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As the second half of the season approaches, Goal.com highlights the top talents to keep an eye on in the German top flight

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By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

The fountain of youth springs eternal in Germany, and the development of starlets has not gone unnoticed by Bundesliga coaches. Several players as young as 17 were called up to participate in their mid-season training camps, and even in their youth these burgeoning talents have a real chance of making the first-team breakthrough in the coming months.

There is a precedent: last January, then-Schalke coach Felix Magath called up 17-year-old Julian Draxler to his senior team, and the midfielder made 24 appearances over the second half of the campaign. And although Mario Gotze earned regular playing time in the autumn of 2010, it was only after the winter break that he really began to deliver on his potential.

A new batch of young talents have proven themselves among other amatuers, with names like Emre Can of Bayern Munich and Leverkusen duo Samed Yesil and Okan Aydin among them. The aforementioned players have enormous potential but still need time for development. But some others are now making serious appeals for minutes at the senior level.

Below, Goal.com profiles the starlets most likely to make the leap to first-team status this spring.

MORITZ LEITNER | Dortmund, Defensive midfield, 19


2011-12 STATS
League
Bundesliga
Appearances 7
Goals
0
Assists
0
PLAYER FILE
He's a bit like
Nuri Sahin
Competition Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Kehl
By far the most established of the players profiled in this article, the former 1860 Munich youth made a breakthrough with the Dortmund senior team during the first half of the season, but a muscular strain followed by a back injury saw his minutes limited.

Leitner has uncommon instincts for his age, and was a stand-out player in several games. He is still not fully mature physically, but has learned to shield the ball well with his body, and has great balance to complement a technical skill set that includes creative passing and impeccable ball-control. All this, and he has the lungs of a horse, allowing him, as a player with the heart of an attacker, to fill into a defensive midfield role. Ilkay Gundogan is Leitner's only like-for-like competition for a starting role, but Jurgen Klopp could also opt to play it safe by using the more experienced, defence-minded option in Sebastian Kehl instead.

MICHAEL ORTEGA | Leverkusen, Centre midfield, 20

2011-12 STATS
League
N/A
Appearances 0
Goals
0
Assists
0
PLAYER FILE
He's a bit like
Arturo Vidal
Competition  Michael Ballack, Simon Rolfes
Robin Dutt called up nearly half the Leverkusen U19 team for his training camp, but for those players the time has not yet come to show themselves at senior level. Ortega, however, was a huge success in recent friendlies, and earned high praise from his coach.

The Atlas-contracted player joined in the summer only on loan, but could be Leverkusen's long-term replacement for Arturo Vidal. Having spent most of the first half of the season injured, the box-to-box midfielder is fresh and ready to challenge for regular minutes. A combative player who can defend as well as create openings, he will most likely be used in a central role behind a front man.

ALEXANDER RING | Monchengladbach, Centre midfield, 20


2011-12 STATS
League
CL & EL Qualifiers
Appearances 6
Goals
2
Assists
3
PLAYER FILE
He's a bit like
Alexander Baumjohann, but more defensive
Competition Tolga Cigerci, Havard Nordtveit
The second Helsinki player to move to the Bundesliga since August, Ring follows in the footsteps of Schalke's Teemu Pukki as he returns to the country where he played for a decade in his youth. The former Leverkusen man had a magnificent debut in a friendly against Nurnberg earlier this month, scoring twice in the opening 16 minutes before being substituted at half-time. He also stood out in a test match against Darmstadt, brilliantly setting up a clear chance for Yuki Otsu before finding the target yet again. A starting role in the second round is not yet confirmed, though, as coach Lucien Favre believes the youngster still has some way to go in terms of his tactical development.

As for his playing style, Ring is reminiscent of Alexander Baumjohann in his earlier years: a gifted dribbler and distributor with the spirit of a playmaker but the skill set of a player who could be used a little deeper. At Gladbach, the Finland international will compete with fellow newcomer Tolga Cigerci for playing time. The winner will replace the outbound Roman Neustadter in the summer.

MITCHELL WEISER | Koln, Right-wingback, 17



2011-12 STATS
League
A. Jugend West (U19)
Appearances 11
Goals
5
Assists
1
PLAYER FILE
He's a bit like
Dani Alves
Competition Ammar Jemal, Miso Brecko, Christian Clemens, Slawomir Peszko
One of the most exciting players from Germany's brilliant 2011 U17 World Cup side, Weiser is likely to be the first graduate of Steffen Freund's team to earn his Bundesliga debut. For his fine performances with the Koln U19s, he already found himself on the first team bench for spells in the first half of the season.

With Tomoaki Makino, Alexandru Ionita, and Adam Matuschyk having been off-loaded, and Kevin Pezzoni and Sebastian Freis headed for an exit this January, Weiser is part of coach Stale Solbakken's plans, along perhaps with Fabian Schnellhardt. But it is the former who is most likely to to see regular time: an extremely versatile player, he can be used on either flank, in defence and midfield. A player with the combativeness of a defender but the technique and creativity of an attacking midfielder, Weiser could be Germany's answer to Dani Alves.

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