Not a question of potential
Managing workload is top of the agenda in Jonathan Burkardt’s development – the 19-year-old forward is the Zerofivers’ top scorer so far in the preseason
It’s undeniable that intense training sessions with a focus on attack have borne fruit so far this preseason. 21 goals in two games prove that resoundingly. The top scorer in the victories over the “FuPa Rheinhessen Allstars” (12-0) and Sportfreunde Eisbachtal (9-0)? That would be up-and-coming striker Jonathan Burkardt, who scored a hat-trick in each game. Burkardt, who turned 19 on Thursday, will look to add to his tally on Saturday (17:00 CEST) when Mainz face SV Gonsenheim in their third friendly of the preseason.
Burkhardt has undoubtedly been one of the standout performers from Sandro Schwarz’s side in the first two games, although the striker was only on the pitch for 45 minutes in each instance. “He made some good runs, didn’t stray offside too often, and gave 100 percent the entire time he was on the pitch. That’s probably his biggest strength. He’s always alert to what’s happening around him and presses the opponent hard whenever we lose the ball. Jonny made a very good impression in both friendlies,” said Schwarz.
A young athlete
Some Mainz fans who don’t regularly follow training might well think that the Zerofivers had brought in a new player. The blonde youngster has certainly changed. The once lanky youth player who made four Bundesliga appearances last season has blossomed into a true athlete. He’s making it clear with his actions on the pitch that he should not be ignored in the competition to start up front come matchday 1 of the new campaign. With his pace, his fleet of foot, his technical skills and precise shooting technique, on top of his ability to be relentless, the 19-year-old has been almost impossible to deal with for a lot of the amateur defenders he has faced.
Burkardt has become fitter, gained muscle, and looks quick on his feet. The fact that the highly talented forward has reached this level is largely down to how his workload has been managed. “It was important that we worked with him individually towards the end of last campaign to ensure he was ready for the preseason,” said Schwarz. In April, Burkardt was removed almost completely from playing duties so that he could focus fully on athletic training. The youth international also started his preseason training a week prior to the rest of the first team players. “He’s made a very good impression so far,” explained his coach.
The importance of game time
It wasn’t easy to convince a youngster that had just completed a strong summer of preseason training a year ago that his path to becoming a regular first team player might be a long one. “You have to be straight up and explain exactly why he wasn’t playing. It was important for him to get game time with the Under-19s and then with the Under-23s after that. He needed to understand that this wasn’t a punishment, rather an important step in his development. Game time is important, regardless of which team it’s with,” explains Schwarz. “The most important step in the development of young players is that they train every day with the first team. It has been crucial for Jonny to get a whole year of that.”
In what is now his second season, the striker has reached a good level. But you can never be too careful. “With Burkardt it’s not a question of talent or potential. He’s had a few injuries in the past. Therefore it’s important that his body is strong enough to deal with the intensity that comes with Bundesliga football week in, week out.”