Axel Witsel finished third at the World Cup with Belgium. Photo: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters

BERLIN – The 2018/19 Bundesliga kicks off on Friday when champions Bayern Munich host Hoffenheim. AFP Sport looks at six key signings:

Axel Witsel 
(BEL/Borussia Dortmund, 29 years old)

Having finished third at the World Cup with Belgium, the central midfielder is expected to take up a key role at Dortmund since his 20 million euros ($22.9 milliom) transfer from Tianjin Quanjian. Witsel came off the bench and scored the equaliser in Monday's 2-1 German Cup, first-round win at Greuther Fuerth before captain Marco Reus scored the winner deep into extra time. However, having played in the Belgian, Portuguese, Russian and Chinese leagues, there are question marks about how Witsel will cope with the more physically demanding Bundesliga.

Davy Klaasen
(NED/Werder Bremen, 25)

After making his Champions League debut at 18 at Ajax, Klaassen has joined Werder Bremen following a disappointing high-profile move to Everton last season. Bremen have splashed out 13.5 million euros on the attacking midfielder who had the late Johann Cruyff as one of his admirers. "You have to have a strong positional game, strong ball control and the technique to handle midfield speed and Xavi, Toni Kroos and Davy Klaassen can do that," said Cruyff in 2014.

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Alassane Plea
(FRA/Borussia Moenchengladbach, 25)

He showed he has an eye for goal with a hat-trick on his competition debut last Sunday when Gladbach romped to an 11-1 win over minnows Hastedt in the first-round of the German Cup. Costing 23 million euros, he is the most expensive transfer in the club's history. He joins Borussia after scoring 44 goals and setting up 23 more in 135 games for Nice. "He's a versatile, fast and intelligent attacker, who has proven his qualities," said Gladbach's director of sport Max Eberl.

Alassane Plea attends a press conference in Nice's colours. Photo: Sergei Karpukhi/Reuters
Alassane Plea attends a press conference in Nice's colours. Photo: Sergei Karpukhi/Reuters

Paulinho
(BRA/Bayer Leverkusen, 18)

Not to be confused with the 30-year-old Barcelona midfielder, on loan at Guangzhou Evergrande who has the same name, the teenager Paulinho is a winger, who cost Leverkusen 18.5 million euros and has already impressed. "He doesn't look like someone who could still play youth football," said Leverkusen's director Rudi Voeller. "He is full of self-confidence and wants to have the ball to show what he can do." Nevertheless, the Brazilian faces some stiff competition with Jamaica's Leon Bailey and Germany's Julian Brandt currently ahead of him in the pecking order on the left wing.

Kasim Adams Nuhu
(GHA, Hoffenheim, 23)

The Ghana international defender won the Swiss league with Young Boys Bern last season after cutting his teeth with Real Mallorca for two seasons in the Spanish league. At 1.90m tall, he is a solid presence at the back and a powerful header. He cost eight million euros, and Hoffenheim hope he will be a force to be reckoned with when they make their Champions League debut in 2018/19.

Matheus Cunha
(BRA, RB Leipzig, 19)

Leipzig have uncovered yet another exciting, young prospect. The teenager scored 10 goals last season and set up another eight for Swiss club FC Sion and looks likely to transfer his talents to the German league. The centre forward already has two goals in four Europa League qualifiers so far this season. Having cost 15 million euros, Leipzig coach Ralf Rangnick describes the fleet-footed Cunha as a "very interesting striker" who has "developed impressively" in recent months.

Leipzig have uncovered yet another exciting, young prospect in Matheus Cunha. Photo: www.bundesligafanatic.com
Leipzig have uncovered yet another exciting, young prospect in Matheus Cunha. Photo: www.bundesligafanatic.com

Agence France-Presse (AFP)