Ranking Borussia Dortmund's Top 10 Youth Prospects

Lars Pollmann@@LarsPollmannFeatured ColumnistJanuary 17, 2016

Ranking Borussia Dortmund's Top 10 Youth Prospects

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    Mike Carlson/Getty Images

    In recent years, Borussia Dortmund have invested a lot of money in their youth academy. The club was famous for integrating a lot of young players into their squad in the successful years under Jurgen Klopp, but not many of those came from their own academy.

    One player who did make it through the Black and Yellows' youth ranks to star for the first team still serves as the poster child for Dortmund's ability to develop young prospects: Mario Gotze.

    The World Cup winner came to the club at the tender age of eight in 2001, performed well for all their youth teams and debuted for Klopp's outfit in November 2009.

    It's certainly unfair to hold Dortmund's current prospects to the standards set by a once-in-a-generation talent, but some of them have shown the potential to follow in the now-23-year-old's footsteps nonetheless.

    BVB are set to reap the rewards of their investment in the academy in the coming years, which was "awarded the highest-possible rating of three stars" in Germany's rating system in December, as the club proudly announced on its website.

    Here B/R ranks the top 10 talents the Black and Yellows have to offer. We'll include a number of players from Dortmund's second team, which plays in Germany's fourth division, the Regionalliga.

10. David Sauerland

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    David Sauerland is one of a few players who've unfairly been hailed as the "new Mario Gotze."
    David Sauerland is one of a few players who've unfairly been hailed as the "new Mario Gotze."Masashi Hara/Getty Images

    After David Sauerland scored a brace in the under-17 Bundesliga final against RB Leipzig in June of 2014, German tabloid Bild asked whether he's the next Gotze. Such a comparison was a little far-fetched, mainly because Sauerland and Gotze have fairly little in common.

    The 18-year-old is a central midfielder with a pretty good passing range and athleticism, which is why he has been used as a right-back on occasion this season. He started the campaign with Dortmund's second team but has since moved back to the under-19 outfit, which indicates he's not quite ready for senior football.

    Still, BVB believe in his talent, as head coach Thomas Tuchel included him in the squad that made the trip to Asia in last summer's preseason.

9. Janni-Luca Serra

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    Boris Streubel/Getty Images

    Initially brought in as a centre-back in the summer of 2014, Jani-Luca Serra is now the best striker prospect in Dortmund's academy. A towering figure at 6'3", the 17-year-old benefits from his physical superiority over most defenders.

    This season, he's scored 10 league goals in 12 matches for BVB's under-19 outfit. As Luca Gierl pointed out for ConstantinEckner.com, "He does have an okay link-up play and a good nose for goals, but his technique and coordination often let him down."

    At this point, it's hard to see a future at the highest level for Serra, but one shouldn't completely rule it out because of the strides he's made since joining the club.

8. Jacob Bruun Larsen

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    Denmark youth international Jacob Bruun Larsen could be an interesting developmental prospect at full-back.
    Denmark youth international Jacob Bruun Larsen could be an interesting developmental prospect at full-back.Ben Hoskins/Getty Images

    Jacob Bruun Larsen might be the fastest player in Dortmund's academy. He's almost exclusively playing on the wing, where his quickness causes a lot of problems for opponents. This season, he's scored and assisted six goals apiece for the under-19 outfit.

    Because of his athleticism, he could eventually become a full-back at the senior level. At least that's where he played in his only showing under Tuchel, a friendly against FC St. Pauli in September 2015.

    Unlike some others on this list, Larsen doesn't look ready to make the jump to the first team anytime soon, but considering he only came to Dortmund a year ago, that's not overly concerning.

7. Jon Gorenc Stankovic

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    Jon Gorenc-Stankovic has played in friendlies for Dortmund's first team, so he's one to watch.
    Jon Gorenc-Stankovic has played in friendlies for Dortmund's first team, so he's one to watch.Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

    Another player from the Regionalliga side, Slovenian Jon Gorenc Stankovic has played a number of practice matches for the first team already. His qualities in buildup play and elegance on the ball could make him an intriguing back-up option for Tuchel's team in the near future.

    The Slovenia under-21 international is technically sound and can thus play in defensive midfield, which could appeal to the Black and Yellows' head coach since he values versatility.

    He was one of the better performers in a forgettable 2014/15 season for BVBIIGerman magazine Kicker graded him as the fourth-best player for his side in a campaign that ended in relegation from the 3. Bundesliga.

6. Dominik Reimann

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    Dominik Reimann could one day challenge Roman Burki in Dortmund's goal.
    Dominik Reimann could one day challenge Roman Burki in Dortmund's goal.Oliver Kremer at Pixolli Studios/Getty Images

    Somewhat surprisingly—considering the great reputation of German goalkeepers—Dortmund have never really produced a top-class 'keeper. Dominik Reimann could be the first to make it to to the Bundesliga team from the academy since Stefan Klos in the '90s.

