After Germany’s bad performance at the Euros 2000, something had to change. So the German FA decided that every team in the Bundesliga needs a youth training centre of a certain standard, a few years later, this was also made mandatory for every club in the 2. Bundesliga. All of this led to vast improvements across Germany in terms of Youth Development with clubs like Stuttgart or Schalke constantly bringing through talent but also “smaller” clubs like 1860 München who were the stepping stone for players like Julian Weigl.
With the U20 World Cup, the U21 Euros and the Confed Cup looming, there are going to be plenty of stages for young German talent to show that they got what it takes, so it’s time to look at some lesser known talent in Germany’s stacked youth teams. In this case, we are going to inspect three Talents in Germany’s Under 20 squad. I picked the Under 20 squad because it features a lot of players that are most likely fairly unknown outside of Germany. Not all of them will make it the First Team of Germany, but all of them have a great future in the Bundesliga and two of them already play in the Bundesliga with the other one playing in the 2. Bundesliga.
Club: TSV 1860 München
1860 München is a club that has struggled immensely in the last decade. After they got relegated from the Bundesliga, they went into financial trouble and they are still heavily backed by Bayern and for a few years by investor Hassan Ismaik. This hasn’t stopped their Youth Academy from being prolific and you could probably build a good Bundesliga squad around the players that came through at 1860, including the Bender-Brothers, Julian Weigl or Bobby Wood.
The 19-year-old looks like he’ll be the next one in the production line. The Defender has already been likened to Jerome Boateng and Jonathan Tah. With 19, he already possesses the athletic toolkit you need to be a successful Centre-Back on the highest level. On the ball he has also shown his talent. He makes the occasional mistake – like most 19-year-old defenders – indicating that he is still in his development process. But even Jerome Boateng, who is probably one of the best Ball-Playing Defenders in world football.
In this one, Udokhai is afforded time on the ball and he has the vision to see that Bielefeld have shifted to the right so he can spray a ball out to the left winger and he does so with precision in a situation where many left-footed players – especially in his age – would have opted to just for the safe way of playing it to the left winger.
In general, he seems very composed on the ball and he seems to have some of the “unteachable” things a Central Defender needs, like Timing and a good Positional Sense. If he stays at 1860 – a club with big ambitions – or if he is the next player the club in the shadow of the big Bayern München sell to a Bundesliga club remains to be seen.
Club: 1. FSV Mainz 05
Position: Central Midfielder
As his name suggests, the young midfielder is one of the many players in Germany who are of Turkish descent. He joined Mainz when he was eleven and signed his first professional contract when he turned 18 and when he did, Mainz-Manager Markus Schmidt said that he will have a great future in the Bundesliga and at the club. In the 2015/16 season, he was the guy who got subbed on when Mainz wanted to see a game out and he did a good job at that.
The 2016/17 was the breakout season for the Youngster that unfortunately got injured midway through the Hinrunde, a spell on the sidelines that lasted until March because he picked up another injury during the winter break. The 20-year old is similar to a lot of players that came through in Germany in terms of versatility. He can play both the more defensive and the more Attacking role in a midfield two and he can play as a Number 10, especially against sides where Mainz are going to depend on transition. He has also played on the wing on a few occasions for Mainz II.
He very much has his strengths when it comes to playing without the ball. He works hard, he closes people down and he possesses a good sense for when to close down someone without creating too big of a gap behind him. I compiled a few clips of him being aggressive and closing down opposition players, you can see them above. The Midfielder is a player very well suited to playing in a transition-based system so being at Mainz suits him well. He might not ever make the German First Team but it wouldn’t be surprising at all when the Turkish FA tries to convince him to play for Turkey because he could be a star player for them in the future.
However, he has to improve the creative side of his game but that is something that often tends to improve during the development process and especially with game time at the highest level and the U20 World Cup in the Summer is going to be a great stage for him to showcase his talent.
Club: TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
Position: Left Winger / Striker
One of the advantages that come with building a club out of almost nothing is that, once you reach the upper echelons of domestic football, you will have State of the Art facilities and structures. This is the case with Hoffenheim who got promoted into the Bundesliga in 2008 and have one of the best Youth Academies in Germany reaching the U19-Final in 2015 and 2016 and winning it in 2014. One player who played in all of these games is Philipp Ochs.
The 20-year-old is the definition of an early bloomer, joining the Hoffenheim Under-19 squad – coached by Julian Nagelsmann – with just 16. He possesses blistering pace which allows him to surge past players on the wing or to run past the last defender when a ball is clipped over the top. Nagelsmann also hinted that the Young German could play at Left Back or Left Wingback, underlining the point about Versatility in Youth Players across Germany. It looks like he has an easy time establishing an understand with the players around him or instincts that tell him where exactly he has to go.
Here we see Ochs dropping back into space as he realizes that there is a lot. That allows him to position his body perfectly to receive the pass, run a couple of yards with the ball and then play a through ball into the box highlighting his intelligence. He also has the ability to do things like that in tighter spaces. All in all, if Ochs continues his development, and I’m sure he will get more game time next season, he can be a great player and he’s probably already the biggest talent in the current U20 squad of Germany.
These are just three of the biggest talents in the Under-20 setup. They didn’t do very well at the home Under-19 Euros last Summer, only qualifying for the Under-20 World Cup thanks to a Play-Off against the Netherlands but I am excited to see what this squad can do in Korea and they are certainly one of the four or five favourites to win it.