Joshua Kimmich, Bayern Munich
Germany ultimately fell short in this summer’s European Under-21 Championship in the Czech Republic, unceremoniously dumped out by a rampant Portugal side in the semi-final. Nevertheless, there were plenty of positives to take from Horst Hrubesch’s outfit’s prior showings, with Kimmich among their best players at the tournament.
The 20-year-old has spent the last two seasons on loan at RB Leipzig from Stuttgart, with the upcoming campaign set to be his first taste of top-flight football. Regardless of his lack of experience at the highest level, Pep Guardiola and Bayern have clearly seen enough in the holding midfielder, tying him down to a five-year deal after a €7m move was finalised earlier this year.
Kimmich is an energetic ball-winner who is comfortable in possession and likes to set the tempo of his team from deep. Bayern have plenty of options in central midfield, with new addition Arturo Vidal joining the likes of Thiago, Xabi Alonso, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and David Alaba and Philipp Lahm – full-backs who have previously been deployed in the engine room by Guardiola – in the Bavarians’ squad. With Bayern looking to compete on multiple fronts, though, Kimmich should get a few chances to impress in the first team.
Leroy Sane, Schalke
Despite being linked with a switch to the Premier League and Tottenham Hotspur in recent weeks, Sane remains in the Bundesliga and could be a key player for Schalke as they attempt to secure a top-four spot this season.
The 19-year-old is a versatile forward who has played on the right, left, behind the striker and even right up top. Quick, tricky and in possession a fine left foot, Sane is full of craft and a player who looks capable of making something happen whenever he has the ball at his feet. A powerful and accurate shot is another weapon that Schalke will be looking for him to utilise in the coming months.
With fellow attacker Julian Draxler potentially on the way to Juventus, who are thought to be seeking a creative presence in the final third, Sane could step up to play an even more prominent role. He will certainly look to have a bigger impact than last season when, while shining at times, he only started seven Bundesliga games. His fantastic display against Real Madrid in the Champions League in March was evidence of his exciting potential.
Hakan Calhanoglu, Bayer Leverkusen
Being a fellow Turkish-born German is not the only reason Calhanoglu has been likened to Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil. The attacking midfielder enjoyed an impressive debut campaign at Leverkusen last term, scoring eight goals and recording six assists as Roger Schmidt’s side finished in the top four and qualified for this year’s Champions League.
2015-16 will be Calhanoglu’s fifth campaign as a senior professional, which makes it easy to forget he is still just 21 years of age. He began his career at Karlsruher SC in 2011, before some promising performances earned him a move to Hamburg after a year. Calhanoglu has since improved year-on- year, adding consistency and a better end product to his game.
Creative and energetic with a fine range of passing, Calhanoglu operates best as a number 10 but is also comfortable playing deeper in the field, as he did on occasion last season. The playmaker, who has nine caps and three goals for Turkey, is also a superb free-kick taker and dead-ball specialist capable of testing any keeper from almost any distance. With a good deal of experience under his belt and another year of Champions League football to look forward to, Calhanoglu is certainly one to watch this season.
About the Author – Greg Lea
Freelance football writer. Work published by FourFourTwo, The Guardian, World Soccer, Goal, The National, Squawka, Eurosport, The Blizzard + others.