First Team The nightmare of last season's European Championship is but a distant memory and come 3rd July, all your players will be readily available for use in pre-season friendlies.
The summer transfer window saw several key players leave the club, most notably Ömer Toprak (Dortmund), Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan), Javier Hernandez (West Ham) and Kevin Kampl (Leipzig). Sven Bender and Panagiotis Retsos were signed to cover the departure of Toprak and Kyriakos Papadopoulos (HSV) while Dominik Kohr provided some stability in the centre of a now hollow-looking midfield. The transfer window closed with the signing of Lucas Alario still in limbo, however the deal was eventually finalised.
Update: The mid-season transfer window saw the departure of André Ramalho and Admir Mehmedi so it's up to you whether or not you want to keep those changes but thankfully FM Editor is a charm and I feature them in my squad, therefore they will also feature here.
Position GK | Age 25 | Key Player Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Leno has come under a lot of scrutiny this season, particularly for his mediocre performances in the World Cup friendlies. Despite that, there's no hiding how crucial he has been to Leverkusen's campaign and he's still got a very long time left to improve. You should look to keep him in your squad for as long as possible, to the point where he ends up retiring at the club as a backup, unless you're offered such a substantial amount of money that you can find a better option for less elsewhere.
Position GK | Age 33 | Backup Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
"Rambo" Özcan earnt his transfer to the club when his performances for FC Ingolstadt achieved promotion to the Bundesliga. He's still a solid, reliable backup goalkeeper and will not fail to provide security when you need it most, but that won't be the case for long and I would suggest letting his contract expire in 2019.
Position GK | Age 24 | Backup Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
A product of the Leverkusen youth academy, he is capable of becoming a solid backup or following a loan spell or two may possibly unlock some kind of hidden potential. Take a chance or move him on, but there are definitely better prospects in the youth squad and personally I would give one of them a chance instead.
Positions RB, LB | Age 20 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Following an impressive breakout season last year, Henrichs has done well to build on that and we see more balanced attributes from last year's edition of the game. Definitely a good player for his age and can feature in your starting eleven straight off the bat, although he faces stiff competition in his natural positions. I would recommend that he fills in at left-back whenver Wendell needs a break, and spends the rest of the time rotating with Lars Bender and Retsos at right-back. Try not to sell unless the price is right; a decent full-back is a difficult thing to find this year.
Positions RB/CB | Age 21 | Rotation Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Jedvaj has been tipped as a rising star since we were all in nappies, but some of us are sick and tired of waiting around for something to happen. To be fair to him, opportunities have been scarce and he is yet to be given the opportunity he needs to break into the first team. Either play him more regularly and see what he can develop into, or send him out on loan so that he can really prove himself without having to put a hold on the development of others such as Tah and Retsos.
Positions CB, RB | Age 18 | Rotation Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
He'd already broken into the first team by the time I'd learnt how to spell his name without looking it up. What a fantastic signing this was, and proof that when it comes to signing young players, Leverkusen always get it right. At the tender age of 18, his attributes are already well toned-out and he can play the role of the fast, ball-playing centre-back that proves so popular in the Bundesliga. Try to give him as much playing time as possible in order to get the most out of his promising potential.
Positions CB, DM | Age 28 | Key Player Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
I'll be honest, when I heard this deal had gone through I was less than impressed. Toprak was a phenomenal centre-back on his day, but credit where credit is due because the twins are back together, and that can only be good for squad morale. Seriously though, when you look past the hefty fee there wasn't anyone else who could provide the experience, versatility, quality and influence in the centre of defence to mount a title challenge from the word go, and the fact he can weild the captain's armband at a moment's notice is an unexpected bonus. The tricky part will be getting rid of both him and his brother at the same time, and to the same club, but I suggest waiting a couple of years first.
Position CB | Age 21 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Lacklustre work rate and determination are all that hold this man back; a solid first-team player at just 21 but we haven't seen any improvement in his attributes or performances from last year and it remains to be seen as to whether or not that is a good thing. Either way, it's safe to assume that this man will be a good, solid centre-back in the future barring a really disappointing development and unless you receive a ridiculous amount of money and manage to secure a replacement such as Dayot Upamecano, you'd be best off riding it out and seeing how he does.
Positions CB, DM | Age 25 | Rotation Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Not the reason I decided to undo the club's transfer business in the winter, but by all accounts Ramalho can provide strong cover in the centre of defence and midfield. As it stands, however, there is more than enough cover in both positions so you might want to loan him back out and see if he unlocks some hidden potential, or see if you can get more for him than the mediocre €800,000 profit the club managed to make.
Positions CB, LB | Age 26 | Rotation Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
When the end of the season rolls around, you will have to decide whether or not his performances merit a place in the squad but at the same time you'll have to bear in mind that with Tah and Retsos, space in the centre of your defence will be limited. At the same time, so is your cover at left-back and if you decide to get rid of Dragovic then you should consider looking for a young player to fill in on the left so as not to put too much pressure on Wendell and Henrichs.
