An exceptional U19 year-group have bid farewell and taken the step-up to senior level, while a promising new generation are currently tearing it up for Germany at the U17 European Championship in Hungary: a changing of the guard awaits for the Borussia U19s.
Head coach Mike Tullberg raves about the boys born in 2004: "They were BVB's most successful class ever and can be proud of what they have achieved. Three of the top talents - Youssoufa Moukoko, Jamie Bynoe-Gittens and Tom Rothe - were promoted to the first-team squad while still teenagers, while Nnamdi Collins and Samuel Bamba made their debuts at U23 level. "And as a team, the players born in 2004 exceeded all expectations in the 2022/23 season," Mike Tullberg looks back with pride. The head coach and his staff, in turn, have successfully carried out the mission of helping talent to bloom, both individually and as a team. Since Tullberg took charge in the spring of 2020, BVB's U19s are yet to lose a game in the Bundesliga.
While they had also benefited from the individual class of players like Jamie Bynoe-Gittens, Tom Rothe, Bradley Fink, Göktan Gürpüz, Lion Semic and co. on their successful journey through three competitions last year (German champions, DFB-Pokal finalists, the first BVB U19 team to reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Youth League), their best moments as a collective came in the season that just ended. "This team played with heart and passion and worked together in an exemplary manner in defence. They were a real team," says Mike Tullberg, giving the players top marks in their final report card.
They were rewarded for their efforts in the Bundesliga with the West German Championship title. In the final of the German Championship, they lost 4-2 to Mainz 05 in extra time. In the UEFA Youth League, when they were able to bring in reinforcements such as Göktan Gürpüz, Silas Ostrzinski, Abdoulaye Kamara and Prince Aning (all born in 2004), they were again the only representative of the Bundesliga to reach the quarter-finals, where they were highly unfortunate to lose to Hajduk Split. After a 1-1 draw in regulation time, the Black & Yellows lost the heart-stopping penalty shootout by a scoreline of 10-9. The Croatian team then progressed to the Final Four and made it all the way to the final, where they were beaten 5-0 by AZ Alkmaar.
Only Julian Rijkhoff top in the goalscoring charts
Mike Tullberg can find only one point of criticism: "We scored too few goals. Otherwise, it might have been possible to achieve even more." The numbers back up his assessment: although Julian Rijkhoff (born in 2005) led the U19 Bundesliga West scorers' list with 15 goals, as in the previous year, and he also netted all four goals in the 4-0 triumph over Hertha BSC in the semi-final first leg of the German Championship in Berlin, the second most successful scorer (Samuel Bamba) follows in 29th place with three goals. The U19s finished the 2021/22 Bundesliga season with 54 goals, this time it was only 33. "We have to improve significantly in the offensive department," says Mike Tullberg.
Hopes in this regard rest above all on the shoulders of Paris Brunner. The attacker scored an outstanding 16 goals in just six games in the U17 Bundesliga and has also hit the target regularly for the U17 Germany national team (16 goals in 15 games), but he is still finding his feet at U19 level (three goals in the UEFA Youth League, two in the Bundesliga). Brunner now leads the pack of ambitious youngsters who are moving up to the U19s and who Tullberg says have "a lot of talent".
BVB provide the most players to Germany squad
This generation are currently showing what they're capable of at the U17 European Championship in Hungary, where they have helped Germany storm all the way to the final. Left-back Almugera Kabar, winger Charles Herrmann, midfielder Kjell Wätjen and Paris Brunner form the largest block of players from one club in the Germany squad. Gökdeniz Gürpüz (Turkey), Raul König (Germany/Spain), Cole Campbell (Iceland) and Nico Adamczyk (Poland) have also earned their stripes at international level. Tyler Meiser, a talismanic defender and captain of the Germany U16 national team, is set to make more appearances for the U19s next season.
''The most important thing will be that these players develop as a unit and help each other to progress. Everyone has his role, everyone is important and carries responsibility. They have to internalise that. Otherwise it won't come together,'' stresses Tullberg. On 25 June, the new squad will commence preparations for the 2023/24 season. Prior to departing for his post-season holiday, Tullberg set a mission statement: ''We want to attack on the front-foot again.'' (wiwi)