The Hard Tackle takes a look at ten Bundesliga players who could become the next sensation in the European footballing scene during the second half of the campaign.
With Matchday 19 coming to a conclusion, we are well and truly into the second half of the Bundesliga campaign or the Ruckrunde, as it is locally known. It has been a riveting season, with the league continuing to be a benchmark in terms of footballing development for young players.
A host of players including Ibrahima Konate, Giovanni Reyna and Andre Silva have further solidified their reputation as Bundesliga’s rising sensations during the first half of the campaign and are expected to continue their development during the remainder of the season.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will dig a little deeper into more unknown names in the Bundesliga – players who could emerge as starring prospects in the transfer window next summer with their performances during the second half of the campaign.
In this article, we are strictly picking players who are either playing their first full top-flight season at their respective clubs or have terribly gone under the radar due to the footballing media’s attention towards future superstars like Jadon Sancho, Dayot Upamecano and Erling Haaland among many others.
Maxence Lacroix – VfL Wolfsburg
Maxence Lacroix has emerged as the crown jewel of up-and-coming Bundesliga defenders. Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Upamecano and Konate, the young VfL Wolfsburg centre-back has become an indispensable figure in the club’s backline this season, having made 16 league appearances.
In essence, Lacroix is a ball-playing centre-back. He has a good technique and body angling that allows him to receive the ball effortlessly, while his composure in possession is key to his ball-distribution. The Frenchman has a clever defensive positioning as well, with remarkable decision-making of when to step out of his line.
New face making a big impact ??
Is Maxence Lacroix Wolfsburg's best defender ❓? pic.twitter.com/EmlPINX4UV
— Bundesliga English (@Bundesliga_EN) January 23, 2021
Such technical aspects of the game are supplemented by a strong physique that has combined quite well with a more traditional and robust John Brooks. Their formidable partnership at the heart of Wolfsburg’s backline has resulted in the club attaining the second-best defensive record in the league.
Lacroix is destined to become one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga if he can maintain his solidity and form during the second half of the campaign.
Florian Wirtz – Bayer Leverkusen
Florian Wirtz is perhaps a little too overqualified for this list, but one that certainly deserves his place.
Already one of the most talented young players in world football, Wirtz is seemingly becoming the next sensation at Bayer Leverkusen after Kai Havertz. It has been reflected in his performances in the Bundesliga, with the youngster notably becoming the league’s youngster player to score four goals.
FLORIAN WIRTZ ?? LEVERKUSEN
•82 mins per game
•Av rating 7.03
• 17 Years Old
•Av Key passes per game 1.9
Safe to say Leverkusen have replaced Havertz from within. pic.twitter.com/BCILGUuUVR
— COACHlife (@_COACHlife) January 30, 2021
Wirtz’s primarily contributions, however, come in the shape of his creative prowess in midfield. He is an excellent ball-carrier and a problem solver in the final third. The Leverkusen star excels in tight spaces, with his ambipedal nature allowing him to rotate possession quickly, even under tight pressure.
Wirtz’s combination play with Nadiem Amiri has been quite impressive, and the youngster could indeed become the next prodigious playmaker in the Bundesliga, following in the footsteps of Julian Brandt and Mario Gotze, though with a much higher ceiling.
Matthew Hoppe – FC Schalke
Matthew Hoppe’s sensational hat-trick against TSG Hoffenheim was a vital moment in FC Schalke’s recent history. It not only helped the club secure their first victory in a disastrous league campaign but also made the young striker an overnight star in the Bundesliga.
A native of California, Hoppe has since netted five goals in just nine appearances. Moving ahead of the likes of Goncalo Paciencia and the newly arrived Klaas Jan Huntelaar in the pecking order, the young American is now the club’s first-choice striker – giving him an ideal platform to become a star by helping the Royal Blues sensationally escape relegation during the second half of the campaign.
Good morning, America! ?
MATTHEW HOPPE HAS SIGNED HIS FIRST PROFESSIONAL CONTRACT ???
— Schalke 04 USA?? (@s04_us) February 1, 2021
Jonathan Burkardt – 1.FSV Mainz 05
Mainz have been rejuvenated following the arrival of Bo Svensson as their new head coach and in the aftermath of Jean-Philippe Mateta’s departure to Crystal Palace, Jonathan Burkardt has an excellent chance of becoming a star in the Bundesliga this season.
The former Darmstadt youth player has already been impressing the onlookers with his versatility and determination. He also has a decent pace, along with the dynamism that could help him grow into a better player.
Having scored just one goal in 17 matches, Burkardt certainly needs to work on his productivity. But with Mainz significantly improving under Svensson, it won’t be surprising to see the 20-year-old make a bigger impact in this Ruckrunde.
Silas Wamangituka – VfB Stuttgart
Silas Wamangituka is perhaps the pick of the VfB Stuttgart side brimming with talents. The former Ligue 2 attacker with Paris FC, who was linked with a move to Premier League earlier in his career, has done quite for himself in Germany, even winning the Bundesliga Rookie of the Month award in December.
