About a year ago, Jürgen Klopp, Dortmund’s coach at the time, stated that Borussia Dortmund’s future is secured because of all the great talent coming through Borussia’s youth ranks. Constantin Eckner and I took a look at the most promising talents back then and now it’s time to ask: Where are they now?
Part 2: – Felix Passlack – Where Does he Fit?
The first player on the list was the then-first- year under-19 player David Sauerland (18). Unfortunately, the right-footed central midfielder had a year to forget and the struggles we mentioned continued.
Dortmund’s plan was to let Sauerland play for BVBII in the Regionalliga, Germany’s fourth tier. After a handful of games, however, Sauerland was deemed not ready for the physicality of this division. He’s only played one game for the whole 90 minutes. After a while, he dropped out of the squad completely and from the end of November he was back with the U19 again.
While Klopp seemed to like Sauerland a lot and involved him in a friendly and some first-team trainings, Tuchel doesn’t seem to rate him as highly, not inviting him to friendly games alongside some of his U19 team-mates, although he was part of the team that went to Asia in the summer.
Dynamic movement is the most significant part of Sauerland’s skill-set. While that came in handy for Klopp’s physically demanding style, it’s not as important, especially for a central midfielder, under Tuchel. Sauerland lacks some of the strategic abilities necessary for the roles of Ilkay Gündogan or Shinji Kagawa in the first team.
He’s also not overly comfortable in tight spaces nor very resistant against pressing. Considering Sauerland’s speed and overall good technique, he might have a better chance as a winger under Tuchel, but he doesn’t seem to be too comfortable playing there and isn’t the biggest threat for goal either.
Another option would be to play him at right-back, a position he played at times for Dortmund’s youth teams, but we can just speculate whether he or Tuchel see a future for him there. His defensive abilities at that position remain questionable as well. He might be rather dynamic but he’s not very good in defensive one-on-ones and positioning.
Unfortunately, it seems like Sauerland’s career took a step back rather than forward since his U17 days and, if things don’t drastically change, we won’t see him playing for Dortmund’s first team anytime soon, although he might find his spot in a team with a different style.
Next up is Dominik Reimann (18), the first Dortmund academy goalkeeper for a long time who might eventually end up in the first team. Nothing much has changed for Reimann over the last few months. He still isn’t very tall for a goalkeeper (186 cm/6’1“) but continues to improve the command of his area and his concentration to keep the number of mistakes down. He’s had 10 clean sheets in 14 games for the U19 side and overall only conceded five goals.
Reimann might be very fitting for the style of football Tuchel likes. One of Reimann’s biggest strengths is his ball distribution, which is becoming a more and more important factor for goalkeepers and especially in a possession-oriented system like Tuchel’s. Unlike Sauerland, Reimann was called up to the first team for the friendly against Union Berlin, although he didn’t receive any playing time.
Reimann’s upside is impressive and if he continues to develop, he will eventually become a very good ‘keeper. It remains to be seen whether he’ll ever make up for his lack of height, the 18-year-old is certainly one to watch.
The situation of attacking midfielder Junior Flores (19) also hasn’t changed too much. The U.S. prospect only played 174 minutes for BVBII this season and it looks increasingly unlikely he’ll make it to the top leagues of football.
The career of winger Oguzhan Aydogan (18), on the other hand, looked to be on the way up. He played better and better for the U19 side and was involved in five goals in seven league games, although he was mostly used as a substitute.
Since Christian Pulisic and Felix Passlack are part of the first team now, he probably would’ve gotten a lot more playing time as well. Unfortunately, Aydogan injured his ankle in a friendly against Gladbach and is likely out for the remainder of the season.
Burak Çamoğlu (19) had somewhat of a rollercoaster year. After getting promoted to BVBII, he had a rough start under coach David Wagner, but after Daniel Farke took over in November, Camoğlu became a regular at the right-back position. He used to be a winger and his strengths lie going forward. He’s got good techniqie and decent physicality.
