90min Exclusive: Hoffenheim Chief Scout Talks Reiss Nelson, Kerem Demirbay & Recruitment Philosophy

Bundesliga outfit TSG Hoffenheim’s rise through European football’s hierarchy over the last few years has been nothing short of breathtaking.

In 2016, Die Kraichgauer finished just one point above the relegation play-off place in the league table and behind the likes of Darmstadt, Ingolstadt, Hamburger SV and FC Köln, all of whom are now playing in the second tier of German football.

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga

Within one year, inexperienced head coach Julian Nagelsmann guided Hoffenheim to a fourth-place finish. In his second full year in charge, Hoffenheim finished third in the Bundesliga table and ahead of Borussia Dortmund to guarantee Champions League football in Sinsheim.

Scouting chief Lutz Pfannenstiel explained how impressive having European football played at a club like Hoffenheim really is, but he added that all of their success is largely due to their managerial wonderkid Julien Nagelsmann.

It‘s a great achievement for our young club to play Champions League to grow and establish ourselves internationally,” Pfannenstiel told 90min. “For our young players, it’s essential to get this special experience to become better and better. 

“We hope also in the future we will reach the international places, so we’re going to grow constantly.

The big change was that we got Julian Nagelsmann as the new coach. He and our sporting director Alexander Rosen wanted different types of players, so we adjusted our scouting markets.

“We stopped our philosophy to buy mostly players from international leagues and focused on players from the Bundesliga, which we could afford.”

One such player was two-time Borussia Dortmund youth player, Kerem Demirbay. 

The Germany international joined the club for £1.5m just months after Nagelsmann’s arrival at the Rhein-Neckar-Arena and, as if in parallel with his head coach’s rise, Demirbay is among the most highly rated midfielder’s in the league.

“He is a complete midfielder with a great balance between offensive creativity and hard defensive work,” Pfannenstiel added. “If a player in his position also can score then you have the complete package.”

This season, Demirbay has been sitting back slightly deeper in the midfield, and his performances haven’t gone unnoticed by Jurgen Klopp, who is believed to be interested in bringing the midfielder to Liverpool.

Demirbay can play on various positions,” he continues. “He is not just technically but also tactically strong. His ability to solve pressure situations as well as playing the deadly pass makes him very important.”

Demirbay is not the only Hoffenheim player to be going above and beyond this season either. Arsenal loanee Reiss Nelson has followed in Jadon Sancho’s footsteps by lighting up the Bundesliga in his first ever season in Germany, scoring six goals.

We looked at him many times before signing him. We were convinced about his talent,” Pfannenstiel concluded. 

I think Hoffenheim is a very attractive club, with an outstanding coach, a young team and excellent conditions. He can develop in a team which plays offensive football in a calm environment. If I were 18 again, I would love to play for Hoffenheim.”

The England Under-21 international is already making a statement for his inclusion into the senior national team, and many expect that Nelson will be called up by Garth Southgate before he returns to Arsenal in 2019.

Following their match against Manchester City on Wednesday, Hoffenheim will only have three league games left before the end of the first half of the season – known as the Hinrunde Germany.


Hosting second-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach will be first up for Nagelsmann’s side before a trip to SV Werder Bremen, while mid-table side Mainz 05 make the short journey south on the last matchday before the Winterpause.


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