    The Germany youth international has only conceded five goals in the western division of the under-19 Bundesliga, with seven clean sheets in 11 games.

    He's regarded as a modern 'keeper who's good with the ball at his feet, but a lack of physicality means he struggles to command his area from time to time.

5. Pascal Stenzel

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    PATRIK STOLLARZ/Getty Images

    An ultra-versatile utility man, Pascal Stenzel made his full professional debut for the Black and Yellows in the UEFA Europa League against PAOK in December 2015. In that game, he played in central midfield, which is also his usual position with the Germany under-20 national team.

    In the two practice matches during the club's training camp in Dubai earlier in January, Stenzel played at right-back and centre-half respectively, which shows his versatility.

    During the summer, Tuchel lauded Stenzel's stamina, passing quality and intelligence, per Kicker's Jan Reinold.

    It wouldn't be surprising to see the 19-year-old make his Bundesliga debut fairly soon.

4. Dzenis Burnic

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    VI-Images/Getty Images

    When Dortmund travelled to La Manga in Spain for their training camp during the 2014/15 winter break, Dzenis Burnic was one of two youngsters included in the squad (the other one will appear at No. 2 on this list).

    That he wasn't included for the trip to Dubai this season indicates his progress stalled a bit, but there's still no denying Burnic's talent. A modern playmaker from central midfield, the 17-year-old is an intriguing prospect because of his vision and passing range. 

    Gierl noted he's "sometimes very sloppy in his passing and decision making, but his creative passing, very solid technique, decent speed and strategic understanding make him an interesting player for a possession based style as well as a counter attacking approach."

3. Patrick Fritsch

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    VI-Images/Getty Images

    The youngest man on our list, centre-back Patrick Fritsch turned 17 three days before Christmas Eve last year. He was his side's best player when Dortmund's under-17 team defended their Bundesliga title against VfB Stuttgart in June.

    Dortmund's decision-makers hold Fritsch in high regard, per Ruhr Nachrichten's Matthias Dersch, which was evident when Tuchel included him in the squad for the Europa League match at PAOK in October. His impeccable technique and passing qualities make him an ideal modern centre-back for a possession-based system.

    Unfortunately, Fritsch tore his anterior cruciate ligament with the Germany under-17 national team in preparation for the World Cup in Chile in October, which was especially heartbreaking considering he was only called up to the squad late.

    He could return late this season, and it wouldn't be surprising to see him spend next summer with Tuchel's team.

2. Felix Passlack

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    When Dortmund promoted Felix Passlack to the senior team earlier in January, it didn't come as a surprise. Quite simply, the 17-year-old is one of the most impressive young players on the planet.

    That's high praise, of course, but it's not a stretch.

    Passlack can basically do it all on the field. He's quick and aggressive, a leader—he captained Dortmund and Germany at the under-17 level—and a goal threat, scoring 12 goals in 14 matches across competitions this season.

    Per Raphael Honigstein for the Guardian, "He was awarded the Fritz Walter medal in gold as one of the three best young players in Germany of his age" in September 2015. That puts him in elite company, as the medal has gone to the likes of Gotze and Emre Can in years past.

    Passlack can play all over the pitch but is most likely to break through for Dortmund at full-back because one of his few weaknesses is a below-average first touch. It would be a major upset if Passlack doesn't become a regular for the Black and Yellows at some point.

1. Christian Pulisic

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    Christian Pulisic is widely regarded as the best USMNT prospect.
    Christian Pulisic is widely regarded as the best USMNT prospect.MARCELO HERNANDEZ/Getty Images

    Like Passlack, Christian Pulisic is a part of the senior squad at Signal Iduna Park. The 17-year-old from Hershey, Pennsylvania came to Dortmund in January 2015 but had to wait for his papers to come through, not debuting for the under-17 squad in April.

    He went on to score six and assist five in just eight games en route to the Bundesliga title, adding five goals and assists apiece in 11 matches for the under-19s this season so far.

    Apart from a natural lack of physicality—he'll only turn 18 in September—Pulisic's game doesn't have any holes. Gierl highlighted his strengths thusly: 

    He has a very consistent and good technique even at full speed. He’s very agile and fast, in combination with his technique that allows him to take on opponents who seem a lot stronger than himself. He is a good and willing dribbler who usually has his head up and makes the right decision more often than not.

    The attacking midfielder impressed in the Dubai training camp, assisting a goal against Eintracht Frankfurt and scoring himself with a composed finish against South Korean outfit Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors on Friday.

    It's not a stretch to call the attacking midfielder one of the big winners of the training camp, as he's put himself in contention for playing time for Tuchel's team, which lacks depth on the wings.

    Easily the biggest talent in Dortmund's academy, Pulisic should become a household name before long. If he stays healthy and keeps his head straight, there's no reason to believe he can't become a bona fide superstar.

    Lars Pollmann is a Featured Columnist writing on Borussia Dortmund. He also writes for Yellowwallpod.com. You can follow him on Twitter.


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