Position LB | Age 24 | First Team Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Similar to Jedvaj, there was once plenty of promise for Wendell. What has instead followed has been a slow and steady improvement that has seen him retain his place at left-back but more due to the lack of better options than anything else. His natural pace and ability to send in a good cross have worked to his advantage and allowed him to continue to impress but consistency is definitely not his strong suit and he also continuously runs the risk of suspension due to his high aggression. It's important to remember though that, as previously stated, decent full-backs are a scarce commodity this year and you should keep him at the club unless you have someone better and ready to play the very next day.
Positions DM, RB | Age 28 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
The club captain is annoyingly awkward to fit into your squad due to his attributes. Lacking a little bit in pace makes it hard for him to be an effective right-back if you like your full-backs to overlap and will also hinder the development of Henrichs, whilst playing him in defensive midfield is often preferred but means you have to rotate between him and the two others available. Instead, look to rotate him between the two and see that his last few years at the club are put to good use, before finding a new captain and putting him out to pasture.
Position DM | Age 29 | Rotation Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
A dreadful debut season last year means that Julian is left with little time to turn his Leverkusen career around, which is a shame because his attributes look so promising. At first glance he appears to have all the makings of an Austrian Kante but look closer and you'll discover a lack of vision and mediocre mental stats that are essential when you're playing in the heart of midfield, such as composure and decision-making. What might just be worse than his below-par performances is the fact that his lucrative contract doesn't expire until 2020, so either see if you can get some money for him first or use the extra time wisely to find a long-term replacement for him and Aranguiz.
Positions DM, CM | Age 23 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
A product of the youth department returning home to put to bed our haunting memories of Baumgartlinger's performances last season. This can be the long-term replacement you so desperately need, but he has to find the playing time immediately as he makes his way towards his peak. So far he has put in fantastic performances that go a long way towards proving what he is capable of, and if that is mirrored in-game then you shouldn't have to worry about reinforcing this position for a while. Having said all that, we have to be realistic and acknowledge that Kohr lacks the potential to be anything more than a decent first-team player and you may well fancy a more promising alternative.
Positions DM/CM | Age 18 | Hot Prospect Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
This is that promising alternative. Bursting to the core with potential, Atakan is capable of being gelled into either an attacking or defensive midfielder but the best case is an all-round answer to Aranguiz' pending retirement. We're not just talking about the future of the team however, as highly-touted as this kid is out there in the real world, this may well be the future of German defensive midfielders. Try to keep him at all costs, and make sure he gets some first-team experience from the first season. Don't rush him straight in though, it's imperative that you ease him in to get the best out of his potential.
Positions CM, DM | Age 28 | First Team Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
At first glance yes, it's true, the stats aren't much. But the mental ability is really important, and it's what gives Charles his power. This is the conduit around which your team is built, and should be built around for at least the next 2 years. The stamina and work rate will pay dividends as you only have Bender and Kohr to provide cover in the centre of midfield, combined with good natural fitness and consistency to ensure that he makes it onto the team sheet every single week. You'll need the 2 years to find a replacement.
Positions CM/AM | Age 21 | Youngster Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
This isn't the promising alternative. As a matter of fact I'm unsure as to why André Ramalho was let go but Frey has managed to retain his place in the squad. The only reasoning I can think of is his age; yet to be written off completely, he's in dire need of a career-making loan spell in order to prove that he can one day be worth your time. As it currently stands, Yurchenko takes preference and looks set to continue to do so.
Positions AM/CM | Age 23 | Backup Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Clearly underwent the same training as Çalhanoğlu because he's ended up with attributes remarkably similar, if a bit worse. He does a job as a reliable, versatile backup player who has often come on and done something surprising for me in the past and still looks capable of such feats in this year's edition of the game. Worth keeping at the club to maintan depth and give opportunities to improve but ultimately won't amount to anything game-breaking so just a matter of trying to get as much as possible for him.
Positions AM, CM | Age 18 | Rotation Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Never has a title been more justified, a prodigy more rightfully hyped about. We have seen nothing but good things from Kai Havertz since his emphatic breakthrough season last year, and he has earnt the right to be referred to as "the next Mesut Ozil". We can only hope then that Ozil continues to improve because this man is capable of anything - of becoming anything. To have a player of this calibre in your team is something very few clubs can boast, and you should make sure that you maintain that bragging right because if your team played at their career best then this would be your best player. Described by those around him as "the most complete player I have seen at his age", Kai will feel most at home in central attacking midfield, just behind the striker(s), but can also play just about anywhere else besides defence and in goal. Having said that, I may have even tried him out at left-back last season...
