5 U23 Talents Taking over the Zweite Bundesliga by Adam Khan
Adam Khan 17/03/2022
With historic clubs, fallen giants, and a gripping promotion race, there are more than enough reasons to watch the final 8 gameweeks of this season’s Zweite Bundesliga, yet what is often overlooked about Germany’s second tier is the abundance of young talent earning their stripes in the division.
From Joshua Kimmich to David Raum, countless German internationals began their career in Germany’s lower-tier. With competitive infrastructure, a refreshing focus on development, and elite level coaching, both homegrown and foreign talent routinely look towards the Zweite Bundesliga as one of the most attractive destinations to kick start a flourishing career.
In this Football Talent Scout exclusive, Adam Khan takes us through 5 of the biggest U23 talents which clubs across the continent need to have on their radar ahead of this summer’s transfer window.
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Malick Thiaw (20)
Schalke 04 – Centerback – Cont. until June 30, 2024
When compiling a list of the 5 biggest talents in this season’s Zweite Bundesliga, it’s almost impossible to look past the imposing presence of Schalke defender Malick Thiaw. With over 2000 minutes Thiaw has played the most football of any U21 player in either of Germany’s top two tiers this season, and it’s clear to see why given the youngster’s extraordinary maturity and growing leadership presence.
Standing at 1,91m and 80 kg the youth international has the presence required of a top defender earmarked for the top, but even more impressive is his athleticism. Nimble and athletic in his movements, Thiaw is rarely caught out against even the best wingers the Zweite Bundesliga has to offer.
As more and more sides across Europe look to operate with offensive wingbacks and a high defensive line, Thiaw’s ability to calmly step into wide channels and operate with the pace and power of an auxiliary fullback makes him stand out against some other centerback prospects.
In possession Thiaw is still somewhat ineffective. However, it’s unfair to judge him too harshly given that Schalke have looked generally bereft of ideas in possession throughout the unsuccessful Grammozis era. Under better coaching in a truly elite possession outfit, one would entrust Thiaw to take the next step given that he is still just 20-years old.
As for potential destinations, quite a few clubs have raised interest over the past 12-months, be it Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer, or Italian giants AC Milan in January. With Schalke in a precarious situation after topflight relegation, COVID-19 restrictions, and the loss of Gazprom as a major financial sponsor, key departures will have to follow this summer.
As the most valuable player in the Zweite Bundesliga with lucrative offers across the continent, it’s hard to fathom a reality in which Malik Thiaw is still playing in Germany’s second tier next season.
Sarpreet Singh (23)
Jahn Regensburg – Left Winger – Cont. until June 30, 2022
Sarpreet Singh was probably the darling of the early stages of this Zweite Bundesliga campaign.
The FC Bayern loanee joined the should-be relegation candidates Jahn Regensburg over the summer, and instantly made his qualities known, contributing 5 goals and 8 assists to help Die Jahn-Elf spend 14 of the first 16 game weeks in a promotion spot.
Particularly the New Zealander’s set piece delivery has been a source of pride, justifying his role as a dead ball specialist with numerous assists from corners and free kicks.
In a side generally lacking composure in possession, having such a vital element to make the most of set pieces has fundamentally changed the outlook at the Jahnstadion this season. One can only imagine that numerous topflight sides faced with battling the drop next season will be casting a keen eye on Singh’s unique ability. Particularly a Bundesligist like Arminia Bielefeld could profit from the youngster’s impact, with Frank Kramer’s side yet to score a goal from a corner kick all campaign.
In open play, Singh plays with the technical ability and creative freedom which one would expect from a player scouted and developed by the mighty FC Bayern. With a club-high through balls, dribbles, and key passes, Singh routinely proves his irreplaceable value in the Regensburg attack, further highlighted in the side’s dire form without the New Zealander in the side (3 matches, 1 draw, 2 losses).
As for potential destinations, a topflight outfit in the mold of FC Augsburg, the aforementioned Arminia Bielefeld, or VFL Bochum could be the perfect destination for Singh to continue his development in a project which could promise him considerable first team opportunities. Though still only 23, Singh has played less than 2,500 minutes of first team football in Germany. Ensuring that he finds a destination where he can compete at the highest level, whilst regularly finding gametime, should be at the top of his attention this summer.
Ludovit Reis (21)
Hamburger SV – Central Midfielder – Cont. until June 30, 2025
A La Masia graduate, 14-time Dutch U21 international, and an invaluable presence in HSV’s bid for promotion. Few young talents in this season’s Zweite Bundesliga have as impressive a track record as Ludovit Reis.
After racking up more than 1000 Eredivisie minutes at FC Groningen before his 17th birthday, Ludovit Reis completed every youngsters dream with a move to Catalan giants FC Barcelona.
