Opinion: Holtby is a gem in Schalke’s ranks

Posted on August 4, 2011

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The English were too slow – and it will come back to haunt them.

Many members of the British Armed Forces who were stationed in Germany have settled in the country and this has resulted in an expected, but sporadic, emergence of half-British German-born footballers.

No doubt about it, Holtby is as good as they come.

Holtby joined Schalke in 2009 and agreed a four-year contract with the club after spending two years with Alemannia Aachen where he made big strides in German football.

The 20-year-old has gained some valuable first-team experience, both with Schalke in his first season, and then VfL Bochum before spending last season at FSV Mainz where would have a stunning campaign with Thomas Tuchel’s side.

Tuchel spoke highly of his attacking ace who formed an instant and deadly partnership with Andre Schurrle and subsequently rewarded with an £8m move to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer.

He said: “It’s a pleasure to work with him. He’s special, he knows about his own ability but he also knows his role in the team. He doesn’t behave like he’s something special.”

Mainz had a terrific start to the season with just one defeat in nine games, including memorable wins in Munich and Leverkusen, that propelled them in to the Champions League positions for the early parts of the season.

However, a bumpy patch of form midway through the season meant that the Champions League dream was out of their reach and the Europa League seemed a realistic ambition for the club.

Four wins from five was enough to steer clear of the chasing pack and secure a deserved fifth-place finish in the Bundesliga.

Holtby played an integral part in Mainz’s rise to Europe with over 30 appearances last season in Tuchel’s impressively assembled 4-3-3 with Andre Schurrle and Adam Szalai just as important. Holtby and Schurrle’s ability to effectively come in from wide positions and link with Szalai, or Sami Allagui, seemed to terrify opponents in the opening half of the season. The same forward line terrorised champions Bayern Munich on their own patch.

Understandably, sporting director Horst Heldt was quick to make sure the attacking midfielder would be wearing the Royal Blue of Schalke next season.

Despite losing skipper Manuel Neuer, Heldt has worked hard to restore confidence in the management team following Magath’s abysmal start to the campaign which left Ralf Rangnick with an uphill task in the last three months of the season. The return of Holtby and Jan Moravek, as well as, the signing of Mainz’s influential left-back Christian Fuchs and striker Ciprian Marica has brought a quiet confidence around Gelsenkirchen.

So far, things couldn’t have started better for Rangnick with Schalke beating arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund in the DFL Super Cup and thrashing minnows Teningen in the DFB Pokal last weekend 11-1 – Holtby scoring twice for Die Konigsblauen.

With two international caps already under his belt, Holtby is slowly working his way in to the plans of Joachim Löw and he will have some stiff competition to feature at Euro 2012 next summer. It’s a big season for Holtby and he’ll need to step up and meet the expectations at Schalke to work his way ahead of Marco Reus, Marko Marin and Andre Schurrle.

Holtby and Schalke may just be a darkhorse to look out for next season after last year’s bottom-half finish.

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Posted in: Opinion