The star-studded careers of Jadon Sancho and Erling Braut Håland at Borussia Dortmund are well-documented at this point but die Schwarzgelben have many more youth talents at their disposal. In the Bundesliga, we have seen BVB slowly introduce young talents into the fold as regular starting members, such as Sancho, who took half a season to integrate with the first-team squad before making a statement in Germany.
Jude Bellingham, Giovanni Reyna, Reinier Jesus (on loan) and Youssoufa Moukoko are four players in the first-team squad who are 18 years old or younger. Before one of, some of, or all of them explode onto the scene in Germany, it would be wise to analyse what these players will bring to Dortmund immediately, and with the future in scope.
This data analysis will help us to highlight, through the use of data and statistics, what the main features of their skill sets are, and how these could be used together to create a strong foundation for an excellent starting XI in the future. This data analysis will bring an interesting insight into four of the most fascinating talents in not only Dortmund but in all of Germany.
Jude Bellingham – The Industry
Bellingham had a breakout season at Birmingham City. He collected 2.708 minutes in the Championship as Pep Clotet entrusted the young English with a starting berth. The Spanish coach continued to play him through the rough patches of form while many other managers may have chosen another option in midfield.
What was made abundantly clear straight away was that he has the quality to play well-above Championship level. Predominantly playing on the left-wing or in centre-midfield in a 4-4-2 shape, Bellingham’s game is made up of two key features: off-the-ball movement and his defensive doggedness.
Bellingham’s attacking and creativity radar and heatmap for the 2019/20 Championship season are in the image above. As we can see, his high number touches in the box per 90 has equated to a high value for xG per 90 for a midfielder.
In the above analysis, we see Birmingham on the counter-attack, sending the ball down the half-space. At the same time, Bellingham is slowly making his way towards the box.
As the play develops, the focus has been placed on the striker in front of Bellingham and the wide man. Bellingham makes the late run into the box, calls for the ball, and finishes in the bottom left corner.
This goal displayed a key component of Bellingham’s game – his ability to find space in dangerous zones in the final third. He scored four goals across the season, with only one of them coming from outside the box. While Birmingham’s forwards would push the opposition defensive line back, Bellingham would time his run to enter the penalty area as and when he has the space to release a first-time shot. This is something we could see at Dortmund, who have plenty of tricky wingers able to push back the defensive line and enable Bellingham to push forward and get a shot off on goal.
Above, you can see Bellingham’s passing and progression and defensive actions radars for the 2019/20 Championship season. Essentially, we can see creativity is something he can develop upon while he is solid enough in his defensive efforts already.
While being deployed out wide, he must play with someone who can enter the space he vacates. This is due to his preference to make runs into central areas, which could leave his side with no options on the left-wing, who could be used to stretch an opposition defence. However, this would work in his favour at Dortmund, due to the use of their marauding wing-backs. Raphaël Guerreiro is encouraged to stay wide by the byline and call for the ball in wide zones, while Bellingham could occupy the half-space, offering himself as a passing option in the build-up.
Here, we can see the spaces that Bellingham could occupy in a Dortmund’s attack. Guerreiro can provide width out on the left, Sancho on the right. And Bellingham can act as the linkman between the two.
Defensively, Bellingham is a high-volume ball-winner, chasing down opponents in all parts of the midfield, leaving the defensive formation to attempt to win possession. Due to his mobility and athleticism, he excels in initiating contact with opponents, using his strength and long stride-length (long-legged for a 6’0” player) to step in and win the ball, often recovering it efficiently for himself. His 8.62 defensive duels per game ranks third in the Birmingham squad, and he wins them at a 60.24% success rate, an impressive percentage. He can sometimes be a little reckless and go to ground instead of delaying and funnelling opponents away from danger, but overall, he is showing a very strong and responsible defensive ethos.
The opposing player is trying to complete a pass infield. Bellingham has the awareness and application to notice the pass and intercept the ball before it reaches the target. From here, Birmingham can counter-attack.
Giovanni Reyna – The Match Intelligence
Aged 17 years and 66 days, Reyna became the youngest American to ever appear in the Bundesliga, breaking a record previously set by Christian Pulisic. Towards the end of the 2019/20 season, he broke into the side as a starting member and has begun the 2020/21 campaign in great form.