Though in subsequent years Reis provided mature performances in the club’s segunda outfit, the Dutchman never managed an appearance for the first team. In fact, his final moment in a blaugrana kit came on the sidelines, watching from the bench as FC Bayern dismantled Barcelona 8:2 en route to their Champions League triumph.
With first team minutes proving elusive, Reis turned elsewhere, opting for a loan to Zweite Bundesliga outfit VFL Osnabruck. In the end, the North German outfit didn’t have the quality to stay in the division, but Ludovit Reis had done more than enough to peak the interest of clubs across the country.
With a metronomic presence in midfield, and the swagger and maturity of a player raised in the school of Dutch football, Hamburger SV were ultimately able to pick the youngster up on a free after his contract expired in the Catalan capital. Unlike some high-calibre misfires in recent seasons, Reis’ signing has been a masterstroke with the Dutch youngster playing a crucial role in the club’s fourth attempt to finally return to the topflight.
In one of the youngest squads in the division where 15 of the 26 players are under the age 23, Reis has grown into a starring role. Amongst the entire U23 contingent, only Gambian winger Bakery Jatta has featured more this season, 2-years Reis’ senior, and with more than 100 additional matches for the Northern giants.
One of the main reasons Reis has instantly hit the ground running is through the tactics and philosophy of 46-year old manager Tim Walter. With fluid positional rotations, an ingrained value for possession, and a belief in young players, there isn’t a better environment for Reis to both develop at a high level, and get the most out of his attributes as a technical midfielder who loves the ball at his feet.
Regardless of which division HSV plays their football in next season, there are more than enough reasons for the 21-year old to remain at the Volksparkstadion for at least one more season.
Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer (20)
Dynamo Dresden – Forward – Cont. until June 30, 2023
Unlike Ludovit Reis, 20-year old Ransford-Yeboah Königsdörffer should be on the move this summer regardless of Dynamo Dresden’s league status.
The Berlin born attacker has shown in glimpses a real potency and guile in the final third, drawing plenty of comparisons to Karim Adeyemi in his direct, vertical, approach.
Whilst his final product is still a major concern – Königsörffer has scored just 4 league goals from 34 shots – just about everything else in the youngsters offensive game exudes confidence and raw, unbridled, talent.
A Dynamo Dresden side battling the drop could really do with a more clinical presence in front of goal, but just about any other side in the Bundesliga 1 or 2 could profit from introducing Königsdörffer late in a match to expose a tiring defense. With a contract set to expire in 2023, it would also be to Dresden’s advantage to ensure they get a fee for the youngster to provide a significant boost for their financial future.
As for a potential destination, Borussia Mönchengladbach could be a really interesting opportunity, with Die Fohlen-Elf approaching a rebuilding phase after their manager, sporting director, and 2 most valuable players all departed over the past 12 months.
Gladbach have made 11 fewer substitutions than any other club in this season’s Bundesliga, so adding a real game changing attacking presence from the bench could really benefit Adi Hütter in turning the tide around in his second season in charge.
Lino Templemann (23)
FC Nürnberg – Central Midfielder – Cont. until June 30, 2023
With 4 wins from their last 4 Bundesliga 2 matches, 1. FC Nuremberg are clearly the team of the moment. Now just 3 points off SV Darmstadt in first, promotion is more than possible for Robert Klauß’s side.
Despite boasting a roster without a standout goalscorer, or household name, Der Klub has had more than enough prominent performers throughout these opening 26 gameweeks – chief amongst them, 23-year old Lino Tempelmann.
On loan from ChrIstian Streich’s SC Freiburg, Tempelmann has been a dragging force in Der Club’s surge up the table, starting every single match he’s been deemed fit for since gameweek 5, and ranking third in the squad for both goals and assists.
Yet, regardless of this solid return in front of goal, Tempelmann’s output in the final third is far from the reason why he has become so important in Nuremberg’s bid for promotion. The former German U20 international embodies the ideals of a modern box to box midfielder, with a decent size, elite engine, and exceptional ability to carry the ball through opposition ranks.
Particularly this last aspect has stood out. Against inferior opponent’s Tempelmann will routinely look to make darting runs through midfield and commit opponents to open up vertical passing channels. Maintaining this same confidence against the league’s tougher opposition will make him even more of a dominant force in the remaining 8 matchdays.
As for the future, Lino Templemann has many options open.
A return to parent club Freiburg is the current stand of the things, however, at 23 it’s unlikely that Templemann will be content with a substitute role. If starting midfielders like Janik Haberer or Nicolas Höfler remain at Freiburg over the summer, then a permanent move to Nuremberg could definitely be on the cards.