Jan Kirchhoff, Mainz 05
On Friday, Bayern Munich announced that they’ve signed the Germany U21 defender on a free transfer for next summer. It’s a genuine coup: the 22-year-old was wanted by rivals like Schalke and Dortmund and looks like he could be the next Mats Hummels. The tall (1.95m) but mobile centre-back has been in excellent form since his return from injury in October. He’s still not the finished article, to be sure, but playing a high-line for Mainz will prepare him for life in Munich. His second half of the season at Mainz could well decide if Daniel van Buyten and Jerome Boateng have a future in Munich.
Lewis Holtby, Schalke 04
The captain of the U21s is off to the Premier League in the summer, with Spurs having tied up a deal on Friday. It’ll be fascinating how the 22-year-old will fare before making the move to England. His form has dipped dramatically in recent months, along with that of the rest of side. Holtby is a small, technical attacking midfielder who’s happiest in the hole; he’s like a cross between Mario Götze and Toni Kroos but not quite on the level of either of them. The son of a British serviceman and German mum will not further his chances in the Nationalmannschaft by going to the Premier League. But in financial terms, it makes perfect sense for him.
Alex Meier, Eintracht Frankfurt
Meier has been in sensational form for Armin Veh’s men this season. He hasn’t missed a single league game and pitched in with eleven fine goals that have helped the newly-promoted “Eagles” soar much higher than anyone could have anticipated. Meier, nearly 30, looks lanky but is a master of improvisation and can hit the net from almost any angle and distance. His deep runs are also difficult to defend against - he’s the perfect player for Frankfurt’s system and an unassuming guy to boot.
Kevin de Bruyne, Werder Bremen
The Chelsea attacker didn’t win a lot of friends with some ill-judged newspaper comments about his loan-club and life in the Bundesliga. On the pitch, however, the 21-year-old done much better than his tally of four goals suggest. De Bruyne has been Werder’s most consistent performer, operating in a deep position behind Nils Petersen. His pace and shooting have been particularly impressive. No wonder that Schalke and Wolfsburg have joined in Werder’s efforts to prolong his stay in Germany beyond the summer.
Gonzalo Castro, Bayer Leverkusen
Chelsea target André Schürrle and centre-forward Stefan Kiessling have won all the plaudits in this campaign but Castro is the man that makes their attack really work with his tireless running and intelligent play. The 25-year-old will certainly add to his six league goals and become more noticed in the course of the second half of the season. After years of muted progress as a holding midfielder and full-back, he’s thriving in Bayer’s 4-3-2-1 Christmas tree formation as a tucked-in winger.
Kevin Großkreutz, Borussia Dortmund
The hard-working 24-year-old midfielder was a mainstay in Dortmund’s back-to-back title-winning side. This season, he’s been marginalised by the arrival of the superb Marco Reus. The last few games before the winter break have hinted at a surprising comeback though. Großkreutz was tried, with some success, as a full-back on either side of the back four. It’ll be fascinating to see whether he can force his way back into the regular line-up in that capacity. Dropping deeper would also be smart career move as far as the national team is concerned: Joachim Löw is still looking for solutions in that area.
Daniel Carvajal, Bayer Leverkusen
€6m seemed like a lot of money for a 20-year-old from Real Madrid’s B team but Leverkusen’s scouting system has once again been vindicated. The right-back has been having a stormer of a season at the BayArena. In fact, he’s been so outstanding that Madrid are weighing up their option to buy him back for €8m in the summer. Leverkusen should fight tooth and nail to make him stay: Carvajal is set to be one of the most in-demand wide defenders in the coming years.
Jan Rosenthal, SC Freiburg
It’s tough to single out a player from Christian Streich’s all-action, high-pressing collective of ultra-committed pros. But the elegant playmaker/second striker Rosenthal has provided the icing on the cake with his goals and creativity towards the end of the year. Will this be the season when the talented player finally makes it to the next level? In Hannover, his inconsistency held him back. But he’s really finding his feet at Freiburg now, the hectic Breisgau rhythm notwithstanding. Offers from bigger sides will come in for the 26-year-old if he can keep up this level of performances.
Arjen Robben, Bayern Munich
Remember him? The 28-year-old Dutchman has hardly featured in the first half of the season, he had another one of those pesky groin injuries to contend with. The word from the winter training camp in Doha, however, is that Robben’s in good shape and raring to go. The traumatic end last season - he missed two crucial penalties against Dortmund and Chelsea, respectively - will provide an added incentive for him to make up for lost time. Bayern have hardly missed him in the league but he’s still the most likely player to make a difference when it comes to winning the Champions League.
Mame Biram Diouf, Hannover 96
The former Manchester United striker has been a huge success after moving to Lower Saxony in January 2011. This season, the 25-year-old has scored 11 in 19 games. A similar return will surely awaken interest in the Premier League for his services: big, quick and powerful, the Senegalese forward is a classic target man who would surely strive in England. Hannover might be tempted to cash in if they lose out on a European place.