90min’s Our 21: Hoffenheim and Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner

The Bundesliga has been home to many breakthrough stars in recent years, but few have been as impressive as Hoffenheim’s Christoph Baumgartner.

The now 21-year-old became a first-team regular in the 2019/20 season, and became one of the better midfielders in the Bundesliga during the 2020/21 season.

Christoph Baumgartner Bundesliga GIF by TSG Hoffenheim - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now, the midfielder is a crucial part of the Austria set up and, leading into this summer’s delayed Euro 2020 tournament, has been selected as one of 90min’s ‘Our 21’ – high praise indeed. So, before we all embark on a journey through a festival of European football, here’s what you need to know about Austria’s starlet.

It wasn’t exactly a dazzling campaign for Hoffenheim as the west German side finished mid-table, disappointingly closer to a relegation scrap than a battle for European qualification. But, throughout a dreary season, Baumgartner proved to be a bright spark for the club.

He matched his 2019/20 Bundesliga tally of 11 goal contributions this term and even managed to make a splash in the Europa League, registering three goals and two assists in eight appearances, as his side reached the round of 32 stage.

The Austrian missed just three of Hoffenheim’s 44 matches throughout the campaign – all through either injury or suspension. And he has been as ever-present with his national side – only being kept out of the team by Covid-19 issues since his debut in April 2020 – and judging by his three goals and two assists in his first nine caps, you can see why.

Sometimes a young player’s versatility can be a real hinderance, however, Baumgartner’s ability to play nearly anywhere behind the striker hasn’t halted his progress at all.

Throughout the 2020/21 campaign he has been deployed across the front three and as a central or wide midfielder for both club and country, but it is undoubtedly as a number ten – where he has spent the majority of his time on the field – that he comes into his own.

Declan Rice, Christoph Baumgartner

Christoph Baumgartner battling against Declan Rice / Stu Forster/Getty Images

“”In a 4-2-3-1 as the number ten, that’s my favourite position. I also enjoy playing deeper, but growing up I was always that attacking midfielder.””

– Christoph Baumgartner

His ability to press high and energetically, combined with an unerring knack for finding pockets of space between opposition lines, make him a constant threat when he roams as the player behind the main striker.

As a young number ten finding his feet in Germany, it’s pretty predictable that he’s been compared to Mesut Ozil. And, while Baumgartner undeniably possesses a killer pass and is more than capable of delivering for colleagues, his more ‘all-round’ style of play makes a comparison with Thomas Muller more fitting.

The Austrian’s relentlessly fierce pressing, ability to easily find dangerous spaces and goal-scoring touch certainly suggests he is an attacking midfielder more in the mould of the Bayern Munich legend.

“Baumi, in particular, does the work in behind opposing defences very well. In the beginning, the last punch was often missing, but it’s since become more and more successful for him. We’ve always seen his potential.”

– Alfred Schreuder

Alfred Schreuder

Former Hoffenheim head coach Alfred Schreuder is now Barcelona assistant manager / Pool/Getty Images

“Baumi is an extremely talented player with strong technical skills and a good sense for space in attack. As a result, he always develops solutions in tight game situations and is also dangerous around goal.”

– Alexander Rosen

“He definitely has what it takes to play many, many Bundesliga games. You can see that he’s a great footballer.”

– Oliver Baumann

You will currently find Baumgartner – or ‘Baumi’ if you prefer – at a base overall rating of 76 which, with the right game time and training, could rise to 84 – although expect this to be significantly higher in FIFA 22.

Valued at £15m and paid a weekly salary of around £21k, you’d need a decent budget to invest in the youngster but with stats that make him a competent dribbler, potentially lethal finisher and rapid and creative attacking midfielder, he’s worth the punt.

Unfortunately, there’s no ‘wonderkid’ tag for Baumgartner but at just £2m and with a salary of £8k, he is a wise investment.

He’s best suited to the deep-lying playmaker role in the game but is also able to play any role across attack and midfield – that’s versatility for you. The Austrian also has strong physical and mental stats while his shooting ability is there for all to see and, with a lot of room for development, he can progress to a key player in the future.

Having recently picked up the very sleek-looking adidas Nemeziz 19+ boots, he will likely don a Euro 2020 variant of those.

What is not certain about ‘Baumi’s’ Euro 2020 campaign is where he will play; what is certain is that he’ll play.

He’s featured across the front three for Franco Foda’s side since his debut and it was only in March that he was finally utilised as a number ten – although that has been the case twice in his last four caps, including against England.

In any case, the 21-year-old’s record of three goals and two assists in nine appearances for his nation proves his importance to the side and, with the likes of David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer, Marko Arnautovic and Sasa Kalajdzic around him, he could be the creative and dynamic pivot that thrusts Austria through to the knockout stage.

Keep an eye out.