Who are this season's Bundesliga breakout stars?
Every European season produces thriving youngsters. It's the best part of football. Big-time prospects making leaps into superstardom. Rookies playing like veterans. Good players stepping toward excellence.
The Bundesliga seems the continent’s biggest talent factory. As long as top sides sustain admirable youth philosophy and young managers keep pushing the older to the limit, Germany's top tier has sufficient fuel to last the foreseeable future.
As Ruckrunde closes in on its finish line, we take a closer look at the most exceptional breakout stars. The ones turning into household names, changing obscurity for lasting relevance.
With Jann-Fiete Arp, Hamburg's and Die Mannschaft's attacking departments will flourish.
At 18, Arp has already displayed an exceptional knack for goals. Headers, 20-yard drives and scrappy follow-ups are all in his locker. Twice he represented Germany at international cadet tournaments. Both times he finished top scorer.
Arp had to bide his time patiently with HSV reserves before breaking forth this season. After making his senior debut against Werder Bremen in October, he notched two goals the following month. The Bad Segeberg-native has 18 league appearances this season, despite juggling academic duties.
Owing to his maturity, Upamecano could be mistaken for a veteran. Add his 6'1'' frame, speed, strength, proficiency on the ball as well as in the air, then it's understandable why he's highly-rated. Manchester United, Real Madrid and Barcelona are among a host of suitors.
Upamecano has always been one step ahead, moving from Valenciennes to Red Bull Salzburg aged 16 before joining sister outfit RB Leipzig in January 2017. He was thrown in at the Bundesliga's deep end, making his debut against Borussia Dortmund. The French defender then featured 11 more times.
This season has been Upamecano's best yet, with 40 appearances in all competitions, hitting the net twice.
McKennie joined Schalke 04 without much fanfare in 2016. A promising starlet for the United States youth teams, Die Konigsblauen was his first attempt at playing professionally. Even though he managed just one cameo appearance last campaign, it was enough to earn him a bumper five-year contract. S04 can't believe their luck.
Despite fierce competition from Max Meyer, Leon Goretzka and Nabil Bentaleb in central midfield, McKennie has managed to squeeze into Domenico Tedesco's plans. The 19-year-old has started 12 games since August. His minutes should increase further next season with Meyer and Goretzka both approaching the exit.
Sancho is probably the Bundesliga's biggest success story this term. There was hype surrounding him before moving to German shores. His ability was not in doubt, yet he was missing a perfect platform to showcase it. Borussia Dortmund must be delighted they offered Westfalenstadion.
Swift, fleet-footed and adventurous, Sancho has forced his way into first-team reckoning, often reserved for established figures such as Christian Pulisic, Shinji Kagawa, Andre Schurrle and Mario Gotze. As well as chipping in with four assists, the London-native scored his first top-flight goal in a 4-0 thrashing of Bayer Leverkusen three weeks ago.