Schalke is one of the most popular soccer teams in Germany, and one of the top 20 biggest clubs in the world. Many great players have competed for Die Knappen including the legendary Spanish forward Raúl, current Germany stopper Manuel Neuer, German legends Olaf Thon, Fritz Szepan, Klaus Fischer and Belgian legend and current Belgian national team manager Marc Wilmots.
Over the last 7 years, the popular German side has given birth to several extremely talented attacking midfielders while hosting some brilliant players for their developing talent to emulate. Some of these talents have gone on to play for even bigger clubs and their legacy has left Schalke with young starlets who are eager to fill those shoes and impress top European teams like their predecessors. Usually it’s Barcelona, Real Madrid and Ajax, who are at the forefront of developing young talent, but programs like Schalke are often overlooked. Recently they have been producing some of the finest talents in the game. Currently they sit in sixth place in the Bundesliga, only two points behind fourth place, but that will soon change thanks to the emergence of some extremely gifted young players.
The most notable of Schalke’s products is German star Mesut Özil. Schalke was Özil’s first professional club. And in his two season stint with them, he thoroughly impressed and became the next big thing of German football. While he only played 39 matches for Schalke and only scored 1 goal, his talent could not be ignored. Özil broke into the first team after some spectacular performances in league cup competition and his playmaking ability allowed Schalke to finish second in the league in the 2006 season. After refusing to sign a new contract, he was transferred to Werder Bremen where he made a significant impact and gained a great deal of attention. Since then he’s gone on to play for Real Madrid and Arsenal, and has become one of the most talented attacking midfielders in the game.
In 2009, Schalke would find another young German starlet to fill the number 10 role and breathe some life into their midfield. It took some time before Holtby would take the helm at Schalke and he was loaned out for half of the 2009 season before being loaned out for the entire 2010 season. When Holtby returned in 2011, he took over the midfield and helped Schalke to finish third in the league. He made 49 appearances for the team and scored 9 goals in the process. His playmaking abilities attracted attention from Premier League teams including Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham. And halfway through the 2012 season, he was transferred to Tottenham for a small fee of €1.75 million, which was a steal for a player with his passing acumen and attacking vision. It took him some time to fit into Spurs system, but he’s recently been a regular for them and has been one of their best players as of late.