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Five things about Hoffenheim defender and Chelsea target Niklas Sule

Niklas Sule starred for Germany as part of the under-23 team that won the silver medal at the Olympic Games in Rio and has been linked with a move to Chelsea. The 21-year-old opted to stay at Hoffenheim this summer, but has been tipped for a great future.

Here are five things you need to know about the defender.

He scored 100 goals in one season

When Sule joined Hoffenheim's youth academy in 2010, the club believed they had signed a hugely talented attacker as he had scored over 100 goals as an U10 for his first club Rot-Weiss Walldorf.

"He played attacker or central midfield back then," his dad Georg told Spox in August. While Sule added: "I was really a super attacker."

But in his first season with Hoffenheim's U15 team, the side were left without any centre-back and because of his height he was moved into defence. "And it appears I did a good job. I've been centre-back ever since," he later said.

Sule was invited to train with Hoffenheim's first-team soon after and, less than three years later, he made his first-team debut amid a battle to avoid relegation. In only his second Bundesliga match, he was brought on as a late substitute for Roberto Firmino when Hoffenheim were leading 2-1 at Champions League finalists Borussia Dortmund and needed all three points to stay up. Sule remained calm and kept Robert Lewandowski at bay.

Jerome Boateng is his role-model

The towering 6-foot-4 defender might not look up to a lot of players on the pitch, but of course he has role-models and Bayern Munich and Germany defender Jerome Boateng is one of them. "I learn a lot by watching him. He's already there where I want to be," Sule told Sport1 in November, months after winning his first cap for Germany in Bastian Schweinsteiger's farewell match against Finland.

Sule already has a good positional sense, is strong in the air and, after changing his diet and losing weight, has a more powerful approach on the pitch these days. He sometimes reminds of a young Vincent Kompany, but is still learning to become as good on the ball and as elegant as the Manchester City defender.

He is the first Hoffenheim academy player to debut for Germany

At just 21, Sule is rapidly closing in on his 100th Bundesliga match. Following his debut in the 2012-2013 season, he soon worked his way through the ranks and had made 42 top flight appearances by December 2014, when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

"I was away from it all for eight months," he said. "It helped me in my development, and made me stronger mentally. And I tried to come back better than before. I think it worked out."

Last season, he started all but the final match of the season. His consistency and composure brought him to the attention of Europe's elite and also won him a place in Germany's 2016 Olympic squad. After winning the silver medal for his country, he became the first Hoffenheim academy graduate to play for Germany's senior XI this summer.

He turned down offers this summer

Following his breakthrough season in Germany and his performances at the Olympic Games, incoming Chelsea boss Antonio Conte identified the German as one of the best options to bolster his club's defence. But Sule, under contract at Hoffenheim until 2019, opted to stay at the club for at least another season.

"I just feel fine here, and thus I stayed in the summer. I want to continue my development, and have success with the club," Sule said in November, and cited the club's young coach, Julian Nagelsmann as the man to continue his career with, rather than move to London.

"We have a different plan for every situation on the pitch, can adjust our system. We can play a three-man, four-man and five-man defence and change systems during the match. His plan worked from day one."

His brother, Fabian, plays for St. Francis College in New York

Three years older than Niklas, his brother Fabian was also destined for a career in football. But he opted to walk another path instead because of a metatarsal fracture and an anterior cruciate ligament tear during his formative years.

"Fabian was equally talented, especially technically," Niklas told fussball.de earlier this year. "Maybe he did not have enough will to make it all the way to the top. But in spite of that he is one of my footballing role-models."

As they grew up in the rural town of Walldorf in Germany's south west, the brothers would spend every free hour playing football either on a local five-a-side pitch or in their own garden.

These days, Fabian plays for St. Francis College in Brooklyn where he also studies business management, economics and finance.