Aug 17, 2023, 04:00 AM ET
Borussia Dortmund might have let Jude Bellingham joined Real Madrid for an initial €103 million, but the German Bundesliga is still loaded with talented players, many of whom have their whole careers ahead of them.
Continually producing and nurturing young players, Germany’s top flight seems to be a conveyor belt of talent. With so many highly rated youngsters poised for bigger roles again this season, the 2023-24 Bundesliga campaign is sure to produce another class of breakout youngsters.
ESPN’s resident scout Tor-Kristian Karlsen picks out some of the top players aged 22 or younger who could make their mark this season.
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Mathys Tel, 18, forward, Bayern Munich
Signed from Rennes for €28.5m a year ago, the teenage Frenchman played just 416 league minutes in his debut season yet still netted five goals in the Bundesliga — becoming the youngest player ever to score for Bayern.
Bayern have turned down several loan approaches for a player who has been compared in style to France legends Thierry Henry and Kylian Mbappé, and the club have high hopes that he can manage the expectations placed upon on him, even with the €100m arrival of Harry Kane.
Capable of occupying any role up front — though he instinctively gravitates towards central areas — Tel has excellent physical, technical and tactical qualities. His ability to stretch opponents and run behind the defence is particularly useful for a possession-based side like Bayern. But in his eagerness to get on the ball, he also comes short to play passes in deeper areas.
Paxten Aaronson, 19, attacking midfielder, Eintracht Frankfurt
Paxten Aaronson can show his skills in the Bundesliga this season. Ulrik Pedersen/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Following an introductory half-season in Germany last term, the agile United States international playmaker is facing a challenge to stake his claim for a place in the starting XI, but there’s every chance his energetic pressing and creativity will impress Frankfurt’s new head coach, Dino Toppmöller.
Aaronson is never shy to ask for the ball and takes up smart positions between the lines. In possession, he can shield the ball well with his body, is able to deceive markers on the half-turn and, with his progressive mindset, either looks to drive forward or play combination passes with his teammates.
Julien Duranville, 17, winger, Borussia Dortmund
Despite only having half an hour of Bundesliga experience under his belt, it was plain to see that the January signing from Anderlecht had something special about him when he came on as a second-half substitute in the final game of last season against Mainz.
Though Duranville’s debut ended in heartbreak for the club — with Bayern snatching the title in the final minutes due to Dortmund’s 2-2 draw — his pace, quick turns, courage and incisive dribbles added some much-needed spark to the static Dortmund attack.
The right-footed winger might still be a bit lightweight, but he’ll undoubtedly prove useful for coach Edin Terzic when chasing goals against a low block.
Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, 19, winger, Borussia Dortmund
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Another explosive Dortmund winger, Bynoe-Gittens got on the scoresheet three times in his 20 appearances last season and was given a chance to shine in the first XI. With the promise of more to come this year, the ex-Manchester City academy graduate is hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Englishmen Jadon Sancho and Bellingham by making his name in the Bundesliga.
Like Duranville, he’s efficient at taking on opponents (he shifts his weight during a dribble as a means of deception to great effect), but tends to pick up the ball deeper and cuts inside to run at opponents. Boasting impressive upper-body strength, the England U19 international is particularly hard to knock off balance and his quick shooting technique represents gives another edge to his developing game.
Benjamin Sesko, 20, centre-forward, RB Leipzig
Benjamin Sesko was linked with Man United this summer. Roland Krivec/DeFodi Images via Getty Images
Long considered one of the elite centre-forward prospects in European football, it’ll be intriguing to see whether the 6-foot-4 Slovenia international can make an immediate impact in a league of higher quality.
Formally signed last summer from FC Salzburg — the Austrian side affiliated to Leipzig from which 20-odd players, including midfielder Nicolas Seiwald this summer, have taken the same route — for a reported €24m, Sesko scored 16 goals in 30 league games last season.
Right now he’s more a goal poacher than a multi-faceted centre-forward, but Sesko travels well with the ball at high pace, while his overall speed is impressive for an attacker of his physical stature. Both his positioning skills and finishing technique have grown well along with his exposure to first-team football.
Victor Boniface, 22, centre-forward, Bayer Leverkusen
A €20m summer arrival from Belgian side Union Saint-Gilloise, Boniface had a tough road to the Bundesliga as he ruptured his cruciate ligaments on two occasions at the start of his European journey while playing in Norway for Bodø/Glimt between 2019-2022.
The Nigerian’s 17 goals and 12 assists in 52 games last season were enough to put him on Leverkusen’s radar, though he is still waiting for an international call up, and he scored on his debut in an 8-0 win in the DFB Pokal last weekend.
In addition to his 6-foot-2 frame and strong aerial prowess, Boniface has a fine first touch and is developing his hold-up game, while he also has the speed to test opponents on the ground.
Castello Lukeba, 20, centre-back, RB Leipzig
With left-sided defender Josko Gvardiol moving to Manchester City for €90m, Leipzig acted swiftly to bring in a direct replacement. In fact, France U21 international was signed just days after Gvardiol left for a fee of around €30m.
Though only 20, Lukeba is no newcomer to first-team football. He featured in more than 70 official matches for Lyon and his decisive, no-nonsense approach to defending, along with growing leadership qualities, saw him become a fans’ favourite at his former club.
On top of being a hard-tackling defender, Lukeba is also quick, dominating, alert and athletic. While he might not yet possess Gvardiol’s off-the-charts precision with long-range passing, he distributes the ball well under pressure too.
Xavi Simons, 20, attacking midfielder / forward, RB Leipzig
Xavi Simons starred in the Eredivisie and now has another chance to impress. Patrick Goosen/BSR Agency/Getty Images
Having excelled at PSV last season – he finished as joint-top scorer in the Eredivisie with 19 goals — Paris Saint-Germain exercised their €6m contract clause to bring Simons back this summer before loaning him to RB Leipzig.
The former Barcelona academy attacking midfielder is most comfortable operating in space up front, where he links midfield and attack with combination passes, and possesses a major goal threat with his quick bursts of pace or dribbles.
Simons is an entertainer on the ball. Always on the move, he creates space by drawing in defenders and has a high degree of accuracy when he is able to get a shot off.
Kevin Paredes, 20, wing-back / winger, Wolfsburg
Mainly used as an impact substitute during his first full season at Wolfsburg, Paredes seems to have the faith of head coach Niko Kovac, with added playing time on the cards this campaign.
With bags of vivacity and determination, he tends to liven up games from off the bench that have gone flat. His pinpoint crosses and ability to take on opponents in wide areas, as well as a willingness to defend, make him stand out. But while Paredes is able to play any role up and down the left flank, Kovac is likely to mould him into an out-and-out winger.