In 2018, German club RB Leipzig decided to make a docuseries. This series — available on YouTube and the official Red Bull website — would track the final five matches of five promising players in their u19 team. In the end, each would either be signed to the first team or released.
In theory, this presented a great marketing opportunity for the club and the players. The emerging club — which had only been promoted in 2016 — could build its brand and promote its players and facilities. The five players, on the other hand, got an elevated platform and a chance to show their skills to the world.
While the idea was good on paper, it got little attention. The first episode reached 49k views on YouTube, but that was by some margin the most watched of the five videos — even the finale had half that number. For reference, Bayern Munich’s World Squad Season One finale had 174k views.
Unsurprisingly, this series has not been replicated by the club since, which is a shame — it provided a great insight into the club’s processes with the u19s and showed off some talented players. But where are the five stars from the series now?
CM Naod “Nani” Mekonnen: N/A
One of the most promising players in the u19s, Mekonnen was described as elegant, strong, fast, and a good dribbler. He was even selected to practice with the first team under Ralph Hasenhüttl, who described him as a talented player with real quality (Episode Two).
Despite this, Mekonnen didn’t focus solely on soccer — even missing a game to study for exams (Episode 4). The coaches weren’t exactly thrilled about this, and even Mekonnen mentioned that it’s possible that studying took valuable time away. Still, both he and the club saw the value in a good education.
Mekonnen stuck around with the u19s for another season, participating in first-team training during preseason. The following summer he left for free, joining third-tier Preußen Münster, spending time with the club’s first team and reserves for the next two seasons. Since 2021, he has been without a club (at least, according to transfermarkt.us), while Preußen Münster’s website simply hasn’t acknowledged him since then.
CM Niclas Stierlin: MSV Duisburg
Stierlin received constant praise throughout the series, with his development and work ethic leading many to believe he had a future in the first team. Like Mekonnen, he was also allowed to practice with the first team (Episode 3). Shortly after, he was called up to the first team for a match, although he didn’t make the final matchday squad (Episode 4).
He was then called up to the first team again, meaning that he played none of the final three matches of the season for the u19s (Episode 5). This time, however, he was in the final squad, although once again he did not play.
Stierlin stayed with Leipzig the following season, making frequent appearances for the u19 team and finally making his first team debut in a Europa League qualifier. However, he left at the end of the year for more minutes, signing with third-tier side Unterhaching. After a successful two years, he left for another 3. Liga side, Duisburg. While Duisburg has struggled, Stierlin has been a constant positive, making 79 appearances.
CB Dominic Minz: TSV Havelse
The series was not a happy one for Minz, who received a red card against St. Pauli (Episode 1). He later stated it was his first career red card. As a result, he received a (harsh) four-match suspension, ruling him out for the rest of the season. The red card would be his last action in a Leipzig kit, as his appeal was denied.
Minz joined Greuther Fürth’s reserves in the summer, which meant a season in the Regionalliga Bayern, a semi-pro league. He has since played for various regional league sides, including Paderborn II, Sportfreunde Lotte, and his current club, TSV Havelse.
CB Lukas Schelenz: Neudrossenfeld
Schelenz possibly experienced a bit of schadenfreude watching Minz get sent off, as it gave him an opportunity to impress in Minz’s absence. Schelenz himself was coming off a lengthy absence after a ligament injury, ruling him out for several matches. While he returned just in time to replace Minz, he struggled in his first game back, giving away a goal with an errant pass (Episode 2).
Schelenz said his goal was to sign with a third-tier club at the end of his contract and continue to progress. He did end up doing that, signing for KFC Uerdingen, but he could not get any minutes with the club and left after half a year. He joined Neudrossenfeld in 2019 and has been there ever since.
CAM Emre “Diego” Aslan: Füchse Berlin
Aslan introduced himself in style, scoring a late free-kick and grabbing one more to secure his side’s victory against Chemnitz (Episode 2). He was constantly described as one of the club’s most talented players, with excellent technical skills. However, like any player, he had his flaws, describing himself as sometimes being self-critical or showing negative body language.
Aslan was constantly the focus of attention from scouts, and why wouldn’t he be: he ended the season with 25 goal contributions from 25 games. Interestingly, he didn’t seem to be interested in sharing any transfer information with his manager Robert Klauß, just mentioning that there was some interest but not saying which clubs had enquired.
Fittingly, the final episode was also vague about his future, stating he was in negotiations with a Champions League club and that negotiations would hopefully conclude quickly. (This club was likely Turkish side Beşiktaş). Evidently, that didn’t happen, as Aslan was briefly promoted to the Leipzig first team before joining second-tier side FC Nürnberg.
After two decent seasons with Nürnberg’s reserves, Aslan has become something of a Berlin-based journeyman. Since 2020, he has played for Berliner AK, SC Staaken, and now Füchse Berlin in the sixth tier of Germany. They do look like promotion candidates, although the data is limited so it’s hard to tell how much of a role Aslan is playing.
Image Courtesy of dfb.de.