André Schürrle 21 Striker Bayer Leverkusen
Germany's current generation needs no introduction. The DFB and its coaching staff have been working hard to bring through a crop of players capable of returning a once great football nation to its familiar place at the top table, and the results have now been coming through for a few years. In amongst the higher profile names, the players who've moved to Real Madrid on the back of a solid World Cup performance or secured the inevitable transfer to the Allianz Arena, André Schürrle is perhaps the quiet man of the bunch.
In some ways he is also one of the most exciting. He's a player for the purists, roaming relentlessly around the front line and popping up all over to cause problems for the opposition. He is more of an attacking midfielder than an out-and-out striker, and works hard to mop up around Stefan Kießling, Bayer Leverkusen's point man up front. He bombs past him into a more advanced position when the opportunity arises, and it is here that Schürrle's play is at his most distinctive.
He is excellent at attacking spaces in front of him both with and without the ball, demonstrating a football wisdom beyond his years as he aggressively exploits gaps or meets the ball from deep positions, frequently with lethal consequences for the opposition. His largely free role and endless propensity to work himself into the ground sometimes takes him high up in the channels, where his crossing also highlights his intelligence and exemplary technique.
Schürrle brings an extra dimension to both Leverkusen and Germany. He can play a lovely weighted through ball, and has done so on more than one occasion in this Bundesliga season. He finishes well inside the area, and also possesses a shot from distance characterised more by its calm placement into the bottom corners than the hit-and-hope or Hollywood efforts more familiar to other players of his kind. He's capable of scoring direct from free kicks too.
He came through at Mainz, signing professional terms in 2009. He went on to secure a first team spot and soon broke the club's record for the most goals scored by a player in a single season with 15 Bundesliga goals in 2010/11, but his move to Bayer Leverkusen had long since been sealed. He joined his new club at the end of a successful season for both parties and it's safe to say that the move has worked out well all round.
Schürrle racked up seven goals in 30 Bundesliga starts last term - the truncated return largely a result of his developing all-round game - and the latest of Leverkusen's consecutive appearances in Europe are in no small part thanks to his influence on the team. He's made his own appearances on the European stage for Germany as well, scoring three times in qualifying for UEFA Euro 2012 and making the squad for the finals tournament in Poland and Ukraine. Germany fell short but Schürrle, a trusted charge of Joachim Löw, impressed in his brief appearances.
Despite performing well, Schürrle struggled in front of goal in the early part of this season. When he broke his 2012/13 duck, it couldn't have been a better representation of what he's all about. Picking up the ball against Augsburg in a position 25 yards from goal that might as well be named after him, Schürrle steadied himself and found the bottom corner from outside the box. It was a picture perfect Schürrle goal, and there will be many more to come.
The question, of course, is who will benefit from them - how long will Schürrle remain a Leverkusen player? Sometimes linked with transfers to some of Europe's big clubs, the Ludwigshafen-born youngster looks certain to remain a hot property and may eventually demand Champions League football. There will be clubs who can offer that and will be willing to pay a premium for a player who leads by example. Leverkusen will surely be hoping that the oft-trodden path from Bundesliga rising star to Bayern Munich rotation player isn't the matter's conclusion.
“Schürrle hasn't been at his consistent best since moving to Leverkusen but he has carved out a great niche for himself in the National Team as the perfect ‘joker’ off the bench and continues to excel for Löw's team and has improved noticeably at Leverkusen under new coaches Sami Hyypia and Sascha Lewandowski." - Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)
"A very intuitive footballer, Schurrle has developed another string to his bow since joining Bayer Leverkusen, playing out wide left and cutting in. His scoring rate has actually been better in his great start to his international career than his club (partly due to where he's deployed), so he's probably dodged a bullet after Leverkusen failed to agree a deal with Chelsea for him in the summer, but he is gradually becoming a very complete player." - Andy Brassell (UEFA, The Independent, BBC)
C+ Leverkusen's quiet but vital pivot man