Weston McKennie, Jann-Fiete Arp and Bundesliga’s rising stars of 2017

Robert Lewandowski ended 2017 as the top-scoring player in the Bundesliga with 33 top-flight goals in the calendar year; Bayern Munich teammate James Rodriguez has hit the ground running since joining from Real Madrid, but what about the players few had heard of until now?

bundesliga.com looks at five players who burst onto the scene in 2017, and whose stars look set to shine brighter than most into the New Year and beyond…

Weston McKennie , Schalke

Christian Pulisic is not the only USA international causing a rumpus in the Ruhr Valley. McKennie made his Bundesliga debut on the final day of the 2016/17 season, offering a little taster of the qualities that have quickly won over Schalke’s fans this term. The tigerish Texan has become a first-team fixture since Domenico Tedesco arrived in the summer, featuring in all but four of the Royal Blues’ 17 league matches, starting nine of those. He has also covered more ground this season (7.8 miles per game on average) than any of his Schalke team-mates bar Max Meyer, providing the substance in the middle of the pitch to allow the style of the likes of Leon Goretzka and Nabil Bentaleb to flourish.

Jann-Fiete Arp, Hamburg
The baby-faced forward scored 26 times in 21 Under-17 appearances last season, and though he may struggle to repeat that phenomenal strike rate in the Bundesliga, he has not had much trouble adapting to life among the big boys. The first 21st century-born Bundesliga debutant, the 17-year-old then became HSV’s youngest-ever top-flight scorer against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 10, and even found the net against Stuttgart the very next Matchday. “It’s crazy how good he is already,” Mario Gomez, 15 years Arp’s senior, said after Wolfsburg’s 0-0 draw in Hamburg on Matchday 15. “I hope he’ll keep his feet on the ground, and then he’ll make HSV — and later Germany — very happy.”

Amine Harit, Schalke
Paris Saint-Germain must have more than a few regrets when they see what the French-born Morocco international has done in half-a-season in Germany. The talent that PSG spotted and then blossomed at Nantes is starting to bloom fully in Gelsenkirchen where, like McKennie, Tedesco is blind to his age but not his quality. The timing of his first top-flight goal — Schalke’s second in their four-goal Revierderby remontada — was as welcome and exact as those of his passes, which have teed up three more Royal Blue goals. The 20-year-old has also asserted himself as one of the division’s strongest players with the ball at his feet, winning an impressive 58 per cent of his attempted dribbles in 2017/18. If better is to come, Bundesliga opponents beware!

Jean-Kevin Augustin, RB Leipzig

Another ‘one who got away’ from PSG, the young forward has shown the French league pacesetters he did deserve his chance on the big stage. Paris’ loss will clearly be Leipzig’s gain with three goals and two assists coming in his first six Bundesliga outings. He also netted in RBL’s maiden victory in the UEFA Champions League, scoring the decisive third goal in a 3-2 triumph over Porto. Just as effective alongside Timo Werner as Yussuf Poulsen, his tally might have been more impressive still but for a muscle injury that sidelined him in November. Since, Ralph Hasenhüttl has used him coming off the bench, but he is sure to get another opportunity in the Rückrunde. In all likelihood, he will seize it.

Sebastien Haller, Eintracht Frankfurt
With Alex Meier sidelined with a troublesome ankle injury, Frenchman Haller has emerged as a more than able replacement for the Eagles’ veteran forward. The summer signing from FC Utrecht hit a purple patch in late September, hitting five goals in just seven league appearances – the match-winning bicycle kick against Stuttgart chief among them – to earn him the TAG Heuer Bundesliga Rookie of the Month award for October. There is more to Haller than just his goalscoring abilities, though: No other Bundesliga player contested as many challenges as the former AJ Auxerre man in the first half of the 2017/18 campaign (520), enhancing Haller’s reputation as one of the most complete forwards in the league.

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