Since their disastrous performance at Euro 2000, Germany and its elite clubs have been committed to bringing through young footballers. This approach has paid dividends. The national team won the 2014 World Cup and a generation of attacking talent has managed to shift perceptions of German football.
The Fritz Walter medal, named after the 1954 World Cup-winning captain, is handed out annually to the finest young footballers in Germany. Awarded since 2005, its list of winners ranges from the famous to the more obscure.
We’ve traced what every winner of the Under-19 category is doing now.
2005: Florian Muller
Manuel Neuer was already knocking about at Schalke, but he was only runner-up to Bayern Munich’s Muller in 2005. While Neuer has redefined the role of goalkeeper, Muller hasn’t exactly scaled the same heights.
The midfielder only spent two years at Bayern before moving to FC Magdeburg, followed by a transfer to Alemannia Aachen less than a year later. He hasn’t played professional football since 2013 and has been studying business administration in Berlin since 2015.
2006: Kevin-Prince Boateng
The flamboyant Boateng has enjoyed a colourful career at both club and international level.
His array of tattoos and jewellery may make some ill-disposed towards him, but the midfielder has appeared for a selection of Europe’s elite clubs, including Barcelona and AC Milan. And Spurs.
He also switched international allegiances from Germany to Ghana and starred in the African side’s run to the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.
Boateng currently turns out for Monza in Italy’s Serie B, but he was a fine footballer at his peak – just ask peak Barcelona.
— MUNDIAL (@MundialMag) November 23, 2020
2007: Benedikt Howedes
Schalke’s Howedes was the recipient of the 2007 award, narrowly edging out Jerome Boateng.
The defender starred at Schalke for most of his career, making 335 appearances across his decade for the Gelsenkirchen-based club. Short spells at Juventus and Lokomotiv Moscow followed before his retirement in the summer of 2020.
Howedes was one of only three players to play every single minute of Germany’s triumph at Brazil 2014. It’s safe to say he had a successful career.
2008: Dennis Diekmeier
Diekmeier has won everything there is to win, including three Bundesliga titles, two La Liga titles, four domestic cups, four Champions League titles and the 2014 World Cup.
Hang on, that’s the honour’s list of 2008 runner-up Toni Kroos.
Diekmeier has turned out as a right-back for Werder Bremen, FC Nurnburg and Hamburg over the past decade. He currently plays for German second-tier side SV Sandhausen.
He even scored his first-ever professional goal in May 2020, ending the ‘Most Harmless Player in Bundesliga history’ jibes.
2009: Lewis Holtby
Look, we all wanted Holtby to succeed. With his disarmingly English name and a devilish left foot, many thought the playmaker was destined for the top, especially after edging out Andre Schurrle for the 2009 medal.
Things never quite materialised for Holtby. He left Schalke for Tottenham in 2013 but never established himself at White Hart Lane before departing for Hamburg two years later.
Holtby is currently turning out for Championship outfit Blackburn Rovers. Nobody quite foresaw that a decade ago.
2010: Peniel Mlapa
The crop of 2010 wasn’t a vintage generation, but 1860 Munich youngster Mlapa looked the best of a mediocre bunch.
The striker moved to Hoffenheim after scooping the 2010 award but only scored six goals over two seasons for the Bundesliga side.
He was sold to Borussia Monchengladbach but never settled there either, eventually slipping down the divisions.
A spell in Holland with VVV-Venlo – 31 appearances, 15 goals – proved more productive and Mlapa currently plies his trade with Ittihad Kalba in the United Arab Emirates.
2011: Marc-Andre ter Stegen
He’s unfortunate to be around during the Neuer era, but Ter Stegen has established himself as one of the world’s best goalkeepers.
Marc-André ter Stegen with another world-class save 🙌
One of the best in the world right now! pic.twitter.com/MBndN6Uqin
— Football on TNT Sports (@footballontnt) February 19, 2019
2012: Antonio Rudiger
He may not be Frank Lampard’s cup of tea, but Rudiger has been a stalwart of the Chelsea defence since his move to England four years ago.
After breaking through at Stuttgart, the centre-back attracted the attention of Europe’s elite before a transfer to Roma in 2015. He’s also made 40 appearances for Germany.
2013: Matthias Ginter
Ginter has developed into a fine centre-back for Gladbach and is now a regular in the Germany backline.
His form at Freiburg gained him admirers across his homeland, earning himself a move to Borussia Dortmund in 2014. He recovered from an underwhelming debut season to become a crucial part of Thomas Tuchel’s side.
Fun fact: Ginter is the only German outfield player to have been named in two World Cup squads without appearing for a single minute in either tournament.
2014: Niklas Stark
Another year, another centre-back. We thought German football was all about exciting playmakers by now?
In fairness, Stark has been an impressive performer at Hertha Berlin for a number of years now and has attracted the attention of Bayern Munich, having made his international debut in 2019.
It’s more interesting to note the bronze medalist who became one of the best footballers of his generation. Step forward Mr Joshua Kimmich.
2015: Jonathan Tah
Seriously lads, what’s with the centre-back fetish?
Tah was already a first-team regular at Bayer Leverkusen when he won the 2015 award and the defender has continued to excel for the perennial-Europa League challengers.
Occasional goalscorer Timo Werner finished second after breaking through at Stuttgart.
2016: Benjamin Henrichs
Germany took a reserve squad to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia, swatting aside their opponents and winning the title in a demonstration of strength.
Henrichs, a midfielder for Bayer Leverkusen, made two appearances during the competition. A neat and tidy player, he spent three years at Monaco before moving to his current side RB Leipzig.
2017: Salih Ozcan
One of the more obscure names on this list, Ozcan is an integral part of Cologne’s midfield.
A German-born footballer of Turkish descent, the 23-year-old remains eligible to play for both countries. Reports from Germany suggest Ozcan will leave Cologne this summer, with clubs such as Besiktas and Galatasaray rumoured to be interested.
2018: Kai Havertz
Never mind his struggles at Chelsea, Havertz remains one of German football’s biggest hopes. Here are two and a half minutes showing you why.
Kai Havertz has scored 38 goals and recorded 30 assists in 139 matches for Bayer Leverkusen.
— 888sport (@888sport) May 18, 2020
2019: Nicolas-Gerrit Kuhn
The 2019 award was the first to be awarded to a German footballer playing outside of Germany, with Ajax’s Kuhn being awarded first place.
Kuhn had joined Ajax from RB Leipzig, turning out for the club’s youth sides before earning a transfer to Bayern Munich in 2020, where he remains in the reserve team.
2020: Noah Katterbach
Last year’s winner has the honour of winning the Fritz Walter medal in both the Under-17 and Under-19 categories.
One of the hottest properties in German football, Katterbach is a left-back for Cologne known for his creativity, technique and ability to dribble past opponents.
Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig have all registered their interest, and Katterbach seems like a decent bet to develop into Germany’s left-back for the next decade or so.