A right-winger by trade, Wamangituka has thrived under Pellegrino Matarazzo’s young squad that relies heavily on creativity and pace. As such, the Congolese attacker happens to be one of the fastest players in the Bundesliga. He notably clocked an impressive speed of 35.42 km/h before that record was eventually broken by Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman and later, Alphonso Davies.
Stop what you’re doing and check out Wamangituka’s goal for Stuttgart ?
— Sacha Pisani (@Sachk0) January 29, 2021
In addition to his pace, Wamangituka is a lethal forward, having netted 11 times this season. He is a scourge on the counter and is capable of making use of his opportunities. The youngster is also seemingly improving at Stuttgart and it won’t be surprising to see him reach the 20-goal mark before the end of the campaign.
Jude Bellingham – Borussia Dortmund
Jude Bellingham is currently rated as the most expensive U-17 player in football and that is hardly surprising given his contribution at Borussia Dortmund this season.
The only English player to feature on this list, Bellingham has made an impact with his box-to-box qualities. His ability to produce forward passes and a tendency to move forward is something Dortmund have lacked ever since the departure of Ilkay Gundogan.
The phenom from West Midlands may need to improve on certain qualities including temperament and consistency. But at the age of just 17, Bellingham has a higher ceiling than most of the midfielders at his age. The youngster also has an excellent chance of becoming a first-team regular at Borussia Dortmund as Axel Witsel and Emre Can struggle with injury and form.
Jude Bellingham holy shit ? pic.twitter.com/RTSiz0GrWF
— Adam Darowski (@fussballtwit) February 2, 2021
Ermedin Demirovic – SC Freiburg
Ermedin Demirovic has been a revelation at SC Freiburg in recent months, after initially joining the club in the summer. He has become the club’s primary centre-forward, ahead of Nils Petersen and Lucas Holer.
Although the Bosnian’s tally of three goals is certainly far from impressive, the striker has shown a lot of potential during the first half of the campaign. His link-up play with the likes of Vincenzo Grifo and Roland Sallai, in particular, has been an eye-catcher, with the player notably registering seven assists to his name already.
The collective brilliance of these three individuals have fired Freiburg into the top half of the league and with Woo-yeong Jeong also impressing the onlookers, Freiburg attackers could raise a lot of eyebrows during the second half of the season.
Chris Richards – TSG Hoffenheim
The second American to feature on this list, Chris Richards, a part of a young pool exciting up and coming talents at FC Bayern, has recently moved to TSG Hoffenheim on a short-term loan deal. The young centre-back has been brought in to supplement the injury-ravaged defensive unit.
It could be a game-changer for Richards, though, as the youngster was unlikely to get enough game-time at Bayern during the second half of the campaign. At Hoffenheim, he is set to give Kasim Adams and Stefan Posch a run for their money while the likes of Ermin Bicakcic, Benjamin Hubner and Kevin Agpoguma continue to struggle with injuries.
On the Bayern-FC Dallas connection, Bayern had half a dozen players from Dallas with them at the Jugendzentrum for a slice of January. Connection bearing fruit. Chris Richards for starters and potential for a lot more of this.
— Derek Rae (@RaeComm) February 2, 2021
A former member of the FC Dallas senior squad, Richards has worked with Hoffenheim head coach Sebastian Hoeness in the past during their time together at FC Bayern youth. It bodes well for the player himself, as he looks to make his much-awaited breakthrough in the Bundesliga during the Ruckrunde.
Christoph Baumgartner – TSG Hoffenheim
Christoph Baumgartner is the creator-in-chief for a TSG Hoffenheim side that has largely underperformed this season. The young playmaker is regarded highly by experts due to his ability to create chances and pace the counter-attacks in the final third.
The 21-year-old has already notched up 3 goals and five assists to his name, in just 16 Bundesliga outings, starring in the 3-0 win over 1.FC Koln at the end of last month. His exploits have seemingly put him on the radars of Manchester United.
Hoffenheim have shown signs improvement lately, despite their defeat to Bayern Munich, and with the likes of Andrej Kramaric and Munas Dabbur leading the charge, it could be an exciting Ruckrunde for the young Baumgartner.
Jonas Hofmann – Borussia Monchengladbach
By far the oldest player on this list, Jonas Hofmann has taken his time to settle into the Bundesliga. But at the age of 28, the former Borussia Dortmund star is starting to showcase his true quality under the leadership of Marco Rose at Borussia Monchengladbach.
A right-winger by trade, Hofmann has become a revelation at Gladbach with his ability to create chances in the final third. He is also quite versatile and productive, having been involved in 12 goals in 13 Bundesliga matches this season.
Hofmann can play through the middle as well, even as a central midfielder at times. His aggression and tenacity make him a vital asset to Gladbach’s variety of pressing schemes in the generic 4-3-1-2, with the German being capable of releasing strikers like Alassane Plea, Breel Embolo and Lars Stindl with his accurate forward passes.
Contributed 25 goals in @Bundesliga_EN
— BalleRepublican (@BalleRepublican) February 3, 2021
Although an established star in the Bundesliga, the second half of the campaign serves as an ideal opportunity for Hofmann to further enhance his reputation and become a first-team regular in the German national team in the upcoming European Championship.