45. Maximilian Eggestein
Maximilian Eggestein has a big season ahead of him at Werder Bremen; at twenty years old, the young German is already a regular starter at the Bundesliga outfit, who will be looking to better their eighth-place finish last season in order to qualify for the Europa League next year.
Eggestein is a holding midfielder who plays for Stefan Kuntz’s Germany’s Under-21 side, along with his younger brother, Johannes, who also plays for Werder. Johannes is widely recognised for his goalscoring talents, but his older sibling, Max, is renowned in Bremen for his defensive work, link-up play and eye for a pass.
The Eggesteins both made their Under-21 debuts in a 2-1 loss to Hungary in early September – soon after, the pair became the first brothers to start for a German national side together, when they faced Kosovo, since Jerome and Kevin-Prince Boateng in 2009.
The tie finished 1-0, thanks to a goal from Max, to get Germany’s UEFA European Under-21 Championship qualifying off to a flying start. His goal was no fluke; he has already scored this season for the Green-Whites in the DFB-Pokal against Würzburger Kickers, as part of a routine 3-0 victory.
The 20-year-old midfielder has spent the majority of his short career playing for the Werderaner. He signed in 2011 from fourth-tier side TSV Havelse, and played for the reserves, who were in the same league before being promoted in 2015 to Germany’s third division. Eggestein featured 32 times during the reserves’ promotion-winning campaign.
In the years since his arrival at the Weserstadion, Eggestein has shuttled between the B team and first team. He made his senior debut in November 2014 against SC Paderborn 07, but has since featured more for the B-team than he has in the Bundesliga. However, he featured in 15 top flight games last season, a personal record, which would suggest that his playing time looks set to significantly increase this time around having started every game so far.
This season, he has been outstanding. He has maintained an impressive 86% pass completion rate, won nearly two thirds of his tackles and challenges, and won the majority of his aerial duels.
With Florian Grillitsch taking his talents to Hoffenheim, and with captain Zltako Junuzović sidelined with an Achilles tendon injury, Eggestein has stepped up admirably. Alongside Thomas Delaney and Fin Bartels, he has slotted into manager Frank Baumann’s rigid system perfectly – he has excelled at cutting off the opposition’s forays into his team’s defensive territory at the source, while turning defence into attack with aplomb.
Eggestein’s ability to slot into Die Grün-Weißen’s midfield with consummate ease bodes well for the future. The young German, along with other young stars Miloš Veljković, Robert Bauer and his younger brother, Johannes, have already featured heavily this campaign and are seen as Werder’s future spine. They will be tasked with breaking the monopolisation of the Bundesliga by both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund; the latter especially has dominated German domestic football in recent years.
With Werder currently in the relegation zone, and with Joachim Löw keeping his eye on blossoming midfielders for the next generation, Eggestein will want to prove that he is as good as, if not better than, the likes of Bayern’s Joshua Kimmich and Dortmund’s Mahmoud Dahoud and Julien Weigl, who are all already household names in Germany, yet are of a similar age to Eggestein.
Eggestein has an extra incentive to impress this season; he has entered the final year of his current contract. He signed his first professional deal ahead of the 2015-16 season, which expires next summer. Impressive performances this season could see Germany’s, and possibly Europe’s, elite clubs circling Eggestein, who may not hesitate to move to pastures new should Bremen once again fail to qualify for European football.
The Green-Whites have not featured in Europe since the 2010-11 season; if Eggestein wants to reach the lofty heights that he is capable of, then he must perform on the European stage, with or without Werder Bremen.
Germany’s senior national side is proof that, unlike countries such as England where the vast majority of the squad play in their domestic league, players often have to travel far and wide to prove themselves. Antonio Rüdiger left VfB Stuttgart for Italian giants AS Roma before sealing a big-money move to Chelsea last summer, to join Emre Can and Mesut Özil in the Premier League. Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler and Amin Younes all currently play their club football away from Germany, too. Eggestein, after this season, may have to follow suit in order to gain further international recognition.
There is a possibility that a good run of performances in the Bundesliga leading up to October could see Eggestein called-up to Joachim Löw’s senior squad. Die Mannschaft’s next fixtures are against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan, two fixtures which should allow Löw to field rotated sides in order to test new players and systems. Jonathan Tah, Diego Demme and Max Meyer have all either made their senior debuts or have been re-called to the first-team setup in the past calendar year; they are all of a similar age to Eggestein, with the same Bundesliga experience.
However, Eggestein’s focus for now must be on performing to the high standards that he has already set himself in the past 18 months in his first spell as a regular starter for Werder Bremen. In the absence of Junuzović, Eggestein will be tasked with being Werder’s controller in midfield. He has already shown that he has adept at winning the ball, both through strong tackling and his aerial ability, and his pass completion rate so far this season suggests he is capable of controlling and maintain possesion. With a maturity on the pitch far beyond his 20 years, having now become one of Bremen’s most important players at just 20, it will surely not be long before German football fans see Eggestein going toe-to-toe with Sami Khedira for the deep-lying midfield role in Germany’s senior side.
Perhaps, Eggestein may even be in the frame to make a late charge for a spot on the plane to the World Cup in Russia next year as part of Löw’s squad. Whether he will still be a Werder Bremen player come the World Cup remains to be seen.
By: Ryan Plant/@ryanplant1998