John Brooks became the record American transfer when he swapped Hertha Berlin for Wolfsburg in the summer. A torn thigh tendon 37 minutes into his debut with the cub has denied Wolves fans the chance to see the USA star shining as yet, but with his country in FIFA World Cup qualifying action this week, bundesliga.com took the chance to look at 10 things you might not know about the hulking Berlin native…
1) Berlin boy
Born in the German capital in 1993, four years after the Berlin Wall came down, Brooks is the son of an American serviceman from Chicago. His early footballing promise saw him linked with German record champions Bayern Munich, but he turned them down to sign professional terms with hometown club Hertha Berlin at the age of 18.
Brooks's young career was nearly derailed in April 2014 after getting a large tattoo on his back mid-season. "I have no sympathy for someone who decides to do such things during the campaign," then Hertha coach Jos Luhukay said. Brooks was dropped for the Old Lady's subsequent 2-1 loss at Bayer Leverkusen. He was soon forgiven, however, with Luhukay reflecting: "Positive experiences aren't the only things that help young players grow up; setbacks are also part of the learning process." The USMNT star now also has images of Berlin and Illinois inked on either elbow.
Watch: John Anthony Brooks' US-German roots:
3) USMNT goals
The 24-year-old has racked up three goals in his 32 senior internationals for the USA. The first of his strikes - an 86th minute winner in the nation's group stage victory against Ghana at the 2014 FIFA World Cup - certainly put him on the map for fans not already familiar with his domestic exploits. "I told some team-mates I dreamed that I'd scored in the 80th minute and we had won the game," Brooks said afterward, adding, "It's unbelievable."
4) The greatest ever?
The Ghana victory also saw Brooks bridging a gap in USMNT history at the FIFA World Cup. The central defender was introduced into the action in the second half by former national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann and netting the winner made him the first U.S. substitute to score a goal at the tournament in 84 years. The feat saw fans take to Brooks' Wikipedia page, where they posted that he was, "the greatest American since Abraham Lincoln," in the player's opening profile.
5) Born in the U.S.A.?
Keep it on the down-low if you ever run into Bruce Springsteen, but Brooks has never actually lived in the United States, and, like his USMNT teammates Fabian Johnson and Jermaine Jones, even represented Germany at youth level. That familiarity with German football has helped him blossom into a feared Bundesliga defender, however.
6) Footballing friendships
The Berlin native maintains a strong friendship with his fellow international teammates DeAndre Yedlin and Hamburg striker Bobby Wood, who interestingly, Brooks has so far outscored in Germany's top-flight. The friendship between Wood and Brooks was put to the test in 2016/17 when the pair went head to head on Matchday 23. The defender seemingly won the battle against his international teammate by preventing him from scoring, but Wood’s HSV won the war by claiming a 1-0 victory.
7) Big name birthday boys
Born on January 28, 1993, Brooks shares his birthday with some illustrious names from the sporting world. Former Liverpool and England defender Jamie Carragher was born 15 years to the day earlier and would serve as a defensive role model for any young footballer. Brooks also shares a birthday with Golden State Warriors shooting guard Andre Iguodala. There are not many people the 6ft 4in Brooks can look up to in the world, but the 6ft 6in Olympic gold medallist falls into that category.
8) Bundesliga Team of the Season candidate
Brooks’ excellent form at the heart of the Hertha defence as they qualified for the UEFA Europa League saw him named one of six candidates for centre-back in the 2016/17 Bundesliga Team of the Season. Up against stiff competition, he lost out to Mats Hummels, but his 29 per cent of the vote saw him finish well ahead of fellow contender Jesus Vallejo.
9) US pedigree
Brooks is following in some illustrious Red, White and Blue footsteps in the Bundesliga. One of 49 Americans to have plied their trade in the German top flight, the 24-year-old is already sixth on the list of all-time US appearance holders in Germany's top flight, ahead of compatriots such as Kasey Keller, Eric Wynalda and Christian Pulisic. Brooks’s 90 appearances still leave him a long way off Jermaine Jones (165) in fifth, but once active once more he will steadily start to climb the rankings.
Although Brooks was not yet born when the Berlin Wall fell, the centre-back took on the moniker “Wall of Brooks” during his time with Hertha. The imposing defender was often an impenetrable line of defence at the Olympiastadion. Running head-first into a wall can’t have felt too different for opposition strikers.