A homegrown talent who’s been around the first team since back when Marco Reus exploded onto the scene, Herrmann has finally made ‘the jump.’ After beginning the year on the bench, Herrmann erupted for eight goals and four assists over the course of the second half. After being rewarded with his national team debut this summer, more eyes will be on him this year as Gladbach return to the Champions League.
Max Kruse, F, Wolfsburg
The Wolves’ ambitious project got another boost with the arrival of Kruse. The 27-year-old comes from fellow Champions League side Moenchengladbach after scoring 11 goals and setting up nine more last season. Kruse will instantly ease some of the burden on Bas Dost – last season’s revelation on whom Wolfsburg simply relied too much at times – and presents a big upgrade from Nicklas Bendtner.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesDean Mouhtaropoulos
Gonzalo Castro, M, Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund’s biggest import this summer was originally brought in to replace Ilkay Gundogan in the heart of midfield. But after Gundogan’s sudden about-turn and contract renewal, they now figure to pair up and form BVB’s new core. Castro comes from Leverkusen as one of the Bundesliga’s most consistent performers over the past couple years and could be instrumental to bringing Dortmund back where they belong – the Champions League.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesLars Baron
Fabian Johnson, D/M, Moenchengladbach
High praise has come Johnson’s way since his impeccable display for the U.S. national team at the World Cup, and the hype has only gotten bigger. Johnson’s versatility and ability to get forward has helped Gladbach get back in the Champions League for the first time since 1977, and he’s already regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s brightest fullbacks.
Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, M, Bayern Munich
Long deemed ‘untouchables’ in Bayern’s starting XI, they make up one of the world’s most feared duos when healthy, but therein lies the rub. Both are on the wrong side of 30 and coming off an injury-plagued spring that saw them miss Bayern’s key games down the stretch. Ribery, especially, appears as though his body has started to wave the white flag. Bayern signed Shakhtar’s two-footed Douglas Costa to ease the burden on their aging stars, but this team will be at its best if Robben and Ribery are at theirs.
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Julian Draxler, M, Schalke 04
Not too long ago, Draxler made his Champions League debut at age 19 and had a host of Premier League clubs drooling over him. But after spurning a move abroad, the winger labored through a disappointing 2014 and was limited to just six Bundesliga games last season. Still only 21 and healthy again, Draxler will be counted on to lead a really young, really hungry Schalke squad to a much-improved finish from last season.
AFP/Getty ImagesSASCHA SCHUERMANN
Karim Bellarabi, M, Bayer Leverkusen
No player made a bigger leap last season than the 25-year-old winger with Moroccan roots. After returning from loan at Eintracht Braunschweig, Bellarabi instantly thrust himself in the starting lineup. Bellarabi tallied 12 goals and 9 assists for Leverkusen’s high-octane offense, and was voted third-best player of the season by his peers. He also made his debut with Germany’s national team in October.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesChristof Koepsel
Mario Goetze, M, Bayern Munich
Last season was supposed to be Goetze’s big breakthrough at Bayern, but Germany’s World Cup Final hero arguably took a step back, putting up just nine goals and four assists in 32 league appearances. With Bayern’s midfield competition as fierce as ever, concern is growing that Goetze will never quite make it to the elite next level under Pep Guardiola. Now entering Year 3 in Munich, Goetze will feel the pressure to prove his doubters wrong, if he gets the chance.
Bongarts/Getty ImagesDennis Grombkowski
Marco Reus, M/F, Borussia Dortmund
The Rolls Reus spent half of last season in the garage due to a relentless string of injuries, starting with the torn ankle ligaments that saw him just miss out on Germany’s World Cup squad. His lengthy absence contributed largely to Dortmund’s season from hell, while his mid-season return sparked BVB to shoot back up from last place all the way into seventh, good for the last Europa League spot. This year, Reus will again feature as Dortmund’s -- if not the Bundesliga’s -- biggest star.
Borussia Dortmund/Getty ImagesAlexandre Simoes
Kevin De Bruyne, M, Wolfsburg
The Bundesliga’s reigning Player of the Year dazzled week in, week out last season and established himself as one of Europe’s very best wingers and playmakers. De Bruyne far and away led the league with 20 assists (Bremen’s Zlatko Junuzovic was second with 12) and proved to be a good finisher as well, with 10 goals. It’d be a real loss for the league if Manchester City were to swipe him up before the end of the transfer window.