Lewis Holtby 21 Midfielder Schalke
There are numerous examples of top players rejected as juniors by various clubs across the world. Most teams will, at some point, have suffered a variation of the Decca Records moment when they chose to put Alan Shearer in goal.
Having been identified as a talented individual by Borussia Mönchengladbach at eleven years old, Lewis Holtby was well schooled for three years before suffering heartbreaking rejection. Too small and too slow the damning verdict by Die Fohlen, with nothing likely to alter in the next few years. Bundesliga 2 outfit Alemannia Aachen stepped in, continued Holtby’s apprenticeship and Jörg Schmadtke granted the then seventeen year old a debut against St Pauli in 2007.
Holtby soon grew into the Aachen first team and as performances improved, so the scouting community of Germany’s top sides became more fixated with Alemannia’s skilful midfielder. In 2009 Holtby moved to Schalke 04 and, unable to make an immediate dent on the first team, was loaned to VfL Bochum; a move which resulted in rapid progress. But it was a further loan spell, this time to FSV Mainz 05 for the 2010-2011 season that was the true making of the player.
Presented with the opportunity to adopt a relatively free role in Thomas Tuchel's attack minded side, Holtby was one of the star performers in a fine season for his adopted club. Having captained the German under 21 team, Holtby made his debut for the national side in a Euro 2012 qualifier against Azerbaijan at the end of a relatively successful 2010-11.
This appearance was particularly significant as it terminated any interest that England maintained in persuading Holtby to don the three lions. Holtby’s father, a former English serviceman, had been stationed at the Rheindahlen RAF base in Mönchengladbach and his German born son had acquired his father’s passion for Everton and English football; young Lewis making no secret of his desire to one day represent the toffees.
If we were to liken Lewis Holtby to any current English player, there are certain similarities to Joe Cole. Holtby is left footed and operates as a creator with an ability to pick a killer pass or swing in a tempting cross. Traits that have not gone unnoticed by Joachim Löw, hence an early move to halt England’s advances.
A first full season at Schalke has begun well, Holtby has clearly benefitted from the extra playing time gained at Mainz but he could certainly do with adding more goals to his game. He has a very good coach in Huub Stevens though and there does seem to be a clear intent to improve on the goalscoring front.
The main issue for Holtby’s international aspirations is competition. With Özil, Muller, Götze and several other fine young players keen to demonstrate that they possess the where with all to drive the German national side, Holtby will really have his work cut out to win caps. If he is able to force his way into Löw’s first XI, Lewis Holtby will deserve his place.
"He has a hair from the 1940s, a smile always on his face and a peach of a left foot. Nice bloke and good player." - @TimHI
"Worked well as a no10 for Mainz, Schalke are trying to convert him into a deep playmaker, mixed results so far." - @wjorda87
"Great vision, fine left foot and hard worker. Too good for U21's, but a cut below German NT standards." - @nondeplume
C+ This could be a big season, keep working hard.