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Tom Rothe: Borussia Dortmund teenager breaking Bundesliga records

7:00 PM GMT+8 21/04/2022
Tom Rothe NXGN GFX
The 17-year-old became the youngest player ever to score on his German top-flight debut against Wolfsburg, crowning a fine first year with the club

"Not so bad."

That was Tom Rothe's assessment when he was shown a replay of his first professional goal by Sky Sports, the full-back heading in a corner to crown his Borussia Dortmund debut against Wolfsburg on April 16.

The strike made Rothe the youngest player to ever find the net on their Bundesliga bow, doing so at the age of 17 years and 169 days - an achievement that is a bit more than just "not so bad".

"Tom did an excellent job," said Dortmund boss Marco Rose at full time. "Of course, the goal gave him more self-confidence and even more security.

"For his age and the circumstances, he plays very calmly."

Though Rothe's surprise selection came in part due to injuries to Raphael Guerreiro and Thorgan Hazard. That he was chosen to start by Rose ahead of Germany international Nico Schulz highlights just how highly he is thought of at Signal-Iduna Park.

"Tom is brutally ambitious," Mike Tullberg, Dortmund's Under-19s manager, tells GOAL and SPOX. "He has done the most training sessions with us, completes the most sprints, eats the healthiest food and has the best stamina. He's a top professional through and through."

Rothe has shone under Tullberg after joining Dortmund from St. Pauli in the summer of 2021, providing three goals and 11 assists across all competitions for the recently crowned U19 Bundesliga West champions.

"He's a great boy, but he should still be an U17s player and go to school," Tullberg continues. "That's why you have to be careful with him that things don't go too fast."

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That might be difficult after Rothe's headline-grabbing senior debut, with it likely he will now train with the first-team squad for a prolonged period for the first time since pre-season.

That is not to say that he does not fit in, especially from a physical point of view, with his 6'3 (192cm) frame making him one of the taller members of the Dortmund squad.

That physical stature is matched with excellent stamina and speed, while his game intelligence and quality in possession mark him out as the ideal modern full-back, even if players in his position are generally much shorter.

"He's strong in the air and his crosses are great," Tullberg details, while Rothe's diagonal passes from left to right have not gone unnoticed among those who have watched him regularly, as well as the calmness he shows both with and without the ball.

He is versatile, too, having been deployed at times on the left-hand side of a back three, while being as comfortable playing as a left-back in a back four as he is when giving more licence to get forward as a wing-back.

The senior coaching staff had been toying with promoting him to the first-team squad on a more regular basis in recent months, but were reluctant to disturb his education by constantly moving him between teams.

At international level, meanwhile, Rothe has earned himself a promotion, after making his Germany U19s debut in March, as he appeared in three of their European Championship qualifiers.

That is just the latest new experience for the 17-year-old, who has been away from his family for the first time over the course of his debut season at Dortmund having settled into a room at the club's boarding school at their training ground in Brackel.

Rothe, though, has shown that he has the mentality to deal with such changes, even if there are improvements he can still make to his game.

"He still has a lot to learn," says Tullberg, citing Rothe's positional play and defensive tackles that need further work, while he still has to learn how to properly cover for his team-mates if they find themselves out of position.

At Dortmund, though, they firmly believe that Rothe can overcome all these challenges and become a star of the first team.

"He's one of those players who you can say has what it takes to get to the top," Tullberg concludes.

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