Unearthed by Julian Nagelsmann at just 11-years-old, Dennis Geiger has become an important member of the current TSG 1899 Hoffenheim side after impressing last season in the second team. But who he is and why haven’t we heard of him before this season?
Hoffenheim’s yesteryear was spectacular, as was Nagelsmann’s. The young coach managed to take a young and rather inexperienced squad to the Champions League-qualifiers and it was due to his tactics and his understanding that took Hoffenheim to new heights.
The Sinsheim club has continued the club’s great tradition of playing and developing young talents with the latest crop of Nadiem Amiri and Philipp Ochs while Niklas Süle and Jeremy Toljan have gone on to join Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund respectively. While these have already had their breakthrough seasons — bar Ochs — there is still one great talent waiting for his chance: Dennis Geiger.
The German central dynamo has been at the club since he was 11, playing for Hoffenheim in the U19 Süd/Südwest championship during 2015 and 2016. It’s worth nothing that Nagelsmann was in charge of that team before being appointed as Hoffenheim’s head coach and so it was no surprise to see Geiger given a chance while his confidence on the ball mixed with his versatile nature fits into Nagelsmann’s current philosophy.
Born in 1998, the German is still young enough to represent Germany’s U19-team but one would assume that he is already good enough for their U21 side. His box-to-box nature is just one trait that Geiger excels in — good defensively and at going forward, he possesses a great understanding alongside the ability to pick a pass.
One could say that he is the next Sebastian Rudy, but many would argue his potential is a bit higher than that. This rare talent has the potential to go as far he wants.
According to coach Nagelsmann, the best thing about Geiger is not necessarily his versatility, but rather his approach. He has no fear and he always wants the ball. Geiger always tries to make himself able to receive the ball and therefore also becomes good at creating space for himself, which is always imperative for a defensive midfielder or a dynamo of his style.
His versatility not only makes it possible for him to be deployed anywhere from defensive midfield to attacking midfield, but also at left back, where he has previously played. Many would argue that he hasn’t got the speed to play at full-back but we could definitely see him play as a defensive midfielder, a’la Rudy — albeit this would be a waste of his creative abilities.
In a great Hoffenheim squad with lots of quality youngsters and players, Geiger has been overshadowed by bigger stars and bigger names, but Nagelsmann never forgot about this midfielder from his U19-team.
At just 19, his hard work and fearless nature has created a favourable status quo. As long as Nagelsmann is the manager of Hoffenheim, Geiger will get playing time. And as long as he plays, he will continue to develop.
Even though he has already featured a fair bit this season, he still has lots to learn — however, his fearlessness can prove pivotal in his search for further playing time.
Following the departures of Süle and Rudy many were predicting that Hoffenheim wouldn’t be as good as they were during the 2016/17 campaign, but it looks as though Geiger is proving critics wrong. Hoffenheim are a club that strive on youth and a club that’s willing to give young players a chance — it’s what they’ve done since they were promoted and it’s also the very reason many people don’t hate Hoffenheim as much as they hate Leipzig, even though they are equally commercialised.
Geiger has already become a key player for Hoffenheim this season and could be the replacement for Rudy that Håvard Nordtveit was supposed to be. We will see more of the fearless German, without a shadow of a doubt and if he keeps developing the way he is, Geiger could well become Germany’s next star.
By Axel Falk.