The Bundesliga has become one of Chelsea’s favoured destinations to shop in recent seasons. And for good reason too.
Few divisions possess the same amount of young attacking talent as the German top flight. It’s where Jadon Sancho honed his vast array of skills before joining Manchester United this summer, where Erling Haaland continues to plunder goal after goal, and where Cobham graduate Jamal Musiala is currently starring.
Understandably, Chelsea haven’t been afraid to spend big money to secure Bundesliga stars. In January 2019, the Blues agreed a deal worth up to £60million to secure Christian Pulisic’s signing from Borussia Dortmund.
A little more than 18 months later, deals for Timo Werner and Kai Havertz were struck with RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen for £50m and £70m respectively.
All played important roles for Chelsea last term. Big performances were delivered in the Premier League and Champions League and key goals were scored. Yet given the experience each possessed, that should have been no surprise.
Werner, Havertz and Pulisic were all handed their senior debuts at just 17 years old. From that moment on, they were first-team regulars. Tellingly, the two Germans reached 50 league appearances before their 19th birthdays. Pulisic, meanwhile, hit that landmark just 68 days after celebrating his.
Chelsea gained the best of both worlds when Pulisic, Werner and Havertz arrived at Stamford Bridge. Each still had an abundance of potential to realise but all had plenty of top-level know-how. They were not wide-eyed youngsters still finding their way in the game.
Of course, not everything has gone smoothly: Pulisic has struggled with injuries, Werner has rarely been ruthless in front of goal. Havertz too struggled early on before asserting himself in the starting XI and scoring the goal that won Chelsea the Champions League.
There’s no doubt the Blues will return to the Bundesliga in the future when attempting to improve their squad; they were interested in signing Haaland this summer only for Dortmund to make it clear the Norwegian was not going to leave.
And if Chelsea want to stick to their formula of signing young stars with experience beyond their years, here are three players they should target next summer.
The midfielder is closing in on 100 senior appearances in club football and is a regular in Gareth Southgate’s England set-up. It’s impressive, and all the more so given Bellingham only turned 18 years old in June.
What Bellingham has achieved at such a young age is not normal. He was a fixture in the Birmingham City side in the Championship at just 16. He got his move to Dortmund at 17 and he has thrived in German football.
This term, Bellingham has started each of BVB’s opening five fixtures. He is a key figure in the Bundesliga giants’ midfield, a player unafraid to take responsibility.
“I love the way he plays football,” Dortmund boss Marco Rose said in the summer. “I think he is an aggressive player who does so much for the team but also plays football with such confidence for his relatively young age.”
It’s likely Bellingham attracts Premier League interest next summer. Chelsea have kept tabs on the England international’s progress since he emerged at Birmingham while Manchester United and Liverpool have been previously linked.
Capable of playing as a number eight or in a double six and with two seasons of Bundesliga experience under his belt, Bellingham would be a good fit for Chelsea’s midfield, which will need refreshing in the seasons ahead with Jorginho and N’Golo Kante both in or approaching their thirties.
A burgeoning American star who is honing his game at Borussia Dortmund. Sounds very familiar, doesn’t it? But that is perhaps where the comparisons between Pulisic and Reyna end.
“What he did in Germany was amazing, and it’s cool to be compared to him as he’s doing so well now in the Premier League,” the 18-year-old told Bundesliga.com in 2019. “But I’m trying to create my own path, because we are different players.
“The way he created a path for Americans to come to Germany, and especially now in Dortmund for me, is really exciting. So yeah, he’s done a lot of great stuff.”
Yet so has Reyna since he broke into the Dortmund side in January 2020. An elegant passer, nimble dribbler, and intelligent user of space, the U.S. international has made quite the impact alongside the likes of Haaland, Bellingham, and before his move to Manchester United, Sancho.
Prior to the international break, Reyna became the youngest player in Bundesliga history (18 years and 287 days) to make 50 appearances when he started and scored in Dortmund’s victory over Hoffenheim. It’s a record he took from Havertz.
Comfortable playing across the second line of the attack and, as has been shown this term, as an eight, it won’t be too long until one of Europe’s most powerful clubs approaches Dortmund with an offer for the 18-year-old.
It was a blow for Bayer Leverkusen to lose Havertz to Chelsea last summer. However, the emergence of Wirtz certainly made the departure of the silky German more palatable.
Wirtz made his senior debut for Bayer in May 2020 against Werder Breman. In doing so at the age of 17 years and 15 days, he became Leverkusen’s youngest Bundesliga debutant, a record he claimed from Havertz.
The creative midfielder has since gone on to establish himself as a key figure of the Bundesliga side’s starting XI, and has already made 49 club appearances and been capped by Germany.
“Florian has speed, technical quality, intelligence, is courageous on the pitch, and plays with a naturalness that is very, very rare at this age,” Bayer boss Gerardo Seoane said this summer. He also stated Wirtz was the most complete player he’d seen at 18 years old.
Naturally, several Champions League contenders have already been linked with a future move for Wirtz. Bayern Munich, obviously, but also Liverpool and Barcelona. It won’t be too long until he makes his big move.