19 Defender Hoffenheim Germany
2014 has been...
Pretty good. Aged 19 and measuring up at just a touch over 6ft 4, Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle is a big unit. Not a prerequisite for modern football, but certainly no bad thing.
Part of the youth program at Eintracht, the Frankfurt born defender was snapped up by Hoffenheim in 2010 and has made rapid progress since. Well established at junior international level, Süle made his debut for the Sinsheim club in particularly trying circumstances: the 2012-13 Bundesliga relegation playoff against Kaiserslautern.
A replacement for Bosnian midfielder Sejad Salihović, Süle helped his side repel a late charge from Die Roten Teufel to secure a critical 3-1 win. He played again in the second leg of the playoff, in which Hoffeneheim also won, stepping in for the injured David Abraham to settle into his preferred centre back position. Despite his age – 17 at the time – Süle did not look at all out of place.
The 2013-14 season arrived with Süle a key part of his club’s plans moving forward. Having given the youngster a debut whilst in caretaker charge, coach Markus Gisdol kept the defender in his squad and the teenager was on the bench for most of Hoffenheim's early season exchanges.
During this period Hoffenheim really lurched for form. A sound thrashing of high flying Hamburg was followed by a six-goal drubbing at the hands of lowly Stuttgart. Wary of another potential relegation battle, Gisdol reflected on his defence and opted to start with Süle in Hoffenheim’s match with Bayer Leverkusen in mid-October. Although his side went down 2-1, Süle didn’t appear overawed and gave a good account of himself against one of the Bundesliga’s brightest attacks.
Gisdol had clearly seen enough and the youngster, still very eligible for Hoffenheim’s youth teams, has rarely missed a game for his club since. An Achilles tendon injury in the spring proved to be little more than a blip and the defender has truly gone from strength to strength.
So far this season, Süle has continued to progress well and has recently received his first cap for the German Under-21 side. He’ll more than likely win an awful lot more and a full call won’t be far away either. At club level, Süle remains a Gisdol favourite, and his partnerships with Tobias Strobl and Ermin Bičakčić, along with the industrious support of midfielders Pirmin Schwegler and Eugen Polanski, has helped Hoffenheim to look a lot less porous than in recent seasons.
In terms of all round ability it’s not unreasonable to suggest that there may be more cultured defenders around in Süle’s age group, but his height and strength have made him a true stand out performer. What is particularly impressive about his game is a penchant for, ahem, getting into the mixer, and Süle’s five goal haul last season, including strikes against the top two, Bayern and Dortmund, certainly caught the eye.
Nevertheless, we certainly wouldn’t dumb down Süle as something of a clogger. He’s extremely assured on the ball and likes to ping passes around his backline rather than just launch anything forward. When required he’s dangerous at set pieces but rarely neglects his primary duties and his ability to be in the right place for timely interceptions shouldn’t go unnoticed.
Without question, Athletic’s Aymeric Laporte is THE outstanding young defender in Europe right now, but Süle certainly has an argument to suggest he’s close to being next in line. And while the likes of Antonio Rudiger or Samuel Umtiti might wish to protest, the Hoffenheim man is a good two years younger than both and that has to count for something.
Indeed, the next two years are going to be critical for Süle. Still learning to master his art, the youngster has an opportunity to play regularly at the highest level thanks to the faith shown by coach Gisdol. With his side looking relatively assured in mid table, 2015 presents the chance to really kick on and catch the eye of Joachim Löw. He has intense competition at international level of course, but his aptitude to be utilised as a battering ram as and when necessary offers up an interesting option for the current World Champions. UEFA 2016 certainly looks plausible.
At a good club for further development, Süle is still very young and is unlikely to be considered ready to make a move abroad in the immediate future. He will have been noted by Germany’s big guns though and it wouldn’t come as any surprise to see him drafted into the ranks at Bayern, or used to help bolster a Dortmund side that has lost its way. The current set ups at both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach may mean that Süle attracts much greater attention from those forward thinkers too. By the time he reaches his early twenties, he could be quite a beast.
A player that actually looks as if he wants to dominate matches, wherever he is in twelve months’ time, it’s a fairly safe bet that we’ll still be complimenting Niklas Süle.
"Making tremendous strides for his age. Always part of Hoffenheim's first team and a big presence for Germany's youth teams. Bright future ahead." - Cristian Nyari
"Three of Niklas' four league goals last season came against teams that finished the season in the top five, including goals against both Bayern and Dortmund." - OptaJoe
C+ Moving along very nicely, keep it going.
Lots of Hoodies at JD Sports