BERLIN, Aug 16 — When Bayern Munich open their Bundesliga campaign at home to Hertha Berlin today evening, Serge Gnabry, Joshua Kimmich and Leon Goretzka can be reasonably sure of a place in the starting eleven.
Though all still just 24, the three players are already leading figures in the Bayern dressing room, having rapidly risen up the ranks in the last year or two.
They are living proof that, while the Bundesliga may struggle to keep the pace with its English and Spanish counterparts on the international stage, it remains a breeding ground for some of the best young talent in Europe.
Here are five young players hoping to follow in their footsteps and make 2019/20 their breakthrough Bundesliga season.
Alphonso Davies (18, Bayern Munich)
Born in a refugee camp in Ghana at the turn of the millennium, 18-year-old Davies grew up in Canada and joined Bayern last January after turning heads with his performances for the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The twinkle-toed winger has made seven appearances for the Bundesliga champions since then, scoring his first goal for the club against Mainz back in March.
After the departure of club icons Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, Davies is now third choice winger behind Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman, and will be hoping for more game time this season.
Kai Havertz (20, Bayer Leverkusen)
Perhaps the breakthrough star of last season, Leverkusen’s slender attacking midfielder chalked up 17 goals and four assists to help his side secure Champions League qualification in the spring.
Germany coach Joachim Loew has already predicted that Havertz will play a “key role” in the national team’s future, and Leverkusen are aware that they may not be able to hold onto the 20-year-old for much longer.
Heavily linked to Bayern Munich in recent months, Havertz is expected to stay at Leverkusen for at least another year.
After that, the sky will be the limit for the 1.88m tall playmaker.
Ethan Ampadu (18, RB Leipzig)
On loan from Chelsea, Welsh international Ampadu is among a growing number of British talents to follow Jadon Sancho’s lead and try their luck in the Bundesliga.
Not all of the Bundesliga Brits have been as successful as Sancho, but RB Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann is already impressed by dreadlocked defender Ampadu.
“Ethan has huge talent, he is unbelievably confident in possession and defends very well,” Nagelsmann told AFP-subsidiary SID this week.
“He is a strategist. He still has a bit to learn, but he has a great career ahead of him.”
Sarpreet Singh (20, Bayern Munich)
A New Zealand international born to Indian parents, 20-year-old striker Singh was relatively unknown in Europe when he joined Bayern from Wellington Phoenix in July.
Originally intended for Bayern’s reserve team, Singh has impressed so much in pre-season that coach Niko Kovac is already considering a promotion to the first team squad.
“The first impressions show that he is already much further on than other players in the reserve team,” said Kovac after Singh’s cameo appearance in the pre-season Audi Cup.
Ozan Kabak (19, Schalke)
The 19-year-old Turkish centre-back may have suffered relegation with Stuttgart last season, but that didn’t stop him attracting the attention of Premier League clubs with his brilliant performances at the back.
Kabak was linked with Arsenal and Manchester United before signing a five-year deal with Schalke.
Tenacious in the tackle and a threat in front of goal, Kabak has already earned gushing praise from new Schalke boss David Wagner.
“Ozan is one of the most exciting talents in Europe in his position,” said Wagner in August. — AFP