The next Toni Kroos, a 16-year-old German Messi: Introducing Bundesliga's next crop of talents cast a studious eye over the Under-19 leagues in Germany, picking out the top prospects one should look out for in the coming years
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Mesut Ozil, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze - the fountain of German youth springs eternal with more and more burgeoning talents. In recent years, Bundesliga academies have given rise to dozens of quality international players, as well as several more on the cusp of becoming real stars.

Youngsters such as Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Bernd Leno, Ilkay Gundogan and Lewis Holtby are good enough to be regular senior internationals, but have been unable to consistently earn calls to Joachim Low's squad due to the sheer bottleneck of talents coming from German academies.

Some are not yet ready for the spotlight, but at 18 or 19 years of age have become key players for their respective clubs: Julian Draxler and Moritz Leitner, for example, have been reliable for Schalke and Dortmund's first teams, respectively. At Bremen, Tom Trybull and Florian Hartherz have also earned regular playing time in spite of their tender age. Emre Can, meanwhile, has made great strides for the Bayern reserves in the Regionalliga.

All the above appear to have bright futures, but each will have to be wary of competition from below as a new crop of talents has emerged. Below, looks at the top players from Germany's Under-19 leagues during the course of the season.

OKAN AYDIN | 17, Leverkusen
Date of birth: 8/5/94

Hometown: Leverkusen

Position: Winger/striker

Games: 22

Goals: 13

Assists: 4

 Plays like: Xherdan Shaqiri

After proving himself as a break-out star at the Under-17 World Cup last summer, Aydin affirmed his quality with an excellent season for Leverkusen at the Under-19 level. His progress has been overshadowed by that of many from the national side that featured in Mexico, as well as some of his team-mates at Leverkusen. But the fact remains that even before his 18th birthday, Aydin has a record for creating and scoring goals, and spectacular ones at that. Next season he will most likely be promoted to the Leverkusen reserves, and deservedly so. Given two or three years, he might become a big success.

MARVIN DUCKSCH | 18, Dortmund
Date of birth: 7/3/94

Hometown: Dortmund

Position: Striker

Games*: 14

Goals: 9

Assists: 4

 Plays like: Lukas Podolski
*Statistics for U19 level only

An injury prevented Ducksch from shining alongside Aydin and company last summer, but the Dortmund man recovered and played so well at U19 level this season that he was brought into the reserve team in January. After a few difficult weeks, he acclimated well and struck a rich vein of goal-scoring form: in 15 games for BVB II, he has scored seven goals and given two assists. At international level, Ducksch has also impressed. In a recent friendly between the German and Dutch Under-18s, he scored the only goal of the match.

MATTHIAS GINTER | 18, Freiburg
Date of birth: 19/1/94

Hometown: Freiburg

Position: Defensive midfield/central defence
Games: 14

Goals: 7

Assists: 1

 Plays like: Benedikt Howedes

A less-known name just months ago, Ginter has made enormous strides in 2011-12. Previously neglected by the German youth national set-up, the defensive all-rounder jumped in at Under-18 level after enjoying success with the Freiburg Under-19s during the first half of the season. So impressed with his progress was Christian Streich, that the coach promoted Ginter to the Freiburg first team. In his first Bundesliga match, just two days after his 18th birthday, he scored a last-gasp winner against Augsburg. Since then, he has been a regular inclusion in central defence, and has been a real difference-maker as his side adapted to the mid-season loss of Papiss Cisse and managed to comfortably avoid relegation.

LEON GORETZKA | 17, Bochum
Date of birth: 6/2/95

Hometown: Bochum

Position: Central midfielder

Games: 14

Goals: 9

Assists: 1

 Plays like: Toni Kroos & Bastian Schweinsteiger

A central player who is equally capable of doing the dirty work in midfield as he is of orchestrating attacks in the final third, Goretzka is a very complete footballer for his age. He began the season with Bochum's Under-17s, but after finding himself far above his competition, he was promoted to the Under-19 side. There he has been a resounding success, and his natural leadership has earned him the captaincy of the German Under-17s. With Bochum stuck in the lower echelon of the 2. Bundesliga, he could find himself playing for the senior side next season.

