Gelsenkirchen - At first glance, FC Schalke 04's acquisition of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting might be considered a like-for-like signing in the wake of Adam Szalai's departure for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. In reality, though, the Royal Blues have the 25-year-old Cameroon international earmarked for an altogether more expansive role than that of ancillary to star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar.

Sporting director Horst Heldt has already intimated as much, noting that the new signing is “a very versatile player. Eric has the height to take up the classic centre-forward role. But he's strong out wide and in the hole behind the striker as well.” And that versatility could make Choupo-Moting particularly valuable to Schalke next season.

Double-pronged attack with Huntelaar?


His presence will certainly open up fresh attacking options for head coach Jens Keller. The rangy Hamburg-born talent bagged ten goals and laid on three more for 1. FSV Mainz 05 last season. Apart from anything else, he represents a genuine scoring alternative to Huntelaar and will thus help keep the Dutch sharpshooter on his toes.

That said, there is also every possibility of both players lining up together. “We're essentially thinking of allocating him a central role up front,” said Heldt and, given Choupo-Moting's multi-faceted game, Keller should certainly have more flexibility when it comes to switching from his standard 4-2-3-1 system to a variation with a proper two-man frontline. That was less of an option with Huntelaar and Szalai, two strikers cut from a very similar cloth in terms of their playing style.

Wide role also on the cards


Then again, with Jefferson Farfan sidelined for an as yet indeterminate period following an operation to his right knee on Monday, Choupo-Moting's initial deployment could well be out wide instead, filling in for the Peruvian speed merchant. Supplementing his excellent ball control and finishing, the Hamburger SV youth academy graduate has already demonstrated a nifty turn of pace down the flank on many an occasion.

At any rate, the management in Gelsenkirchen will have to wait a little longer before establishing quite where their new man of many parts will fit into the grand scheme of things with the UEFA Champions League contenders as, on the back of his Brazilian tour of duty with Cameroon, Choupo-Moting has been given a couple of weeks' extra holiday. “The plan is for Eric, along with a few other players involved in the World Cup, to join the training at Schalke on 16 July,” said Heldt.

Stefan Schinken