Germany international Lewis Holtby may not have played football in the Premier League yet but he has still featured in plenty of news stories in this country, even before Tottenham Hotspur had announced his signing to originally take place at the end of the season.
The left-footed midfielder, born in Erkelenz, Germany, has an English father (an Everton fan who was stationed as a soldier at RAF Rheindahlen in Germany) but a German mother. There was some speculation that Holtby could have been convinced to play for England at senior level after coming through the German youth system, however the playmaker was not for turning.
Speaking in September 2010 and following speculation that the FA may try to lure him into the Three Lions set-up, Holtby explained that: “Germany have given me the captaincy at under-21 level and I have to give them back that respect. It’s a decision I have probably made.”
While Sir Trevor Brooking and Stuart Pearce failed to get their man, Daniel Levy and Andre Villas-Boas have completed their capture, with the Germany U21 captain (who has 12 goals in 20 games at that level) making the switch to London earlier than expected.
The White Hart Lane outfit have had mixed success while dabbling in the German transfer market in recent years. Dimitar Berbatov from Bayer Leverkusen worked out well, Kevin-Prince Boateng less so, although the German-born Ghana international’s career has begun to flourish at AC Milan over the past two seasons. Going further back and defensive midfielder Steffen Freund, signed from Borussia Dortmund, became a cult hero after featuring in 100 matches from 1998-2003, while Jurgen Klinsmann’s signing from Monaco is trumpeted as one of the club’s most successful captures, even if the former Germany coach only played for the club over a period of 18 months.
Where will promising German international Holtby fit into this list? It’s fair to say that the 22-year-old attacking midfielder is not yet the finished article, with just three senior international caps to his name, and just one full season at Schalke.
Following successful spells at Alemannia Aachen, and then on loan over the course of a season and a half to Bochum and Mainz (where he struck up a good rapport with Chelsea target Andre Schurrle) the gifted attacker, with a good eye for a pass, finally made the breakthrough at the Gelsenkirchen side, scoring a healthy nine goals in 41 games across all competitions.
In his penultimate Bundesliga game against Hannover on 18 January, Holtby played the number 10 role for the Ruhr team as he has done with good success this season. He stood out in the Royal Blues’ draw at home against Arsenal in the Champions League in November (when he set up goals for Huntelaar and Farfan), and in total has scored four goals so far this league campaign, supplying seven assists in 18 games – mostly playing as an attacking midfielder. Against Hannover he set up two goals, constantly caressing the ball into space for his teammates to run onto. His tap-in provided his side’s final goal, and advanced his claims for the man of the match honours as Schalke won 5-4 in a thrilling Bundesliga encounter.
In his final Bundesliga game at the weekend, away at Augsburg, Holtby dropped back to a more central midfield position, as coach Jens Keller opted for two strikers: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Ciprian Marica. The result, however, was a drab 0-0.
Whether Holtby can adapt to the 100mph speed of the Premier League remains to be seen. Certainly his ability on the ball will be appreciated by a side shorn of imagination after Rafael Van Der Vaart and Luka Modric were sold. He has been played centrally and on the left of midfield at times, while his industry and will to get his foot into tackles will be appreciated by English crowds.
More efficient German engineering? Holtby will be hoping that his Teutonic upbringing has provided him with the right education to succeed in England.
- Top six
- Mid-table mediocrity
- Relegation dogfight
- Going down