Bundesliga: A Breeding Ground for Soccer Youth Talent

Aniket Martins, Opinions Editor

Germany has been a hub for soccer talent for decades. The German National Soccer Team has achieved the highest levels of success possible, winning four World Cups. These successes have partially been spurred on by a German public with a passionate love of soccer. These German fans also support the Bundesliga, the first division club soccer league in Germany. 


In the past few years, Bundesliga has been among the top four European soccer leagues, typically behind England’s Premier League, Spain’s LaLiga, and the Italian Serie A. The Bundesliga, composed of 18 clubs, begins in August and runs till May of the next year. Each club plays every other club twice, once at home and the other away, creating 34 matchdays.


Bundesliga has, over the past few years, become a breeding ground for young talent. Young players (ranging from teenagers to players in their early 20s) thrive in the Bundesliga due to the availability of challenging teams to play against (including Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund) and relatively easy teams to defeat (such as Furth and Stuttgart). Those lucky enough to play at a top Bundesliga team like Bayern Munich or Leipzig even get to play in European competitions including the Champions League. Such a diverse opportunity of play is a very attractive proposition for players who are building their career and experiences. Unlike top Spanish or British teams, very few Bundesliga teams manage to keep their talent. Once young players have excelled in Bundesliga they typically sign for larger, more competitive clubs in England or Spain where they have more chances to win competitive European titles and participate in high intensity domestic leagues. Timo Werner and Kai Havertz’s departures from RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen to Chelsea best demonstrate this pattern. This departure of senior players allows more young players to grow and thrive. 


Through this cycle, Bundesliga has produced some titanic players. Chelsea’s winner Christian Pulisic and Juventus’ Weston McKinnie both started their careers in the Bundesliga. Pulisic made headlines with a fantastic three year tenure at Dortmund before being bought by Chelsea for $74 million in January 2019. Since then, the youngster has lifted Europe’s most coveted prize: the Champions League trophy. He has enjoyed successes with the US Men’s National Team as well, captaining his team to a victory in the CONCACAF Nations League against rivals Mexico in a thrilling overtime game when the Chelsea attacker tucked away a clinical penalty to secure a victory for team USA. 


Other Bundesliga youth stars include Jadon Sancho, bought by Manchester United for $100 million this summer following a stellar season at Dortmund, and Erlinig Haaland, who became the first teenager to score 10 Champions League goals and set the record for youngest player to ever score 20 Champions League goals. The Dortmund superstar has already been gathering interest from some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Real Madrid, Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain. Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala and Alphonso Davies have also had the privilege of winning the Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, German Supercup, European Superclub and Club World Cup as teenagers in the 2019-2020 season, with the latter being a regular starter and recognized as one of the best left-backs in the world. 


This year, the Bundesliga also produced a number of young stars who featured on the list of candidates for the prestigious Golden Boy award – given to the best player under 21 years of age in Europe. The candidates included Brian Brobbey (RB Leipzig), Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Ilaix Moriba (RB Leipzig), Josko Gvardiol (RB Leipzig), Odilon Kossounou (Bayer Leverkusen), Gio Reyna (Borussia Dortmund) and Florian Wirtz (Leverkusen). Of these youngsters, Jude Bellingham has drawn interest from Chelsea and Liverpool and Florian Wirtz has been subject of transfer rumors from Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Manchester City. One can only anticipate what will happen when these promising young players play for larger European clubs. In a few years, we may well see the likes of Gio Reyna or Jude Bellingham lifting the Champions League trophy.