THE Bundesliga has served as a proving ground for some of the brightest youngsters in Europe in recent seasons and 2019/20 is set to be no different.
While the likes Jadon Sancho, Kai Havertz and Dayot Upamecano have already broken through to establish themselves as bona fide stars in Germany’s top flight, a new crop of talent is emerging behind them.
Here are five Bundesliga prodigies set for breakout campaigns this season.
Hoping lightning will strike twice at Commerzbank-Arena, Eintracht Frankfurt have replaced last season’s 25-goal star Luka Jovic, whom they sold to Real Madrid this summer for €60m, with another prodigal Serbian poacher in Joveljic.
A €4m signing from Red Star Belgrade, Joveljic has been a prospect of some note for several years, shortlisted for the Golden Boy award in 2017 and a regular scorer at all youth levels for Serbia.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Attributes: Heading + Shooting + Strength
Can the 20 year-old replace both Jović and Haller? In the Europa League Qualifying stages and DFB-Pokal he has been showing impressive technique and skill pic.twitter.com/k0QqbAorvS
— Futból (@Futbl7) August 12, 2019
Able to change direction sharply to manufacture crucial inches of space inside the penalty area, the 19-year-old will be a tricky proposition for Bundesliga defenders this season.
Although a ruthless finisher likened to Inter Milan’s prolific hitman Mauro Icardi, Joveljic has an awareness and unselfishness that often sees him turn provider, either when dropping deep to link play or lifting his head in the final third to pick out a colleague in space.
He may be yet to make his mark in the Bundesliga with RB Leipzig, scoring just twice in 25 (mostly substitute) outings to date, but three goals in six Europa League starts last season showed why 20-year-old Brazilian striker Cunha is set to be the latest breakout star of the Red Bull Arena.
Short on top-level experience, Cunha moved to FC Sion in Switzerland without ever making a senior start in his native Brazil, and he’d played just 33 times for the Swiss club, scoring 10 goals, when RB Leipzig moved for him last summer.
Matheus Cunha vs Leverkusen
The kind of goal you could just watch over and over and over again pic.twitter.com/jdM6N0JEpO
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) April 8, 2019
His goal against Celtic in last season’s Europa League evidenced some of the attributes that should soon see Cunha become a regular scorer in Germany. Collecting Marcel Sabitzer’s bouncing cross from the right on his chest, the RBL forward instantly unleashed an instinctive, unstoppable finish into the bottom corner from 15 yards out – predatory prowess reminiscent of Robert Lewandowski.
Turning down Manchester City’s advances, French midfielder Cuisance joined Borussia Monchengladbach in 2017 from Nancy for €250,000, in a move which appears set to reap dividends for both player and club.
Unlikely to have received such opportunities by this stage of his career at the Etihad, the 19-year-old has featured in 35 Bundesliga games in the last two seasons and is set to take up a more prominent role at Borussia-Park this term.
PLAYER TO WATCH
While U21 international Florian Neuhaus notably racked up nine assists from midfield, keep an eye out for Michael Cuisance. The 19-year-old has enough flair and technique to make the attacking midfield role his own this year. pic.twitter.com/M52e1dEByW
— Between The Lines (@BTLMediaUK) August 8, 2019
A shade under 6ft tall, Cuisance is athletic, powerful and elegant, a technically gifted box-to-box midfielder who can pass confidently and creatively over all ranges and race forward to augment attacks when the time calls, although he is yet to find the net for Gladbach at senior level.
Out of favour under Dieter Hecking last season, Cuisance started just one Bundesliga game. But his impressive form at this summer’s U20 World Cup and the arrival of new manager Marco Rose from Red Bull Salzburg should mean the French teenager shows his true potential in 2019/20.
Born on the same day as Borussia Dortmund’s Sancho, Schalke centre-back Kabak’s rise to prominence has been almost as rapid as the £100m-rated English winger’s.
Schooled in Galatasaray’s academy, the 19-year-old defender made his senior debut at 17 before joining Stuttgart in January, quickly establishing himself as a regular starter at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Although Stuttgart were ultimately relegated, Kabak impressed enough in his 15 starts with the club, even contributing three goals, for Schalke to activate his €15m release clause – a modest fee which will surely yield a sizeable return in the near future.
— A Tutto Milan 1899 (@atmilan1899) June 22, 2019
Stylistically, Kabak has been likened to Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos for his reading of the game, combativeness and propensity to pop up with goals at the other end of the pitch.
“There are a lot of players that I admire, such as [Virgil] van Dijk, [Raphael] Varane, and Sergio Ramos,” Kabak said when asked about his influences. “I take a look at a lot of players, but I don’t have a specific role model because I am trying to develop my own style.”
A France U20 team-mate of Cuisance, Diaby graduated from Paris Saint-Germain’s academy to make 34 senior appearances for Ligue 1’s dominant force last season – scoring four times and providing seven assists – before joining Bayer Leverkusen this summer.
A rapid and inventive winger who can also play centrally as an unpredictable and direct No.10, 20-year-old Diaby has natural ability by the bucketload.
Assist Kai's goal: ✅
Stretch Kai out: ✅
Moussa Diaby was the ultimate provider for Kai Havertz today pic.twitter.com/RncoyxkDmR
— Bayer 04 Leverkusen (@bayer04_en) August 10, 2019
Regarded as arguably the most gifted of France’s current generation of youngsters emerging in Kylian Mbappe’s wake, Diaby’s electric speed, creativity in transition and willingness to entertain align perfectly with the Bundesliga, manager Peter Bosz’s style of play and, thrillingly, new team-mates Havertz and Leon Bailey.
Leverkusen were already likely to be one of the most entertaining teams in Germany once again this season, but Diaby’s presence ensures they’ll be appointment viewing.