At this summer’s European Championships, 90 Bundesliga players will take to the field for their respective countries, more than all but one other division. But, with so many options, who should you be keeping an eye on? Here, we take a look at five Bundesliga stars who could have a big impact.
Andrej Kramarić – Hoffenheim
The 2020/21 campaign was a disappointing one for Hoffenheim, but on a personal level, it was Andrej Kramarić’s best season at the club. His 20 Bundesliga goals, which came in just 28 matches, made him the highest-scoring Kraichgauer in a single top-flight term. With at least 10 league goals in each of his five seasons at the club, Kramaric has proven to be a top-class signing after a disappointing spell with Leicester City.
This summer, he will be representing Croatia. The Balkan nation are not the same team that made the World Cup final three years ago – important figures such as Ivan Rakitić and Mario Mandzukić are not in the squad this time around, for example – but Kramarić may be one of his country’s biggest hopes of success. While not guaranteed to start, he is the most eye-catching forward available to boss Zlatko Dalic. In this form, he could be very difficult to stop.
Thomas Müller – Bayern Munich
When Thomas Müller was cast into the international wilderness by Joachim Löw after the 2018 World Cup in Russia along with Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels, some questioned the decision but, generally, most appeared to understand the manager’s thinking as he looked to blood in the next generation. Since then, the 31-year-old has continued to prove the national boss wrong. The last three seasons have seen him produce some of the best football of his career. His creative abilities have seen him rack up 42 assists in the last two league campaigns alone, and he was instrumental as Bayern won the Champions League in 2020.
Although Löw’s decision to step down from his position following the conclusion of the European Championships has allowed him to save face despite re-introducing Müller and Hummels, it would have been almost impossible to leave the former out even if Löw had not decided to step down. Germany’s chances of success this summer are lower than Die Mannschaft are usually accustomed to, not least because they face tournament favourites France and Portugal in a proverbial Group of Death. However, they have a plethora of attacking options at their disposal and, as he so often has been at club level, Müller may be just the man needed to bring them all together.
Jude Bellingham – Borussia Dortmund
As England reached the World Cup semi-finals in Russia, Bellingham was a 14-year-old Birmingham City youth player whose hopes of reaching the top of the game were still distant. Fast forward three years and the 17-year-old finds himself a part of Gareth Southgate’s England squad after a mightily impressive debut campaign with Borussia Dortmund. There was plenty of derision when Birmingham retired Bellingham’s #22 shirt after just 44 appearances for the club, but perhaps they saw something the rest of us didn’t fully grasp at the time.
This is not the first time such a young player has been selected to travel with England to a major tournament – Theo Walcott was the same age when he made the trip to Germany for the 2006 World Cup – but Bellingham’s inclusion feels different. He has already picked up four caps and particularly impressed in the Three Lions’ warm-up match last week against Austria. Southgate can choose from plenty of top talent up front, but the middle of the park is decidedly less packed. Although Bellingham may not be an initial starter this summer, there is every chance he could break into the team as the tournament progresses. Should he do so, expect him to pass that test with flying colours as he has done every other one during his so-far short career.
Wout Weghorst – Wolfsburg
The 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign proved to be a dark moment in the history of the Netherlands’ national side. The Oranje finished third in their albeit difficult group behind France and Sweden as they failed to qualify for international football’s premier competition for just the second time in 32 years. That followed their just-as-disastrous attempt to reach Euro 2016 – then, they could only finish fourth in their qualification section.
International tournaments do not feel the same without those orange shirts. Fortunately, though, there has been a resurgence. A second-place finish in the inaugural UEFA Nations League preceded a convincing Euro 2020 qualifying run when they won six of their eight matches, including a 4-2 victory over Germany.
There is hope, therefore, that this summer could be a redeeming one for the Dutch, and Weghorst is likely to lead the line. The Wolfsburg striker was a vital component of his side’s return to the Champions League, scoring 20 goals in 34 matches in the Bundesliga – only three players managed more.
He is still a relatively new addition to the Netherlands side, but he started both of their warm-up matches and netted his first international goal in the last of those, a 3-0 win over Georgia. A throwback centre-forward who stands at an imposing 6 ft 5 in, Weghorst could prove to be an unorthodox weapon for Frank de Boer’s side.
Sasa Kalajdzic – Stuttgart
After scoring just one goal in six matches during the 2019/20 2. Bundesliga campaign as Stuttgart won promotion to the top flight, few would have expected Kalajdzic to have much of an impact amongst the elite. However, he exceeded all expectations by netting 16 times in 33 matches as Die Schwaben impressed upon their return to the Bundesliga. While his 6 ft 7 in frame understandably makes him a handful in the air, his ability with the ball at his feet means he is a versatile focal point for Pellegrino Matarazzo’s men.
That form saw him work his way back into Austria manager Franco Foda’s plans, and he made an immediate impact during qualification for next year’s World Cup by scoring twice against Scotland in a 2-2 draw and once in a 3-1 victory over the Faroe Islands. Having started each of his country’s last five matches, he is set to lead the line this summer.
Austria are one of Europe’s true underperformers. With a population just shy of 9m, they are far from one of the continent’s biggest nations, but most of their players play in the Bundesliga and are more than capable of producing quality. However, they have not qualified for a World Cup since 1998, while they are still waiting for their first ever European Championships victory.
They may never get a better chance to break that duck. In their group, they will face minnows North Macedonia, who are the lowest-ranked team in the tournament as per FIFA’s international rating system. The Netherlands, although a difficult proposition, are not what they once were, while the clash with Ukraine is likely to be a close encounter. With Christopher Trimmel’s pinpoint crosses to potentially get on the end of, Kalajdzic could be Austria’s not-so-secret weapon.