Positions LM, RM | Age 21 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained at Club Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Once held in such high regard as Havertz, we now find him gracing the national team. Having reached this landmark in his career, however, seems to be slowing his progress down a little and hopefully his performances bounce back again in the near future so he can reach the expectations we once held for him. Even having said this, he is still an exceptional talent who continues to give his all for the club and must be held at least partially accountable for the club's success this year. A similar type of player to Maximilian Meyer, he relies on keeping a cool head and using his early maturity to boss proceedings at the head of the attack, feeding through faster players and creating chance after chance after chance. Do not let him go for anything less than a nine-figure sum.
Positions RM, LM | Age 20 | Key Player Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Further proof that when signing young players, Leverkusen always get it right. It took Bailey all of 6 months to break into the first-team squad and now he has, we can finally see what he's really capable of. Those of you who remember his attribute spread from last season will remember a player who is fast and can dribble, but this season you will be given a much more well-rounded player who smacks of instant first-team ability and still has so much time to improve. Leon rounds out what is undesputedly the greatest attacking midfield trio of young talent in the world, and like his counterparts should not be sold for anything less than a nine-figure sum. His left-footedness is best utilised on the right-wing so that he may cut inside and unleash hell upon the unfortunate defenders who await.
Position RM | Age 27 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Officially bears the title of "unluckiest player in the world", just as I was warming up to Karim having witnessed his drive and determination for the team, and his willingness to fulfil defensive duties off the ball despite being an attacking winger. How unfortunate you have to be to possess such raw talent and fantastic ability, only to be stuck behind the three most promising talents the club may ever have. The only saving grace for you and Karim is that Havertz will not expect first-team football immediately and so with Brandt in AM and Bailey on the left wing, you can just about make it work. It's entirely up to you whether or not you try though, because at the age of 27 he's not going to last as long as his teammates and would probably attract a sizeable fee that could go towards buying some less-talented cover out on the wings.
Position AM | Age 18 | Hot Prospect Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
The aforementioned "less-talented cover out on the wings". Signed only last year as yet another potential youth prodigy, we are yet to see anything exceptional from Schreck barring a less-than-aspiring second name. What is perhaps most daunting is the lack of versatility for a supposed "winger", seemingly having no natural role to speak of yet and possessing limited comfort out on the left despite being predominantly right-footed. Nonetheless, you can loan him out for experience or keep him for the cup games but don't expect any resemblance to other youth players for the time being.
Positions LM/ST | Age 26 | Rotation Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Rather more amusing than seeing "that" facial expression is the lack of recognision in-game for his ridiculous versatility, Admir will play wherever you want him to play because frankly he's just happy for the game time. Currently in possession of a high work-rate and decent pace to match, cover doesn't get much better than this and it's only due to Wolfsburg's willingness to pay off the €8m we paid for him in the first place that saw him leave. This is an entirely personal choice but you'll be hard-pressed to find someone else in the game who is as good to cover for your star players and not demand ridiculous wages or game time. Of course, you should sell him eventually because you need to get that €8m back...
Positions ST, RM | Age 25 | First Team Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
Finally grabbed the opportunity to step out of Chicharito's shadow and establish himself as the first-choice striker, Volland has come through this season and delivered consistently good performances to show why Leverkusen paid €20 million for him two seasons ago. An incredible work ethic, beaten only by a world-class footballing mind makes what might possibly be one of the best defensive strikers in the world, make sure to get the most out of Volland by utiliting him as someone who sits up front and chases everything until someone makes a mistake. As if this guy needed an added bonus, he's perfectly capable of filling in a sort of Pedro-esque role out on the wings as a space investigator but should predominantly be left to his own devices at the forefront of the attack.
Position ST | Age 24 | First Team Home Grown Status None Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
I've gotta say, I've known about this guy for a little while and I'll be the first one to admit that I was extremely over-hyped for the transfer to go through. It's a difficult business being a successful striker in the top tier of Argentinian football, but Alario was and he earnt the chance to shine on the European stage. Sadly, although he's had some very good performances, he lacks the consistency so far to be as effective as I'd like and hopefully that can change as you dive into your save because this is as good as an all-round striker can get on his wages. Keep until he reaches similar heights to Chicharito and then sell in an equally-spectacular fashion.
Position ST | Age 33 | Rotation Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
This year will see a pleasant career come to an end for Stefan, the best you can do is try to win something for him. There's nobody on your team who can dominate the airspace above your opponent's penalty box as well as Kießling so if you're going to use him at all then it'll probably be as a Fellaini-esque "super sub".
Position ST | Age 22 | Rotation Home Grown Status Trained in Nation Rating ★★★★★ | Potential ★★★★★
I'd love to slate this guy off because boy was I on the hype train at the start of last season. Joel is the definition of super sub; two games he comes on as a substitute and scores four goals between them. Sadly Joel didn't end up meeting the potential he could have perhaps met in a different lifetime, but if you send him out on loan then he might change your mind. Otherwise, keep him as a backup striker in case you're 2-1 down with half an hour left.