KORAY GUNTER | 17, Dortmund
Date of birth: 16/8/94

Hometown: Hoxter

Position: Centre-back

Games: 19

Goals: 2

Assists: 0

 Plays like: Mats Hummels

Like Goretzka, Gunter is a real leader despite his limited years. The Hoxter native was a star of the German Under-17 team last summer, and immediately fit into the role of captain with Dortmund's Under-19 side during the course of this season. A skilled player with the ability to play in defensive midfield or in the centre of a back four, Gunter, along with Bayern's Emre Can, was the first member of the 2011 German Under-17s to be promoted to the Under-19 level. It might take him some time to physically mature enough to play in central defence at the senior level, but if he remains diligent, Gunter could be a star. Readers may recall that even at 20, Mats Hummels was left out of the back four in the German Under-21 side that won the 2009 European Championship. A year later, he was a senior international.

Date of birth: 18/9/95

Hometown: Oberhausen

Position: Central playmaker

Games: 7

Goals: 4

Assists: 3

 Plays like: Lionel Messi & Marko Marin

Like Goretzka, Meyer began the season at the Under-17 level but found himself in a surrounding far below his level. After scoring 11 goals and giving 10 assists in 17 games, the 16-year-old was promoted to Schalke's Under-19 team where he has become one of the stars of the league. His success for club has translated to the international level, where he has scored six goals in his last six games for the German Under-17 side.

His most recent strike was a winner at the Under-17 European Championship that earned his country three points against a Georgia side that knocked out Spain during the Elite Round. A clever dribbler, Meyer claims to be inspired by Lionel Messi, but remains very young and the fine nuances of his game have yet to be developed. Whether he eventually plays in the model of Messi, Mario Gotze, Marko Marin or someone else is a matter that will be further understood as he matures.

Date of birth: 21/1/94

Hometown: Troisdorf

Position: Right-back/right-winger

Games: 15

Goals: 6

Assists: 1

 Plays like: Dani Alves & Lukasz Piszczek

The 2011-12 season has been a resounding success for Weiser, who made his mark for Koln after filling in for Ducksch as a right-winger in the Under-17 national team last summer. Ambidextrous, athletic and physically gifted, but with the technique and creativity of an attacking player, the 18-year-old is a right-back has the ability to play in defence and in midfield on either flank. He recently made his Bundesliga debut for Koln, but his days in the Rhine may be numbered: Koln boss Claus Horstmann vowed to extend the player's stay past 2013, but Kicker recently reported that Weiser had agreed to terms of a move to Bayern.

If true, Koln will have the option to sell in the coming months, or risk losing their star talent on a free transfer when his contract expires next summer. And while rumours over his future have neither been confirmed nor rejected, uncertainty over the role of the player's father, Patrick, at Koln can only make young Mitchell lean towards an exit.

SAMED YESIL | 17, Leverkusen
Date of birth: 25/5/94

Hometown: Dusseldorf

Position: Striker

Games: 22

Goals: 18

Assists: 3

 Plays like: A Dennis Bergkamp-Samuel Eto'o hybrid

The brightest star of the German Under-17 attack last summer, Yesil has been the most successful members of the team over the last 12 months. The striker has been prolific for Leverkusen, scoring more goals than any player in any of the Under-19 German leagues.

An all-rounder who can play on the wing but who is most prolific in a central role, Yesil has regularly appeared on the Leverkusen bench and was given his senior debut in a 3-3 draw with Hertha Berlin in April. Even in his early age, he is ready for the next step: a loan spell next season in the 2. Bundesliga would do him well. And in two or three years? He could be a real star.

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