There’s more than just great beer and bratwurst in Germany, perhaps their finest export is their football, drink in all that the Bundesliga has to offer… Prost!
By Will Guthrie
STYLE OF PLAY
Like the English Premier League, the German Bundesliga is a physical, fast-paced and frenetic sort of league. But that’s about where the similarities end. While England is the dream final destination for a lot of players looking to financially capitalise on their prime years, the Bundesliga offers the chance for players to make a name for themselves. In recent years particularly, players who have been unable to force their way into starting line-ups in leagues ranging from the MLS to the Premier League to the French Ligue 1, have all made the move to Germany and have thrived. Not only that, but the German conveyor belt of talent continues to roll along and produce prospects of such stunning quality that it’s little wonder this league contains the current European Champions (Bayern Munich) and perhaps the most exciting young team in world football (Borussia Dortmund). It’s always cool to know about a band before everyone else, right? That concept applies here; vastly underrated yet offering compelling viewing, get in on the ground floor of some of the future talents of world football, get into the Bundesliga, you won’t regret it!
LIKELY TOP FOUR
It’s pretty rare that a team can offload seasoned stars such as Arjen Robben and Franck Ribéry and become an even more potent attacking force, but that’s exactly what Bayern managed last season. In comes Leroy Sané from Manchester City to mirror Serge Gnabry on the opposite flank and provide goal machine Robert Lewandowski with all the chances he could ever dream of. Add to that the strength in midfield of Leon Goretzka and the class of Joshua Kimmich, who’s basically a Phillip Lahm clone, and it’s hardly a surprise they never seem to lose the title and are the current European Champions. They’ve added well in the offseason and still remain as strong in defence as they are dangerous going forward. Young prodigy Joshua Zirkzee is also threatening a breakthrough season so there’s plenty to like about the defending champions. They’re two points clear at the top having only lost once so far; it looks a safe bet the trophy in staying in München.
Buy low, sell high. If that isn’t this club’s official motto, then it probably should be. They’ve made an artform of enticing 18-year olds to come join them… which sounds way worse than it is. The cult-like feel of Signal Iduna Park with its Yellow Brick Wall of fans is enough to tempt any player to make the move, but where they excel is in giving meaningful game time these young prospects and allowing them to flourish through hard work and encouragement. Add into this a quality manager like Lucien Favre who has no compunctions about giving kids a crack at the big time and you’ve got a formula for the most exciting young team in Europe. Their recent success stories include Erling Braut Håland and Jadon Sancho, who have exploded into a deadly attacking force. Look for teenagers Gio Reyna and Jude Bellingham to establish themselves in this campaign, they’ll push Bayern all the way and are already hot on their trail just three points behind the table-toppers.
Similar to Dortmund, this club’s MO is getting them in early, polishing them into stars and selling them for a huge profit. Beyond that though, Leipzig are a unique outfit. Unique in that I’ve never seen a team so universally hated before. That probably comes with the territory of being a club mired in the lower leagues that’s then bought out by a soulless energy drink company for the purposes of being turned into another revenue stream/marketing and advertising vehicle. However, none of this changes the fact that they are very, very good. A sound defence marshalled by developing tyros Dayot Upamecano and Ibrahima Konaté is tough to break down, the real challenge is the change in attack. Top scorer Timo Werner made his way to Chelsea, which leaves wily manager Julian Nagelsmann with a new look attack, featuring up and comers Christopher Nkunku, Dani Olmo and Hwang Hee-Chan, some of the most coveted youngsters in Europe it must be said, supporting Danish international striker Yussuf Poulsen. Make no mistake, this is a quality squad with an even better manager, they’re a dark horse and have started as though they mean business, currently sitting in second just two points behind Bayern.
Leverkusen are an interesting team to watch out for, they have a few seasoned vets but more importantly have a core of seriously talented youngsters who can match it with the best on any given day. Exciting youngsters Paulinho, Leon Bailey, Florian Wirtz, Exequiel Palacios and Edmond Tapsoba have caught the attention of some of the biggest clubs around Europe and on their day are more than capable of ripping teams apart. They’re well supported by a handful of quality veterans that make this a well-rounded squad that are more than worthy of playing in the Champions League. They’ve started strongly, firmly ensconced in the leading peloton at the top of the table.
THREE TEAMS TO WATCH
*there are only 18 teams in the Bundesliga so we’re only picking three here*
Having started with a bang, including belting Bayern 4-1, Hoffenheim looked like this season’s danger side intent on upsetting the status quo, before hitting a form slump in the 5 games leading up to the international break. Well lead up front by striker Andrej Kramarič, who seems intent on putting his name on the map again, and with young gun Christoph Baumgartner pulling the strings in midfield, they are a threat going forward. The base of this team is a strong defence containing hardened veterans Kevin Vogt and Ermin Bičakčić, as well as exciting young defender Stefan Posch, who’s been capped 7 times by the Austrian national side. There’s plenty of quality in this squad and young Baumgartner will look to build on his breakout season last year where he scored 8 goals and assisted 6 in all competitions, one to watch and definitely a team to look out for.
The club that produced and lost Weston McKennie, Leroy Sané, Leon Goretzka and Julian Draxler have had a disastrous start to the season, getting pummelled 8-0 by Bayern in the opening game and have picked up a measly three points since. They’ve already sacked their manager and are teetering on a full-blown crisis, finding themselves in the relegation zone. However, a squad with quality veterans Nabil Bentaleb and Benjamin Stambouli that also features highly rated youngsters such as Ozan Kabak and Amine Harit is too good to stay down the bottom for long, so could a resurrection be on the cards?
