Youth is relative in Germany. Rather, youth is relative in German football. Whereas the oldest teams on average in the other three top European leagues (English Premier League, Spain's La Liga and Italy's Serie A) are all nearing or over 29, the Bundesliga's oldest team on average is three years younger.
Indeed, with youth development booming and a firm culture of promoting players through the academy system in place, the Bundesliga is overflowing with young talent. The glaring difference between the Bundesliga and the other big leagues certainly bodes well for the future of German football.
At the moment, Germany is spoiled with talented young players, especially in the goalkeeper and midfield positions. But even amidst the evolution of the striker-less formation and the plethora of versatile attacking midfielders being produced, academies continue to churn out extremely talented strikers.
On this list, we will profile some of those promising young players, players who have excelled at the youth level and are just on the brink of truly breaking out and meeting their potential.
6. Niclas Fullkrug (Greuther Furth)
Fullkrug, who is a Werder Bremen player, is currently on loan in the 2. Bundesliga with Greuther Furth to gain experience and playing time. Bremen, who have lacked a consistent goalscoring threat since the days of Miroslav Klose and Ailton, have a very promising talent on their hands with Fullkrug.
The 21-year-old had an impressive scoring record coming through the youth ranks at Bremen and was given his first-team debut at the age of 18. Fullkrug suffered a season-ending injury last year that threatened his development, but his loan spell has reinvigorated his career and ignited his potential.
Greuther Furth are currently in second place and look very likely to return to the top flight. Earlier this season, Fullkrug impressed in a 6-2 win over Erzgebirge Aue in which he scored four goals himself. Fullkrug is also a current German U20 international.
Fullkrug just suffered an injury that could keep him out for a month. However, should he return and continue producing high-quality performances, he is definitely one to keep an eye on next season in the Bundesliga—whether it is with Werder Bremen or Greuther Furth.
5. Federico Palacios Martinez (RB Leipzig)
The name could not sound any less German, but the Hannover-born striker is as German as you can get. And the 18-year-old's numbers have even been compared to past greats like Gerd Muller.
His record at the youth level has been nothing short of spectacular. Palacios Martinez has scored 80 goals in 90 games for Wolfsburg and the German national team at youth level so far in his career. It is no surprise, then, that RB Leipzig, a club vying to get into the 2. Bundesliga, dished out over half a million Euros for him in the January transfer window.
Palacios Martinez developed through the Wolfsburg youth academy, where he was top scorer and winner of the U19 championship last season. In the first half of the season this year the striker scored an astounding 29 goals in 14 games.
He already made his first-team debut for RB Leipzig last month, and Wolfsburg's loss will surely be their gain the more Palacios Martinez gets acclimatized. Expect to hear a lot more from the man with two last names.
4. Philipp Hofmann (FC Ingolstadt 04)
Here's another player who is on loan for the sake of gaining experience and playing consistent first-team football. Originally owned by Schalke, Hofmann first went out on loan to SC Paderborn where he impressed, and now he has become the first-choice striker and one of the top performers at Ingolstadt.
Hofmann is what one would call a traditional No. 9. He is tall, strong and great in the air. Like all target forwards, he is also able to provide great hold-up play to bring others into the game. One player that quickly comes to mind watching Hofmann play is Mario Gomez.
The 20-year-old is also a regular for Germany's U21s, where he has also been first-choice for coach Horst Hrubesch in their campaign to qualify for the 2015 U21 European Championships. Hofmann may not be the most technical player among his peers, but he is arguably the most ready for the first division.
With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar aging and Adam Szalai struggling with continuous injuries, do not be surprised if Schalke recall young Hofmann next season.
3. Donis Avdijaj (Schalke 04)
Not in a while has there been so much hype or press coverage around a 17-year-old, but Avdijaj's talents certainly merit it. Last month German publication Bild reported (via a report by Simon Jones in the Daily Mail) that Avdijaj's contract extension contained a release clause of almost €50 million.
The 17-year-old currently has 15 goals in 13 appearances for Schalke's U19s, and with many of Europe's top clubs watching the prodigious striker, Schalke's urgency to extend his stay comes as no surprise. Like Max Mayer, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil before him, Avdijaj seems to be the latest off the incredible assembly line of talent at the Schalke youth academy.
Avdijaj is quick, has great technique and has a fantastic eye for goal. Earlier this year he was called up to the first team for a league match but did not make an appearance. Still, it is evident that he is not far away from making the move into first-team football permanent.
2. Marvin Ducksch (Borussia Dortmund)
So many talented young players have had their development interrupted or ruined by either injury or a poor attitude. For a while, it looked as though Ducksch would fall victim to both. Yet he battled through to mature and is now close to fulfilling his potential as one of German football's biggest talents.
Ducksch came to Dortmund when he was eight. Years of success and scoring goals in the youth and second team of Dortmund later, he finally made his debut for the first team in 2012. On his competitive debut he scored his first goal and has since been training with and part of the first squad under Jurgen Klopp.
With Robert Lewandowski on his way to Bayern Munich in the summer, Klopp may not go after the high-profile replacement everyone expects, and instead could place his trust on 20-year-old Ducksch. Taking such a risk is not beyond Klopp, and Ducksch is ready to finally make the step up.
1. Timo Werner (VfB Stuttgart)
Technically, Werner has had a breakthrough year for Stuttgart this season. It is his first full season with the club, and he has already rewritten the record books. He became the youngest-ever league debutant for Stuttgart last season and the youngest player in league history to score two goals in a game.
But Werner has been protected by coach Thomas Schneider who has played him out wide and made sure he has not been burned out too much. Werner really is a forward, though. That is where he played for his youth teams, and that is where he excels.
The 18-year-old combines the technique of players like Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil with the tenacity and eye for goal of Thomas Muller. Stuttgart were not shy to already give him a contract extension until 2018, and there have even been talks of Joachim Low including Werner as a surprise selection his World Cup squad.
Either way, unlike many players who burn out and fade away, Werner almost seems destined for greatness from the get-go.
All numbers courtesy of TransferMarkt.de
Follow Cristian on Twitter @cnyari
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