'Next Generation' is a series focusing on the young players tipped to establish themselves as the elite in the 2020s.
At long last, football is almost back. After a hiatus of more than two months, top-level European club action returns on Saturday with the resumption of the 2019-20 Bundesliga season.
With nine rounds of the season still to be completed, there remains much to play for in Germany's top flight and it all kicks off once again this weekend, with the Revierderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke undoubtedly the highlight.
Given there are precious few other sporting events around the world allowed to resume yet, the Bundesliga could be set for an influx of new viewers and fans.
While most followers of ffootball will be well aware of the likes of Robert Lewandowski, Erling Haaland, Timo Werner, Jadon Sancho and the Bundesliga's other leading stars, there are other players perhaps not quite at that level of exposure yet but also worth keeping an eye on.
We identified six who were either enjoying impressive seasons before the suspension, or have shown significant promise.
Amine Harit (22), attacking midfielder – Schalke
To seasoned viewers of the Bundesliga, Harit won't be a new name – after all, he was Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. But after a difficult 2018-19, Harit is enjoying his finest season in professional football. With six goals and four assists, the Morocco international has been a key player for David Wagner's Schalke this term – the skilful and creative attacking midfielder a threat to any defence on his day. However, all of his goal involvements came before Christmas, and if Schalke are to hold on to a Europa League spot, the 22-year-old rediscovering his 2019 form could be vital.
Christopher Nkunku (22), central midfielder – RB Leipzig
A product of Paris Saint-Germain's academy, Nkunku broke into their first-team squad last term but couldn't hold down a place in the starting XI. Leipzig had seen enough of him to feel compelled to part with a reported €15million for the French midfielder, however, and it looks great business. After scoring with his first touch in Bundesliga football, he has contributed another three goals and 12 assists – a haul bettered by only Sancho and Thomas Muller. A wonderful technician, Nkunku is a dead-ball specialist, a fine striker of the ball and a supreme midfield athlete.
Marcus Thuram (22), forward – Borussia Monchengladbach
There aren't a huge amount of similarities between Marcus and his dad Lilian, one of the greatest centre-backs of his generation, but physical presence is one. Marcus Thuram is a handful for defences in virtually every way possible; quick, strong, tall, athletic and a good dribbler. Capable playing anywhere in attack, Thuram is particularly useful coming in off the left on to his right foot, and he has played a role in 14 league goals this term, eight of which were assists. Gladbach are looking to secure Champions League qualification – if they fail, keeping Thuram could be a challenge.
Dayot Upamecano (21), centre-back – RB Leipzig
You won't find many more-complete centre-backs than Leipzig's Upamecano. Strongly linked with a move to Bayern Munich at the end of the season, the France Under-21 international seems to have it all. His excellent distribution is highlighted by the fact his 66 per cent long-pass success is better than Mats Hummels (58), Manuel Akanji (55) and Benjamin Pavard (61), while his 35 interceptions is more than Virgil van Dijk has managed. Potentially the next superstar-in-waiting off the Red Bull production line, Upamecano has a big future in front of him.
Giovanni Reyna (17), attacking midfielder – Borussia Dortmund
The son of former Manchester City and United States midfielder Claudio Reyna, Gio appears destined to go on to bigger things than his old man. The 17-year-old made his debut as a substitute in the 5-3 win over Augsburg on January 18 and has played another seven Bundesliga matches since. Although mostly making cameo appearances, his direct approach to dribbling, upright running style and effortless elegance on the ball bear resemblance to Brazil and Milan great Kaka. It's only a matter of time before he gets his first Bundesliga start.
Jean-Clair Todibo (20), centre-back – Schalke
A newcomer to the Bundesliga, having joined on loan from Barcelona in January, the jury is still out on Todibo. Schalke accept it's unlikely they'll be able to trigger his purchase clause – reportedly worth €25m plus €5m in add-ons – due to the financial consequences of the pandemic, but a loan extension is said to be a possibility. A technically gifted centre-back who is comfortable on the ball and a solid passer, Todibo, 20, was perhaps unlucky to not get more opportunities at Camp Nou. He made five league appearances after joining Schalke, and although only two were starts, he is considered a real prospect.