Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho (left) and Bayern Munich’s Leon Goretzka fight for the ball on August 3 in Dortmund, Germany. Photo: IC
Rising British starlets Jonjoe Kenny, Ethan Ampadu and Ademola Lookman will all be hoping to get a first taste of Bundesliga action when the German league kicks off this weekend.
Starved of game time in the Premier League, Schalke loanee Kenny, 22, and RB Leipzig newcomers Lookman, 21, and Ampadu, 28, are hoping to emulate the success of English Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, 19, in the Bundesliga.
Yet, as Leipzig coach Julian Nagelsmann told AFP subsidiary SID this week, life in German soccer can be tougher than expected for young British players.
“Ethan has a great career ahead of him but he still has a bit to learn. Mola is unbelievable in one-on-ones… but he has a fair bit to learn defensively,” warned Nagelsmann.
Lookman, his former Everton teammate Kenny and Chelsea loanee Ampadu are the latest in a wave of British talent which has relocated to Germany in recent years.
Since 2016, 11 British youngsters have moved to the Bundesliga, either on loan or permanent deals, and the success of Sancho appears to have created a domino effect.
Everton defender Kenny admits that he was persuaded to join Schalke by England Under-21 teammate Reiss Nelson, who spent last season on loan at Hoffenheim from Arsenal.
“I spoke to Reiss a lot. He had nothing but praise for the quality here,” said Kenny.
“He told me how much he learned, and he really helped me make my decision to come here.”
Yet as Nelson’s experience shows, coming to a Bundesliga club is no guarantee of game time.
Despite impressing in his first few games, the Arsenal loanee made five starts in 23 appearances for Hoffenheim last season, averaging just 27 minutes a game.
Leipzig boss Nagelsmann, who coached Nelson at Hoffenheim last season, knows that young British players can find it hard to integrate.
“The main problem is that the players arrive very late [in the transfer window], because English clubs tend to wait and see what happens with their young talents,” Nagelsmann said.
“Reiss arrived at the beginning of August. He didn’t speak the language and he wasn’t familiar with what we were working on.”
‘Sancho had time’
Nelson is not the only one to have struggled.
Language problems and difficulties adapting to a different set of tactical demands, mean many English players have come back from Germany disappointed.
Scottish winger Oliver Burke, who had a spell at Leipzig and is now at West Bromwich Albion, and English striker Kaylen Hinds, who was at Wolfsburg and is without a club, failed to establish themselves.
Of the 11 young Brits who have tried their luck in the Bundesliga, only Sancho has made the jump from bit-part impact player to first-team regular.
Nagelsmann believes that the Borussia Dortmund star has benefited from being given time to settle.
Sancho was signed from Manchester City in August 2017, yet only played his first 90 minutes in the Bundesliga the following January.
“These loan deals only work if the player is there for perhaps two years, and he has time to acclimatize,” he told SID. “Jadon also took a bit of time to get going. He had time to develop, but others don’t have that.”
By that logic, Lookman may have a better chance of establishing himself at Leipzig than Welsh international Ampadu.
Lookman spent six months with RB Leipzig in 2018, and has now joined on a permanent deal.
Ampadu and Kenny are on one-year loans and have just a season to make their marks in German soccer.
For now, Kenny feels he is settling well, though there is one thing he misses already – a certain chain of chicken restaurants.
“If I could bring one thing over from home, it would probably be either my family or Nando’s,” he said.
“I really miss Nando’s.”