Lewis Holtby 22 MidfielderSchalke
…hang on a second, a midfielder, eligible for England but playing in Germany, a stated desire to play in the Premier League, we’ve been here before haven’t we?
Yes and to be honest that didn’t work out brilliantly did it. Owen Hargreaves career is a particular source of heartbreak for at least one of the IBWM team who will defend him till the day he dies. Hargreaves at one stage was comfortably one of the best midfielders in Europe but was then savaged by injury to the point of a YouTube video on a treadmill just to prove a point. Lewis Holtby on the other hand, is a very different kettle of fish.
For a start there’s the issue of nationality. Hargreaves was never eligible for Germany and chose England over Wales and Canada. Holtby by virtue of his English father was there for the taking, which is precisely why Germany moved decisively and capped him in a Euro 2012 qualifying game against Azerbaijan to officially ‘own’ him. That is most definitely England’s loss as Holtby is developing into quite the player, and his immediate future is going to be very interesting indeed.
He is going to be out of contract at the end of the season and therefore free to talk to clubs in January about signing up for next year. Schalke are very keen to keep him and general manager Horst Heldt has described talks with him as ‘intensive’.
So far no signature though and the chips are all in Holtby’s hand. While happy in Germany there’s that stated desire to play in England and the fluttering of eyelashes appears to have done its job. Liverpool are very keen (how many times have we written that in this year’s 100…) or more specifically Brendan Rodgers is, an admirer since his days as Swansea manager. The problem with this one is that both the player and his father are devout Everton fans and both have already admitted that while they wouldn’t rule it out, a move to Anfield would be ‘difficult’.
He has also predictably been linked with a move to the Toffees and having been so public in his affection for the club would most definitely be open to any offer. Despite the two plus two there seems to have been no direct contact from Goodison and with the purse strings still pulled as tight as ever there, he may be beyond their wage structure for the time being.
Arsenal are the next most likely according to the press and he would be a good fit. Holtby is a versatile, hard-working midfielder most happy linking play, playing clever football and chipping in with those oh-so-handy goals from midfield every club longs for. Comfortable in any one of the three positions behind a lone striker or as a purer central-midfielder as and when called upon, he would be an excellent addition to any Premier League squad in our humble opinion.
But when it all comes down to it, he may well be best suited to staying put in Germany as part of that excellent Schalke attacking unit and decide just to do just that. Both club and player have moved to rubbish reports he was asking of a 300% pay rise quickly suggesting a will to not tread too heavily on fan’s toes. With Schalke uncertain over the future of Klass-Jan Huntalaar they will be desperate not to lose another of their brightest lights.
Regardless of speculation he has played a full part in the season so far doing what Lewis Holtby does - playing consistently well, scoring and providing more than his fair share of his midfield’s attacking cut and thrust. Last season he played 36 games and scored 7 goals, this is more than just a squad player to Schalke and while throughout they have stated they want him to stay for the right footballing reasons, deep down they must be desperate for him to put pen to paper.
Putting a move to one side what else does the future hold for the midfielder? Internationally Germany wanted to make sure he was committed to them for the future but the midfield berths in the full side are some of the most keenly fought over in world football. He has a wealth of talent to get past if he’s going to be in there for the longer term but he has now got a couple of caps to his name. He has performed brilliantly so far for the U21 side and that will live long in the memory of those involved in the international set-up.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of his career to date was missing out on Germany’s Euro 2012 squad having been named in the provisional 28-man group. Blaming missing the cut on a back injury that he says affected his form last season, he has worked his way back into the squad but longer-term faces a huge fight to stay there. He has time on his side but then so do Mario Götze, Thomas Müller, Julian Draxler, Marco Reus, Mesut Özil, Toni Kroos, Sven Bender, and we could keep going but we think the point is made.
Domestically his future hangs on a big decision – does he leave the safety of Schalke where he knows what’s expected, remains under the watchful eye of national manager Jogi Low and can continue to grow steadily as has been the way up until now, or does he come to England or Spain (where several sides are also readying contracts if you believe the rumour mill) and take on a new challenge? Time will tell but either way he will remain a very good player right now, and an even better prospect for the future.
“Raul's departure was thought to be a massive blow to Schalke's development but Holtby's incredible influence and level of performances have filled the gap admirably. Elsewhere, Holtby has pretty much single handedly carried Germany's U-21 to a flawless unbeaten qualifying campaign for next summer's U-21 Euro's.”– Cristian Nyari (Bundesliga Fanatic)
C Coming along nicely but a shame he missed the cut for the Euro's. Time to put pen to paper, but where will that be?