The biggest concerns are his defensive positioning and defensive one-on-ones, but those will improve over time. Çamoğlu’s contract is running out in the summer and it’s unlikely he’ll get a shot at first-team football right away. It remains to be seen whether he’ll be happy with fourth- tier football at BVBII, or if he’ll rather let his contract expire and change clubs.
One of two young players who went to last year’s winter training camp with the first team didn’t quite develop as hoped. I’m talking about Dzenis Burnic (17). The left-footed central midfielder still has a great upside to his game and is a very talented player, but he’s also getting more and more inconsistent.
While he can be a great orchestrator of the offense, he also tends to demand the ball very aggressively, sometimes coming too deep into his own half and too close to his own centre-backs to receive the ball. This way he’s closing passing lanes for his own team, while taking away a chance for himself to get between the lines of the opponent.
If Burnic becomes more patient in that regard, he could eventually be an interesting player for the role Julian Weigl is playing right now, although Burnic’s passing game might be a bit too risky and at times sloppy for this integral position.
Defensively, Burnic likes to jump into tackles and gives up fouls or his defensive positioning, which can become a problem at times.
It’ll be interesting to see how Burnic fares at the U19 now that Passlack and Pulisic won’t be there all the time. BVB fans should hope that he’ll be able to step his game up and work on his flaws. Just looking at his potential, Dzenis Burnic is still an exciting prospect.
Next up is Jacob Bruun Larsen (17). The Danish winger has made a lot of progress this season and had a hand in 12 goals in as many games for the U19 side. Larsen is extremely fast and, although he might not possess the quickness or technique of Pulisic, he’s still a very capable speed-dribbler.
Larsen’s style is rather straightforward: He likes to stick to the wing and take on his opponents. It’s doubtful whether he could become a winger for Tuchel’s system eventually, for similar reasons as with Passlack. But it might be worth a try to play him at full-back and Tuchel already did so for a few minutes during a friendly.
For Janni-Luca Serra (17) not much has changed. One interesting side-note is that he waived the chance of going to the U17 World Cup in favor of staying at home and working on his school education.
Serra’s technique and link-up play is still improving rapidly since he turned from a centre-back to a striker, but it’s not close to a first team standard (yet?). In the U19, Serra is still overpowering his opponents, however, and he managed to score 10 and assist five goals in 12 league games.
Serra will probably continue scoring and playing for the U19 next season and it remains to be seen whether he can improve enough to be in contention for BVBII or even the first team, which seems rather unlikely, afterwards.
Onto one of the most promising youngsters in Dortmund’s youth ranks and unfortunately one of the saddest stories this season, Patrick Fritsch (17). Fritsch was just as close as Pulisic to give his professional debut, as he was included in Borussia’s squad for the game against PAOK in the UEFA Europa League.
Fritsch’s style of play resembles Mats Hummels’. Both aren’t the quickest guys on earth, although Fritsch is the quicker of the two, but very good in one on ones and have a good anticipation. The 17-year-old is also very comfortable with the ball at his feet.
His long balls aren’t yet as impressive, but his short-range passing game is exquisite for a centre-back. Fritsch also likes to use his dribbling to get past the first line of pressing or to create new passing angles for himself. He’ll get caught up in the moment from time to time and try to take on one opponent too many, but, overall, his decision-making with the ball at his feet is very good.
Defensively, Fritsch shows an impressive level of concentration and makes very few mistakes, considering his age. For the U19, he usually plays at centre-half, but he can also feature as a defensive midfielder or at right-back, as he did in a friendly against St. Pauli. One problem with him is his height, as he’s slightly undersized for his position at only 184 cm (6’0“). If he doesn’t grow, he might have to consider changing to defensive midfield for good in the long run.
Now I have to come to the sad part of Fritsch’s year, unfortunately. During preparation for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup in Chile, he tore his ACL and he might not play again this season. Here’s hoping that he’ll recover well and can get back to where he left off.
For the rest of the players such as Sahin Kösecik, Niklas Beste, Berkant Güner and Julian Schwermann not much has changed since our last look at Dortmund’s top prospects.
There are, however, some interesting talents in the new U17 side, such as Hüseyin Bulut and especially David Kopacz, whom we’ll perhaps look at another time.