Hoffenheim and Germany Under-21 defender Niklas Süle is already a Bundesliga stalwart – "a real raw diamond" according to his club – who has been likened to Vincent Kompany.
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Most young prospects may only just be starting to taste senior football at the age of 20 – Niklas Süle, though, has already made 59 Bundesliga appearances despite having suffered the agony of tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
Name: Niklas Süle
Debut: 11 May 2013 v Hamburg
Position: central defender
Born: 3 September 1995
Preferred foot: right
Height: 195 cm
They say …
"Niklas has already proven that he is a real raw diamond. In recent months he has also shown what a great attitude he has despite still being so young."
Hoffenheim general manager Alexander Rosen
Süle first rose through the ranks at Eintracht Frankfurt and found his way to Hoffenheim via Darmstadt 98, where he was mixing with the first-team squad aged just 16. A year later, he made his Bundesliga debut and then, six months down the line, became Hoffenheim's youngest top-flight scorer when he struck against Bayern München. He tore his left anterior cruciate ligament in December 2014, however, but returned to action in August this year and recently extended his contract until summer 2019.
Playing style ...
A towering presence at nearly 2m tall, Süle is unsurprisingly strong in the air and has already registered a couple of goals with his head. He is physically strong for his age and can more than hold his own on the ground too. However, the 20-year-old can at times appear immobile and has recently admitted to focusing more on his diet in a bid to be more agile.
Shades of ...
Vincent Kompany. The Belgium defender has an equally impressive physique but maintains an elegance and comfort on the ball that Süle is still striving for. However, the German Under-21 international, who cites Bayern defender Jérôme Boateng as his role model, continues to improve in those areas and there is plenty more development yet to come.
Eureka moment …
On 2 November 2013, Süle, who had only recently turned 18, started for Hoffenheim against Bayern. Following a corner, the ball slipped through Manuel Neuer's gloves and Süle was there to pounce for the opener from close range. "That was a very special moment for me, to score my first Bundesliga goal against that club," he said.
Best-case scenario …
Even though Hoffenheim's campaign has not been the best – they are bottom of the Bundesliga going into the winter break – none of the blame has been apportioned to Süle. Former coach Markus Gisdol and incumbent Huub Stevens have made Süle an ever-present during the first 17 games and speculation continues that high-profile suitors may come calling sooner rather than later.
"I feel like an important part of the team, which is what I have always striven towards. I have also noticed that the older I get, the more the others players accept from me. The club have also shown faith in me; I made my debut aged 17 and aged 20 I already have more than 50 Bundesliga appearances to my name despite tearing my cruciate ligaments. This shows that they are banking on me here."