Football Features

Signed for £11m, sold for £90m: Nine players Stuttgart picked up before they became superstars

By CJ Smith

Former Stuttgart players

Published: 15:30, 11 July 2023

For the second season running, VfB Stuttgart held onto their spot in the Bundesliga by the skin of their teeth, needing the relegation play-off to stay in the top flight.

But Die Roten are a club with a rich history, having been Bundesliga champions five times (most recently in 2006/07) while also winning three DFB-Pokals and a German Super Cup.

Over the years, Stuttgart has also proven to be a hotbed for talent, with many players using the club as a stepping stone before moving on to bigger, more illustrious pastures.

So, which players have Stuttgart picked up and nurtured before flipping them for a tidy profit? Let’s take a look.

Bernd Leno

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £6.7m
  • Current club: Fulham

Signed to be Arsenal’s Petr Cech replacement as the Gunners looked to move to a more modern style of goalkeeper, Bernd Leno cut his teeth in the German third tier with Stuttgart’s reserve side before moving to Bayer Leverkusen in August 2011, initially on loan before signing permanently for around £6.7m. To date, he’s been capped nine times for Germany at senior level, falling behind the likes of Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in contention. Leno is now at Fulham and kept 144 saves as they secured a top-half finish in the 2022/23 campaign.

Antonio Rudiger

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £8m
  • Current club: Real Madrid

Antonio Rudiger didn’t have the smoothest of rides at Chelsea but he was key to them winning the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel in 2020/21, thanks in part to his ability with the ball at his feet. That is in no small part thanks to his time with Stuttgart, where he progressed through the youth ranks and became first-choice at the heart of their defence before moving on to AS Roma for £8m in 2015. Real Madrid are no doubt the latest club that’ll have to send their thanks to Stuttgart.

Benjamin Pavard

  • Signed for: £4.5m
  • Sold for: £31.4m
  • Current club: Bayern Munich

Scorer of one of the most satisfying goals you’ll ever see for France against Argentina during the 2018 World Cup, Benjamin Pavard has quickly established himself as one of the most reliable right-back-cum-centre-backs in Europe over the past couple of years. However, it wasn’t just his performances for France, which earned him a £31.4m move to Bayern Munich. It was also because of his role in helping Stuttgart (who he joined from Lille for just £4.5m) win the 2. Bundesliga title in 2016/17 and his adjustment to top-flight football thereafter which caught the eye.

Joshua Kimmich

  • Signed for: £600,000
  • Sold for: £6m
  • Current club: Bayern Munich

Joshua Kimmich’s path to Bayern Munich wasn’t quite as straightforward as you might think. Now a mainstay with the Bundesliga champions and German national team, Kimmich first made the grade in the Stuttgart youth academy before transferring to RB Leipzig in July 2013. Stuttgart, however, were smart enough to put a buy-back clause of around €750,000 into the deal, activating in January 2015 before immediately selling him on to Bayern for €7m. The rest, as they say, is history.

Sami Khedira

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £12.5m
  • Current club: Retired

Sami Khedira was one of the finest and, perhaps, most underrated holding midfielders in Europe over the past decade or so but for all his achievements with Real Madrid, Juventus and Germany, it’s worth remembering it all started at Stuttgart. Khedira made 22 Bundesliga appearances for Die Roten during their 2006/07 title success and remained with the club for another three seasons before departing for Los Blancos in a deal worth around £12.5m.

Serge Gnabry

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £100k
  • Current club: Bayern Munich

Would you look at that. The same Stuttgart youth team that produced Joshua Kimmich was also responsible for the development of his Bayern Munich teammate, Serge Gnabry. Gnabry’s path to Bayern is arguably even more convoluted than Kimmich’s. It involved failing to find success with Arsenal (who he joined from Stuttgart for just £100k in 2011), enduring a failed loan spell at West Brom and refining his touch in front of goal with Werder Bremen and Hoffenheim before finally rocking up at the Allianz Arena in 2018.

Sebastian Rudy

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £3.5m
  • Current club: Hoffenheim

Sebastian Rudy was nothing more than a bit-part player after emerging from the Stuttgart youth system and left the club in 2010, signing for Hoffenheim in a £3.5m deal. Since then, he’s also turned out for Schalke and Bayern Munich, as well as picking up 29 caps with the German national team.

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Filip Kostic

  • Signed for: £5.4m
  • Sold for: £12.5m
  • Current club: Juventus

Filip Kostic was Eintracht Frankfurt’s main man, providing assists for the likes of Luka Jovic, Ante Rebic and Andre Silva over the years from the left and helping them secure the Europa League last year before moving onto Juventus. But let’s not forget his time in German football began with a two-season spell at Stuttgart. Kostic scored eight goals in 59 Bundesliga appearances for the club before heading to Hamburg for £12.5m in 2016. Quite the profit on the £5.4m Stuttgart paid Groningen for his services in 2014.

Timo Werner

  • Signed for: £0
  • Sold for: £9m
  • Current club: RB Leipzig.

Yes, that was Timo Werner you spotted alongside Rudiger earlier on. The RB Leipzig striker made a name for himself terrorising German defences with Die Roten Bullen, scoring over 100 goals for the club either side of a stint in London with Chelsea. However, it was at Stuttgart where Werner learned the ropes, bagging a much less prolific 14 goals in 103 appearances across all competitions, although he did find himself deployed as an out-and-out winger more often in those days.

Further demonstrating Stuttgart’s clout when it comes to youth development, the likes of Sead Kolasinac and Thilo Kehrer both spent time in the club’s academy before moving on to Schalke 04, while Holger Badstuber and Mario Gomez both returned to Stuttgart after long, trophy-laden spells with the likes of Bayern Munich and Besiktas.