Scouting Young Stars: Jonas Hofmann, Calhanoglu, Beister, Bittencourt
Greetings, and welcome back to my scouting series. For explanation on the model I’m using to evaluate young players, please read this piece from last week.
Today we’re going to look at three top guys from the Bundesliga as well as a good prospect that is almost certainly under the radar.
I’m going to do these scouting reports a lot like I did last season, except I’m going to plonk radars in for the stats tables I did before. The reason for this is that the radars immediately orient your understanding of how a player is performing in the various stats I think are important for those positions. If a player’s radar shape touches the outside ring, then that season was in the top 5% of the population at that position. If the shape touches the inner ring, it’s in the bottom 5%. For those who want pure per 90 numbers, those are all listed in the bottom left, and bot 5% stats are red, top 5% are green.
Simples, right? If you don’t like them or think they are overused, I apologize, but including them saves me a lot of time spent formatting and copying stats, which means more time to do analysis, writing, and edit new material on the site.
YAPSS Targets I Am Not Going to Write About
These are the players that have been flagged this season that I’m not going to write about because you guys already know who they are. Remember, all of these guys have to be 23 years or younger, and produce stats that the model thinks signifies they could be future stars. (YAPSS doesn’t know that many of these players are already current stars. YAPSS is not concerned with trivial things like fame, fortune, and player renown. If it were, it would be called Johnny5.)
Neymar, Philippe Coutinho, Mohammed Salah, Isco, Christian Eriksen, Lucas Moura, Koke, Oscar, Raheem Sterling, Mario Gotze.
Now for the four guys I am going to discuss today...
Position: Att Mid
Team: Borussia Dortmund
Fair Price: £12-15M
Category: Future Star
Who should buy him: I don’t think Dortmund will sell him unless they got a silly offer.
This is a huge passing wedge with Key Passes at 3.76 per90 and assists following suit.
Throughball numbers are good, but not great, and dribbles are solid. The area that falls down are the shooting stats. Part of this is caused by positioning (wider players will almost always take more difficult shots than guys who play in the center), and part caused by the fact that Hofmann doesn’t shoot that much.
To give you an idea of how good those KP numbers are, Marco Reus lead the Bundesliga with 3.7 per 90. The next guy on the list is Kevin De Bruyne at 3.18 (I am so irritated he’s not in the Premier League – thanks Chelsea!), then Ribery at 3.02 and Max Kruse at 2.89. Hofmann didn’t play quite enough time to make it past the filter threshold I use for this query, but if he had, he would have lead the league in key passes at age 21. That’s a big deal. Yes, yes, yes, there are sub effects (seriously people, I told you about them, you don’t need to remind me they exist every day on Twitter), but he’s still just 21. For what it’s worth, the model doesn’t care about sub effects. All young players tend to spend a lot of time as subs early in their careers.
Anyway, better KP rate than Marco Reus last season, yet there’s almost nothing about him on Youtube. Cmooooon Dortmund fans, get with the program!
Aside from the stats, this is one of those times where I can’t tell you much. I saw Hofmann play 2 matches last season, one the beatdown of Bayern that Dortmund pulled off near the end of the season, where Jonas was great, and the other was 26 minutes against Madrid where he didn’t do much. All the scouting vids on YouTube are 7-10 months old, but he seems nice in interviews. (I got nuthin'.)
He’s not big, but he’s got good pace, and the few shots he does take seem to be well timed and placed. He’s also stronger than he looks, possibly because his uniform seems to be about two sizes too big.
Anyway, YAPSS loves this kid and thinks he will be great. Though I have tried to find it, my eyeballs don’t have enough data to back that up, so I’ll have to leave you to your own conclusions.
Position: Attacking Mid (R/L/C)
Fair Price: £15M
Category: Future Star
Who should buy him: Would-be Champions League teams who need a top young attacking mid, especially on the left wing. (Spurs. Arsenal. Everton. He’s probably too similar to what Liverpool already have in Pipinho and Sterling for them to get involved.)
This shape is special for a 20-year-old. Excellent shots, great key passes, good defensive rate, and some ability to dribble, though it’s not a crutch like it is for some youngsters. Calhanoglu plays with his head up. The one area of weakness is his passing selection – elite teams would really like for him to have a higher completion percentage to prove that he can play high possession football, but otherwise his skill set is outstanding.
A lot of his added value comes from free kicks, so if a team already has a settled free kick taker, they might find him less valuable, but for me, that age plus his production make buying him a no-brainer. Speaking of free kicks, this guy takes them like he’s perfected his technique on FIFA. He’s got dip, swerve, hits all the corners from every distance. Watch the highlights below – some of them are just unbelievable.
The other nice part about young players in the Bundesliga right now is that most of them seem to have release clauses built into their contracts in exchange for teams taking less risk they don’t work out by giving them lower wages. Teams that are aware of these can realize a lot of value, provided they make moves early. (Sidney Sam’s release clause was activated in like January. Max Kruse last season was bought in March/April.)
Leverkusen have been rumoured to be close to purchasing Calhanoglu for almost a month, but as far as I know, the deal hasn’t been finalized. Given their other purchases (Drmic) and the fact that they will likely want to play up-tempo under Roger Schmidt (who last year did insane things with Red Bull Salzburg), Hakan makes a lot of sense and Leverkusen will be fascinating to watch next season.
The embedded video below is from last year in the Bundesliga. If you want to go a little deeper, here’s the Scout Nation video from him at Karlsruhe as well.
Position: Att Mid (Right/Left)
Fair Price: £8M
Category: Potential Star
Who should buy him: Anyone looking for a quick wing attacker who works hard defensively.
Bittencourt was briefly a Dortmund kid before moving to Hannover for £2.5M or so last year, and in his first full season in the Bundesliga, he was great. Shots, goals, assists, key passes, dribbles, and int + tack are all very strong for a 20-year-old. He’s super quick, and seems to play equally well on both wings, which makes him rather useful tactically.
There is one glaring problem with Bittencourt in terms of a potential Premier League move… he’s tiny. He’s only 5’7”, and unlike other guys who have excelled in the Premier League, he doesn’t have a large frame either.
If teams think he can build a bit more muscle, I think Bittencourt would be a great buy. He has excellent technical skill, and I think regularly bringing him off the bench for a season or two would yield huge dividends, as his pace on both the offensive and defensive ends would tear teams apart near the end of games.
Position: FWD/Att Mid (Right)
Fair Price: £5M
Category: Good Prospect
Who should buy him: Teams looking for a buzzy, forward/ right wing that can score now, but could grow into something better.
Okay, I’m cheating here. Beister is a guy that was flagged in 2013 by the model in the “good player” category, and then just missed being flagged again this year.
That’s a solid little wedge for a forward, which I think is probably where Beister should end up. His shots per 90 the last two years are excellent for a young player, but despite playing frequently on the wing, he’s not super creative, and should mostly be considered a finisher.
If teams were looking for a solid 2nd or 3rd option at forward who could be a super sub, or gradually grow into something quite good, I’d at least take a look at Beister. The model doesn’t think he’ll set the world on fire, but sometimes you just want to find good younger players at a decent price.