Are Schalke Germany’s Barcelona?
It’s an exciting time in Gelsenkirchen. We all know how sought after Julian Draxler is, with the 20-year old attracting huge interest from Arsenal in the January transfer window. But there is another talent coming through the Schalke youth system, and he isn’t waiting to fill Draxler’s shoes - he’s making an immediate impact.
February 18th, 2014
For those who don’t really follow German football that closely, you may be unaware that there is a 17-year old attacking midfielder who is making waves at the Veltins Arena. Of course much of the talk has been about 20-year old playmaker Julian Draxler, who attracted huge interest from our mate Arsene over at Arsenal. However the Frenchman reverted to old ways and decided that £37 million was too much for one of the most exciting youth prospects in the world, who’s already having a hug impact for his club. I mean, come on Arsene, this pass alone has got to be worth £20 million?!
But waiting in the wings is the fantastically named Maximilian Meyer, ready to fill the void when Draxler inevitably goes in the summer. Except, Meyer isn’t waiting. He’s making an impact right now. People first started to take notice when Meyer, an attacking midfielder, was named top goalscorer and ‘Player of the Tournament’ at the Under-17 European Championships. And he’s certainly in good company. Nuri Sahin, Toni Kroos, Cesc Fabregas and Wayne Rooney have all won the same accolade, and look where they are now.
In his first game for the Royal Blues as a fresh faced 17-year old, he came on as a substitute, went on a mazy run and set up Michel Bastos for Schalke’s second against FSV Mainz 05. And this season he’s making an even bigger impact; scoring 5 times and providing one assist in 11 games. That’s a good return for a player who has largely played in wide positions thanks to his versatility.
But why are the Gelsenkirchen club so good at producing top quality youngsters? In recent years the following have passed through the Shalke academy: Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer, Benedikt Howedes, Ilkay Gundogan, Joel Matip, Julian Draxler and of course, Max Meyer. The club has always placed a large emphasis on the youth teams, and that’s why such a top crop of players have come through at the club. They look for players who are technical, play for the team, but are able to make independent decisions in order to get out of situations. Their aim is to develop and bring through one or two players, of absolute top quality, from each youth team. When you think that they have teams from under-9 through to under-23, that’s a lot of world class talent coming through the doors at the Veltins.
Their issue would appear to be keeping hold of their top players. They aren’t like the Manchester Citys, the Barcelonas and the Real Madrids of this world who have the resources to pump lots of money into the youth academy, but then keep the players; unfortunately for Schalke they continue to have to sell. But with talent constantly coming through it’s not as if they’re short of players to fill the gaps left by the likes of Draxler and Meyer.
It’s unsurprising then, that the Premier League clubs, including Chelsea and Arsenal, are looking at these young German talents. And the scariest thing is, there’s no sign of it letting up. As soon as Draxler moves on, there’s Meyer and Leon Goretzka, who has been likened to Michael Ballack. Much like the Spanish have enjoyed a Golden Period thanks to Barcelona, I get the feeling before long it will be the Germans on top thanks to Schalke and Bayern Munich. If you haven’t seen these players in action, I urge you to watch them in any way you can. You’ll see exactly why they’re so coveted.