Reyna’s ability to retain the ball while dribbling through tight spaces is better than what Pulisic has shown throughout his entire career. He has played equally as an attacking midfielder and a left-winger, but he has broken into the Dortmund senior squad as an attacking midfielder in a 3-4-1-2 primarily.
Reyna’s attacking and creativity radar and heatmap for the 2019/20 U19 Bundesliga West season is above. Here, we can see his dribbling prowess and creative promise.
His capacity to change direction and turn out of pressure because of his low centre of gravity is very impressive, especially considering his 6’1” frame. His knack for turning on a dime and retaining possession while manoeuvring through pressure has been lauded, and rightly so. He is capable of beating a defender one-on-one through skill and speed, and his physical attributes help him stave off a defender should they come too close. In the Bundesliga, he completed 4.82 dribbles per 90 at a 73.1% success rate, which is extremely encouraging for his future in the league, although he only has a small sample size as of yet (355 minutes in the 2019/20 season).
In the above analysis, we see Reyna collect the pass and open up his body. He is aware of the pressure he is about to receive from the opposition.
As the opposition player comes closer to him, the American turns on the dime to dumbfound his opponent and gallop into space and pass it forwards towards another Dortmund teammate.
Reyna could develop into an excellent winger with the freedom to create out wide or link plays in the half-spaces but confining him to one side of the field nullifies his ability to read and dictate a game. Playing centrally unlocks a new level in his ability to link play and showcase his underrated ability to shoot from distance. His ball progression cuts through defences, and pulls the defenders towards him, opening more space in which he can find his teammates in the final third. He is proficient at interchanging positions with his teammates and allows for more fluidity in his team’s build-up play. With Bellingham’s comfortability out on the wing or more centrally, he and Reyna could create a unique interplay with each other.
Reyna’s defensive actions and passing and progression radars for the 2019/20 U19 Bundesliga West season are above. For a side who press so effectively, he will have to work on the defensive aspect of his game, but his progressive passing actions are a strong point.
Despite the aforementioned ability to shoot from distance, when he is closer to goal, Reyna lacks the composure to finish easier chances. This coolness is something he can develop over the coming years, but currently, when he approaches these situations, the scenario gets the best of him and he often fluffs his lines. However, it is clear that chance creation is his preferred tool of use in the final third, and fortunately enough, he excels in this regard. He can send defence-splitting through balls with a high level of proficiency, which would supplement Moukoko’s style of play extremely well, as he is a rapid forward who times his runs expertly.
1v1 against the goalkeeper, Reyna has a good chance in front of goal. He fluffs his lines and lacks the composure to finish past the keeper, who saves the shot which is taken straight at him.
Here, we see Reyna’s capability of sending incisive through balls, as he sends through Haaland against PSG to score the winning goal. In the future, we could certainly see Moukoko benefit off the end of these balls.
Reinier Jesus – The Vision
Reinier Jesus is another young forward who can play in several attacking positions, and he is another attacker who stands at 6’1”. His excellent ball control, dribbling, and vision saw Real Madrid sign the 18-year-old for €30m out of Flamengo.
His 6’1” frame has already seen the Brasilia born teenager score a few headed goals inside the box, which is something not a lot of players in his position can boast at his age. He has largely played as an attacking midfielder in his short career so far but has also deputised as a left-winger.
Reinier’s attacking and creativity radar and heatmap for the 2019 Série A season are above. Through his statistics, we can see his goal threat and excellent dribbling ability. His creativity could be worked upon, but he has all the tools to be a creative threat.
In the couple of substitute appearances that he has played in thus far for Dortmund, he has been utilised as an attacking midfielder. This could work well in BVB’s current system, as Lucien Favre has opted for a 3-1-4-2, with the two central midfielders acting as free 8s with the freedom to roam around in the final third. This would allow Reinier to interchange centrally with the likes of Bellingham or Reyna. His profile is a complimentary blend of the two youngsters – he has the technical ability of Reyna, while also having the knack for late goal-scoring runs into the penalty area, just like Bellingham.
Here, we see Reinier positioned between the lines with space to collect the ball, turn, and run directly at the defence.
