Countdown to 20/21: 3 young players looking to step up

Borussia Mönchengladbach have the benefit of a settled squad, as discussed in the first instalment of our season countdown series, with plenty of youth in their core already. But while most players will be familiar to the Gladbach faithful, there stand to be a few slightly less well-known faces who are in contention for squad places this season. Let’s look at the younger players that are looking to make the jump to the first team squad.

Louis Jordan Beyer
The lowdown

Jordan Beyer is a defender who can play on the right or in the centre of defence. Pretty quick and good on the ball, he is a reliable tackler who can also pass. The ambiguity over his best position mainly stems from the fact he isn’t great in the air for a centre-back, but doesn’t offer too much creativity going forward as a full-back.

Football Slices stats compiled from just 720 minutes of first team action in 2018/19 come with a warning about small sample size, but also sum up those traits pretty well:

Beyer spent the second half of last season on loan at Hamburg, in a move which seems to have worked out well for all parties. Beyer was a regular when he moved in January, although Josha Vagnoman recovered from his fractured foot during the COVID-19 suspension, limiting Beyer’s playing time thereafter.

In pre-season, he looked solid enough against lower-league opposition, although it is a hard format for a defender to really shine in. Misplaced passes, such as against SC Verl, stand out, and any threat to Gladbach’s goal is seen as a costly aberration. The fact is that Gladbach didn’t concede any goals while he was playing in pre-season, and he had already been subbed when Greuther Fürth scored twice against a Matthias Ginter-led Gladbach backline, so Beyer has not done too much wrong at all.

Will he play?

Sporting Director Max Eberl has been explicit about the important role he expects Beyer to play this season. An injury at the end of pre-season kept him out of the squad for the 8-0 DFB-Pokal thrashing of FC Oberneuland, but with Eberl being equally explicit about how he is open to moving Michael Lang on, expect Beyer to serve as deputy to Stevie Lainer at right-back, as well as give depth at centreback, maybe sometimes as part of a three-man defence.

Shades of…

Perhaps not a popular comparison for the Gladbach faithful, but when you’re looking at a defender who can play centre-back and right-back, whose strength lies in versatility but will face questions about where his actual best position really is: Beyer’s profile has more than a passing resemblance to Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard. If he develops to win a World Cup playing right-back, as Pavard did, Gladbach fans will be happy in all sorts of ways.

Rocco Reitz
The lowdown

I did not expect to be writing about Rocco Reitz as the 18 year old midfielder to watch in the year ahead, and, especially after Famana Quizera’s wonder goal in the first game of pre-season, it looked as though the Portuguese youngster would steal the show. However, as pre-season went on, it became clear that it was Reitz who was one of the common denominators in Gladbach’s improved second-half showings, and that, rather than being carried by senior colleagues, he was excelling regardless of who he was paired with. A aggressive, deep-lying midfielder, suited to playing in a double pivot, his excellent range of passing was on full display as he contributed fine assists for goals by Lainer and Patrick Herrmann. He is still so young that there is plenty of room for his game – and height – to grow, and at 165cm, one hopes he will be able to bulk out a little.

Will he play?

Gladbach are not short of defensive midfielders, and with Denis Zakaria to come back from injury and newly capped Florian Neuhaus on top of his game, it is likely that World Cup winner Christoph Kramer will have to settle for a place on the bench, let alone an untested 18-year-old. Coach Marco Rose is very happy with the impression Reitz has made in pre-season, but perhaps that is best seen as an unexpected bonus at an early stage in his development, rather than a reason to put undue pressure on him.

Having said that, in a very busy season, there are likely to be injuries, and in the DFB-Pokal first round game, where most youngsters had dropped out of the squad, Reitz was still on the bench. With the departure of Tobias Strobl, there is less depth in central defensive midfield than there was, so there is a chance that he will get some first team minutes as early as this year. To read more on where Reitz might get his opportunities, and to see that lovely assists for Lainer against Paderborn, click here.

Shades of…

With his passing range, an aggressive attitude to go with a diminutive stature, and a close buzzcut, on the pitch he looks more than a little like Marco Verratti. Verratti’s aggression can hinder his team as much as it helps it, however, and so hopefully Rose can help Reitz channel his aggression in the right sort of way as he develops.

Torben Müsel
The lowdown

Another unexpected entry, but as another person who made the cut to nab a spot on the bench for the cup game, it looks like Torben Müsel might get at least half a chance to make an impression in what could be the 21-year-old’s last season at Borussia-Park.

A central attacker who has been deployed behind the striker in midfield, he has looked sharp in pre-season. Read more about his playing style and performance against VVV Venlo here.

Will he play?

Müsel is in a similar situation to Reitz in that, with a fully fit squad, he doesn’t figure to feature much, but with some injuries, he could be involved. Along with Lang, Eberl effectively counted out Keanan Bennetts and Julio Villalba, saying they would struggle for opportunities. He did not include Müsel in that, showing that in the crowd of young forwards looking to make an impression, he is not at the back of the pack.

Müsel’s situation differs from Reitz in two respects, one good for him, one bad. To start with the bad news, if Müsel doesn’t make an impression this year, he will likely leave, with his contract up at the end of the season, while the young Reitz has time on his side. On the plus side, it is easier to get a run out in attack than it is in the heart of midfield, and with Rose able to carry on making five subs a game for the new season, that could work in Müsel’s favour.

Shades of…

Harry Kane. No, not the England captain, World Cup Golden Boot winning Harry Kane, but the one who got to his early twenties at a bit of a crossroads, a central attacker who liked to drop deep but had the stature to play further forward, who was struggling for first-team minutes. For that Harry Kane, his career could’ve gone in one of a number of ways. Müsel most likely will not replicate Kane’s achievements, but the England striker does show that you don’t need the world at your feet as a teenager in order to have a very successful career in football.

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