Breel Embolo 19 Striker Schalke 04 Switzerland
Cameroon-born Swiss starlet Breel Embolo was hot property at the turn of the year. Having broken into the team at FC Basel in 2014/15 and further establishing himself the following season, the suitors were many and various. His strength, mobility and eye for goal had attracted attention from all the major leagues in Europe.
2016 has been…
Embolo’s false dawn. He took the plunge in the summer transfer window and it’s fair to say things haven’t exactly gone to plan. It had all started so well too. Many of his 26 league starts in 2015/16 came in the early part of this year, and he ended his time in Basel with a goalscoring record better than one every three games. He also averaged one assist every four games.
2016 links with West Ham United, Wolfsburg, RB Leipzig, Tottenham Hotspur, Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach showed just how in-demand Embolo had become while still a teenager. Spurs were reportedly even in talks at the end of last season, but a switch to a very eager Manchester United seemed likeliest until Schalke 04 moved in and took him to Gelsenkirchen in June.
But Embolo’s 2016/17 has been a washout. Early in the season he struggled for form in a Schalke jersey, and, just as he showed signs of settling into his stride, he broke his ankle under a challenge by Augsburg’s Konstantinos Stafylidis. A six-month absence began in October.
Before the summer it was the Embolo we know and love. The footwork, the ability to find space, the quality on the ball – all present and correct. But, after the break, he seemed to lack dynamism and imagination in his movement, which itself was uncharacteristically sparse.
In between, he featured for Switzerland at UEFA EURO 2016. He’s a consistent starter nowadays, but then he’s been a regular inclusion ever since his debut in 2015. With 2016 at an end he’s approaching his twentieth cap.
With his big first move now in the rear-view mirror, 2017’s questions for Embolo are more whethers than wheres. If he can keep his club career ticking along, Embolo will continue his accession as Switzerland’s golden boy.
The bigger challenge is at Schalke, where Embolo will have to wait until the 2017/18 season to be anything like match fit. He’ll need to overcome his time out, his injury and the apparent loss of mojo that was in effect even before that game against Augsburg. If their response to his injury is anything to go by, Schalke’s support will be behind him with every kick.
D Sky-high expectations but a slow start in Germany
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