He is an intelligent player who finds space between the lines regularly. He likes to roam around in this space between the opposition’s midfield and defence to either create separation between him and the player on the ball or to call for the ball to feet, where he can do his best work. He has composure in possession which is not seen often in young attackers, which is complemented by his great first-touch, balance, close control, and dribbling ability. He can come deeper to collect the ball, and from here he likes to progress the ball up the field by carrying it at his feet. When he takes on his opposing man, he knows how to use his body to shield the ball from defenders thanks to his technique, physical strength, and intelligence. All this makes Reinier very strong in 1v1 situations, unpredictable and very confident in his skills.
In the above analysis, we see Reinier drag the opposition defender out of the defensive line. He passes the ball onto his teammate and immediately runs into the vacated space.
He enters the box, receives the ball back from his teammate, and finishes his chance against the keeper’s left.
Dortmund are a side who like to use their marauding wing-backs high up the pitch and achieve cut-backs near the byline. This would suit Reinier’s creative off the ball movements as he likes to find the best space to receive the ball and allow for a decent amount of time to take a shot or find a pass. His late surging runs into the penalty area would also benefit from this form of chance creation, as well as his fairly good ability in the air, which has only improved as time has gone on. His skill set is varied, and his well-rounded nature makes for a marriage of attributes which could nurture a world-class potential into elite-level ability.
Reinier’s passing and progression and defensive actions radars for the 2019 Série A season are above. We can see his preferred method of chance creation is through balls and the defensive aspect of his game is at a decent level.
Youssoufa Moukoko – The Clinical Nature
This former St. Pauli academy graduate, Moukoko is one of Europe’s highly-coveted players under the age of 16, picking up golden boots at an alarming rate in U-17 and U-19 levels. His freakish goal-scoring record, however, is only made possible through hard work and application.
Standing at 5’9”, he has the strength to hold off opposing defenders and the acceleration to burn past them with ease. Moukoko has pretty much always started as an advanced striker, but he certainly has the skill set that can translate into an inside-forward whenever Favre opts for a 3-4-3.
Yousoufa Moukoko’s attacking and shooting radar and heatmap for the 2019/20 U19 Bundesliga West season can be seen above. His only weakness in front of goal is his headed ability, everything else is of an elite standard at this level.
The foundation for his goal-scoring endeavours is seen in his off-the-ball movement and blindside runs. Typically, Moukoko moves within and around the central channel, but most of his runs can be found through the core of defence, in between the two centre-backs. He understands that the highest value goal-scoring opportunities come more centrally, and he takes advantage of this understanding regularly. He starts his runs in between the lines and utilises blind side runs to dumbfound his opponent and create separation. His superb off the ball intelligence allows him to recognise spaces to receive the ball or to run into. His alertness to capitalise on opposition defensive mistakes forms the basis of a player who is strong in the press.
As soon as Reyna picked up the ball in midfield, Moukoko was immediately on the run in behind. He has already blazed past one central defender at this point.
As depicted in the sheer amount of goals he scores, Moukoko is utterly clinical in front of goal. He prefers to take low driven shots, rather than trying to hit the top corner of the goal. The majority of his shot locations come from within the penalty area, although he does take some audacious attempts outside of it on occasion. He is a very composed finisher, capable with both feet, and has good technique on his shots, but he regularly blasts the ball past the goalkeeper. In theory, he would work with Reinier behind the German citizen, as his current preferred method of chance creating is by slipping through balls around the defence. This would also work with Reyna, were the American positioned as a winger, as Moukoko prefers low-ground crosses as it allows him to finish with his feet.
Moukoko is sprinting towards goal as BVB progress the ball forwards down the left.
Moukoko blinds his opponent by slowing down his run drastically at the last moment. This creates separation between him and the defender, and he can calmly finish for his hattrick.
Moukoko’s defensive actions and passing and progression radars in the 2019/20 U19 Bundesliga West season are above. From an eye test and an analysis of his statistics, we can see he is quite creative, but it is only supplementary, while he is generally quite strong in his ground duels.
Forecast for the future
In these four teenage talents, Dortmund have a core of youth talent with genuine world-class potential in each and every one of them. Each individual has performed capably in senior football at such a young age, suggesting a very promising career at the summit of European football. Adding to this, players such as Reyna and Reinier have unique skill sets we do not typically see in footballers within their respective positions, which should only assist them in finding suitors in the future, if they are to leave the Signal Iduna Park.