Donis Avdijaj 20 Striker Schalke 04 Germany
One of Schalke 04’s cohort of talented young forwards, Donis Avdijaj is the classic emotionally motivated young showman. He was born in Osnabrück but his background is Kosovar, a tension that’s become a feature of his career as his international debut beckons. Avdijaj switched from Osnabrück Jugend to Schalke as a teenager and was a phenomenal goalscorer at youth levels.
2016 has been…
Short of expectations, largely because of injury. Avdijaj spent 2015 on loan in Austria at Sturm Graz, a deal that extended into the summer of this year. He worked well under Franco Froda, who managed his spiky charge well both mentally and in terms of his football development.
He missed a large chunk of 2015/16 through injury, starting just 17 Austrian Bundesliga games, scoring three times. But when he was available, he had an impact. One of those goals came in a 3-1 win over Grödig in which he scored the equaliser thirteen minutes from time and set up two goals in injury time. Injuries notwithstanding, Avdijaj did his reputation a lot of good during his loan.
The player loved the fans in Graz too, but his return to Schalke promised much. By October, though, things weren’t looking so great for Avdijaj. He was in trouble with the law after driving his Mercedes through a red light and nearly hitting a pedestrian, and had only just returned to training after three months out with a meniscus injury. At the time of writing, he’s never played a first team game for Schalke.
Avdijaj can play off or around a striker and is a very adept dribbler who gets his head down and goes, looking to cause problems by being direct. He ghosts past players at time, often three or four in a row. He can score a goal and has a cracking shot on him. He fizzes through games, making things happen for better and for worse, but he’s always lively.
He can be a little lightweight in possession and is sometimes too easy to push off the ball, but he has the tenacity to battle back and regain the ball. That approach is responsible for some of his yellow cards. His temper is another contributor.
The trouble with players like Avdijaj, highly rated and skilful kids who tear it up in the youth ranks and trade on working class intensity, is that they’re not always the €40m+ players the Schalke man’s release clause would suggest. They’re ten a penny. Avdijaj has something to prove if he’s to elevate himself from the pile.
As we arrive in the winter of 2016, Avdijaj’s progress is at an intriguing juncture. At club level, his debut for a club he’s been at since 2011 – professionally since 2014 – is yet to materialise, in part for reasons beyond both his control and Schalke’s. But with a number of players vying for the front positions, one has to worry that the momentum of his return to Germany has been lost.
His international debut is yet to come about too. After years of representing Germany, Avdijaj eventually turned down a call for the Under-19s a couple of years ago, preferring to play for Albania. Or, as it turned out, not to play for Albania. He did, however, join the Kosovo squad this November in a move that surprised most observers. Problems with his papers mean he wasn’t available, but he will debut next year.
Having apparently been bumped out to Austria for eighteen months to refresh his development, which reportedly wasn’t coming on as hoped, injury problems and a few minor controversies (in addition to the more serious one already mentioned) have hardly helped.
D disrupted by injury with questions still to be answered
All images used have been kindly provided by the National Audubon Society in The United States under a Creative Commons License. The Society’s mission is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife, and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity. You can donate to their work, here.