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Way back in 2000, Germany experienced a disastrous European Championship as the national side were knocked out in the group stage with a solitary point from three games. Indeed, so bad was the state of German football at the time, Germany even suffered defeat at the hands of Kevin Keegan’s England side.
This abject performance led to a total re-think with regards to youth development in Germany and the way academies were run. Acknowledging that something was broken, the Germans set about fixing it and are now, two decades down the line, reaping the rewards.
A disappointing 2018 World Cup notwithstanding, Germany is now producing talents that are likely to be prevalent on the world stage for many years to come. This article will look briefly at five German wonderkids tipped for the top.
The nineteen-year-old midfielder currently plying his trade for Bayer Leverkusen has already racked up more than a century of club appearances in all competitions in addition to three caps earned at senior international level.
A goalscoring midfielder who has been described as an ‘Alleskönner’ or ‘player who can do everything’, Havertz drew comparisons early in his career with Mesut Ozil whom he cited as an inspiration.
Strong-running and equally adept with either foot, Havertz has already set a number of records in his short career. He is Leverkusen’s youngest ever debutante and goalscorer, and the youngest player in the history of the Bundesliga to reach 50 appearances.
He is a young man in a hurry as he proved in an interview given in 2018 when he stated that his ambition was to play for Germany in the 2020 European Championships. This, as well as many other achievements seem to be well within his reach.
Another German midfielder who is just starting to make his way in the game is Arne Maier. Although he might not be as well-known as Havertz, early indications are that he could soon be following in his slightly younger compatriot’s footsteps into national recognition.
Indeed, Maier was a runner-up in the prestigious Fritz Walter awards for young German players in 2018. Taking the silver medal to Havertz’s gold, Maier’s progress with his club side Hertha Berlin was recognised.
More of a holding player, Maier has yet to score a competitive goal for Hertha and although his career is perhaps yet to take off in the manner expected, he has already been linked with a move to clubs such as Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and Arsenal.
A regular for Germany at every level from U15 to U21, the two-footed Maier has aspirations for a senior call-up in the near future.
Felix Uduokhai is a twenty-one-year-old defender currently turning out for Vfl Wolfsburg after being transferred from 1860 Munich in 2017.
Capped at U19, U20 and U21 levels for Germany, Uduokhai has reportedly turned down offers to play for Nigeria, which he qualifies for through his Nigerian mother.
A strong and athletic player, Uduokhai is a composed presence in the heart of Wolfsburg’s defence and his style of play has seen him compared with Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah, and Bayern München’s Jérôme Boateng.
Rumours were rife that Arsenal were interested in signing Uduokhai in the summer of 2018 but the young man himself squashed them by stating that he was interested only in developing himself at Wolfsburg.
Should he continue to shine, a move abroad might not be too far away for him.
Linton Maina is a player to watch for the future despite only making just over twenty appearances for Hannover 96, since his debut in March 2018.
Born to a Kenyan father and a German mother, Maina is another who has options when it comes to the international stage and has so far appeared for the German national side from U16 up to U20 level.
A right-sided midfielder by trade, Maina first came to prominence by way of an impressive Bundesliga debut against Borussia Dortmund and then found himself included in the first team plans of coach André Breitenreiter for the 2018-19 season.
Liking to get forward and join the attack, Maina needs to improve his goalscoring record over the next season or two. However, reputed interest from then Manchester United manager, Jose Mourinho, in the summer of 2018 failed to put Maina off his stride as he looks to make the next step forward.
At twenty years of age, Gian-Luca Itter is a defensive colleague of Uduokhai at Vfl Wolfsburg. While Uduokhai plays as a centre back, Itter is attempting to make the left-back spot in the Wolfsburg defence his own.
A 2017 Bundesliga debut against Bayern Munich offered an early hope of a breakthrough, but appearances have been relatively sparse since then and Itter has spent the majority of the current season playing for the reserves. Despite this, he is highly regarded at Wolfsburg and is seen as a definite player for the future.
A sharp tackler, Itter is also keen to get forward down the flanks when he can. Possessing a good crossing ability, Itter’s pace can be an invaluable asset in helping to break opponents down. As with Havertz and Maier, Itter also has been honoured with prestigious Fritz Walder Medal recognition, winning the gold medal in the U17 category in 2016.