliga match between Hamburger SV and FSV Mainz 05 at Imtech Arena in Hamburg, Germany, Saturday Dec. 21, 2013.  (AP Photo/dpa,Angelika Warmuth)
Angelika Warmuth/Associated Press

The upside of Hamburg's 17-year-old 6'4" centre-back Jonathan Tah is limitless, so here is a scouting report on the German youth international. 


Contract Kerfuffle

Aquilas Tah, Jonathan's father, claims the contract his son signed at Hamburg is void because it violates FIFA rules. 

"According to FIFA rules, the contract is invalid because it is more than three years," Aquilas said, per Hamburger Morgenpost (h/t "The contract is only in the interest of the HSV and the consultant—and not in the interest of my son."

Aquilas is referring to Section IV (maintenance of contractual stability between professionals and clubs), Article 18 (special provisions relating to contracts between professionals and clubs), paragraph two, per "Players under the age of 18 may not sign a professional contract for a term longer than three years." 

What Hamburg did was retain Tah for another five years with a new contract and an extension 10 months later. 

  • Tah signed a three year contract on January 23, 2013, per Hamburg's official website.
  • He extended his current contract by two years on November 27, 2013, per Hamburg's official website.

Source: and

If Hamburg have successfully circumvented Section IV, Article 18 (2), it would reinforce one of Christina Lembo's main points, per the Emory International Law Review: "European football clubs have exploited various loopholes in the transfer regulations to recruit young foreign players and retain young local players."


How Great Is Tah?

Tah, 6'4", is the second tallest defender at the club behind 6'5" Lasse Sobiech. No outfielder at the club outweighs the 198-pound Tah, who is the definition of a man-child. 

Opposing players cannot bully him off the ball because he is so strong. 

His size played to his advantage in a 1-0 DFB-Pokal win over Greuther Furth when he made a goal-line clearance to deny Greuther centre-forward Niclas Fullkrug. 

The play was still alive, so Tah bounced right back up and intercepted the ball when it was flung back into the box. 

Rather than boot the ball away, Tah moved forward and offloaded the ball safely. 


This shows how comfortable he is with the ball at his feet, which reflects his outstanding ability in possession.

He has made 14 starts, and six times his pass completion percentage has been 85 or higher. During the 3-0 defeat to Hoffenheim, he completed 92 percent of his passes. 



Tah's Uphill Task


Hamburg have conceded the most goals in the Bundesliga (44 in 19 games), are second-to-last on the table and are on a five-game losing streak. 

The concern for Hamburg management is that they have become too reliant on Tah, the club's youngest debutant ever, per, to cover his underachieving teammates. 

Source: and Broder-Jurgen Trede

Goalkeeper Rene Adler's 1.1 saves per goal conceded is below average, and his air-swing in the 2-0 defeat to Werder Bremen, which led to Nils Petersen scoring via a chip, sums up Adler's season. 


Backup Jaroslav Drobny has filled in on four league games and made two errors that have led to goals conceded. 

Hamburg do not have an elite right-back.

  • Centre-back Heiko Westermann has been a stop-plug measure at right-back. 
  • Defensive midfielder Tomas Rincon filled in and was sent off in the 3-2 defeat to Mainz.
  • Regular right-back Dennis Diekmeier is still re-acquainting himself with first-team football after being on the sidelines for several months rehabbing a broken foot, per Hamburg's official website.

With the exception of Tah and Westermann, who has started 56.3 percent of games at right-back—which is not ideal—Hamburg's centre-back depth is worrying.

Lasse Sobiech provides an aerial presence, but he has concentration problems, which is evident from his two mistakes in the 2-0 defeat to Borussia Monchengladbach

Then there is Johan Djourou, who has not changed one bit.

Forget about the own goal in the 3-3 draw against Stuttgart and focus on him heading the ball straight to Mainz's Shinji Okazaki with the score tied at 2-2 in stoppage time. 

Of all the players the ball could have gone to, it went to Okazaki, who had scored earlier and created a goal in the game. 

He acrobatically juggled the ball before slotting it past Drobny to make it 3-2—Djourou cost Hamburg what could have been an invaluable point. 


Left-back has not been a problem this season, as Marcell Jansen has been a proactive ball-winner and leads Hamburg's defenders in tackles made (52).

Despite being a teenager playing with struggling teammates, Tah was voted the club's best player in the first half of the season, per Hamburg's official website

Jonathan Glao Tah—jot down that name because he could be a superstar by 2018. 



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