There’s a lot to like about this side, with a host of supremely talented youngsters and some crafty experience sprinkled in, there’s just something about Mönchengladbach that draws you to them, apart from the epic name of course. Up front they have the exciting Marcus Thuram (son of French legend Lillian) who last season scored 14 times and assisted another 9, using his electric pace to frighten opposition defenders. They’ve got great experience to call upon in Keeper Yann Sommer and Defender Mathias Ginter, who’s represented the German national side several times, and a good crop of potential breakout stars such as Hannes Wolf and Mamadou Doucouré, they are definitely a team to keep an eye on.
FOUR PLAYERS TO WATCH
Leroy Sané – Bayern Munich
Despite having seemingly been around for the best part of a decade, Sané is still just 24 years of ages. What’s never been in question has been his ability, however rumours of a poor attitude may help explain why such a talented player was let go by Man City for such a relatively low fee. Having already registered three goals and two assists in his first few games, he has slotted seamlessly into the Bayern line-up and may end up being the steal of this transfer window. By the look of his play, he has a point to prove so enjoy the show.
Gio Reyna – Borrusia Dortmund
With Jadon Sancho’s move to United or another mega club still a slim possibility, all eyes are on 17-year old Gio Reyna, son of USAMNT legend Claudio, to have a breakout season. He’s shown already that he has serious star quality and this season looms as his chance to really stamp himself on the competition. He’s started strongly, registering a goal and three assists already, his development looms as one of the stories of the season so don’t sleep on Gio.
Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen
Last season Wirtz became the Bundesliga’s youngest ever goal-scorer, having been given a chance to show his quality. He took his opportunity and hasn’t looked back. The departure of Kai Havertz for Chelsea means that Wirtz will have the opportunity to truly establish himself as a Bundesliga player and with three assists already this season, it would seem he is well on his way to doing just that. There are high hopes for him, and we’ll be watching his development with intrigue.
Dani Olmo – RB Leipzig
Few career paths have been more interesting than that of Dani Olmo so far. Having made a name for himself in Croatia with Dinamo Zagreb, the young Spaniard took the opportunity to tackle a fresh challenge and made the move to Leipzig in the most recent transfer window. It would appear that the 22-year old international has made the right call, starting strongly with three assists already. It’s safe to say we’re bullish on anyone who can develop themselves so well in the Croatian league at such a young age after spending seven years in the Barcelona academy, definitely a player to keep an eye on!
THREE MORE TO WATCH BECAUSE THIS LEAGUE IS STACKED!
Jude Bellingham – Borrusia Dortmund
When you’re so good that you can turn down Man United for Dortmund, you must be a unique talent. That’s exactly what makes this 17-year old so special. Having had the option to go to one of the world’s most cash-rich, if not successful clubs, he prioritised his development over money and it’s already looking like it was the right move, providing an assist in his first game for the club. He’s much hyped, but that would seem well-founded and should he follow in the footsteps of compatriot Sancho, he may just prove to be another bargain signing for Borussia Dortmund. Enjoy watching his journey!
Alphonso Davies – Bayern Munich
It was sorely tempting to throw young hotshot Joshua Zirkzee in here, however Davies is truly eye-catching. The young Canadian fullback took the world by storm last season with his terrifying pace and looks set to build on his burgeoning reputation with another strong season at the German champions. Still just 19, he has the world at his feet and the sky’s the limit, get on this hype train now.
Matheus Cunha – Hertha BSC
A rumoured bid of €30m from French giants PSG during the most recent transfer window highlights just how much potential Matheus Cunha has. Knowing what they have on their hands, Hertha wisely knocked it back and it’s paying off nicely this season already. With four goals and two assists from his first seven games and whispers of a call up to the Brazilian national team, it seems as though Cunha may finally be living up to his enormous potential. Having been prolific at international youth level, there are high hopes for this exciting forward to catch fire and show the world his talent, this season is looming as his big breakout, enjoy it.
FOUR CULT HEROES
Erling Braut Håland – Borussia Dortmund
Part ice-cold goal machine, part walking internet meme, Håland is a joy to watch and has already developed a genuine cult following in world football. He seems to be a pretty genuinely bizarre unit, often enjoying toying with journalists in post-match interviews as much as he enjoys a unique goal celebration, of which he already has many despite being just 20 years of age. He’s on fire again this season with six goals and two assists in his first six games. He’s established himself as one of the most explosive and deadly finishers in football and will have his sights set on making Dortmund champions again; an absolute must watch player, you’ll thank us later.
Robert Lewandowski – Bayern Munich
Having dominated this league for years now, Lewy is not only the most well-known and feared striker in Germany, he’s also the kind of cult hero that delivers special moments for the fans. Perhaps the greatest of these was when he managed to score 5 goals in 9 minutes in a game, that’s not even an exaggeration, that actually happened. An athletic beast with a deadly shot, he is unplayable at times. Absolutely worth the price of admission and this season is no different for the goal-machine, he has 11 from just six games!
Christoph Baumgartner – Hoffenheim
Hoffenheim’s youngster on the rise made a name for himself last season in the Bundesliga and looms as the great hope for this club’s European ambitions. With an eye for goal and an ability to find a killer pass, much rests on his young shoulders, it’ll be interesting to see if he can handle the weight of expectation after endearing himself to fans so easily last season. He’s started slowly but his talent is not in doubt, let’s see if he can handle the weight of expectation.
Dayot Upamecano – RB Leipzig
Having been whispered about for a few years now, Upamecano announced himself on the world stage last season, notably during the Champions League and becoming a fan favourite at Leipzig. He cemented his status by well and truly smothering street fighter/deadly striker Diego Costa during their Champions League knockout victory over Atletico Madrid, proving that the hype has been justified. Leipzig have only conceded four league goals so far this season, so it would appear that Upamecano has picked up exactly where he left off, watch him with interest!