Sven Michel has been rampant in Bundesliga 2 so far in 2021/22, but who is the Paderborn striker plundering the goals and firing his side's top-flight promotion push?
Born 15 July, 1990 in the Freudenberg town of Westphalia, Michel spent time at TuS Alchen and Fortuna Freudenberg before playing for a year with Borussia Dortmund's academy as a 13-year-old from 2013 to 2014. A further six years at SuS Niederschelden preceded a first taste of senior football with Sportfreunde Siegen in Germany's fifth tier. Michel scored 11 times in 34 appearances in his first campaign as Siegen earned promotion. Another 14 goals were scored a year later, prompting Borussia Mönchengladbach to move for the 23-year-old in the summer of 2013.
The 5'10" forward remained at Gladbach for two seasons, but without making a first-team appearance for the club. Energie Cottbus was his next destination, where Michel found the back of the net 16 times in 73 games across three seasons - one in Bundesliga 2 and two more in the third division. Paderborn were also stood on the third rung on the German footballing ladder when they signed terms with Michel ahead of the 2016/17 campaign.
Since then, Michel has helped the club earn promotion to Bundesliga 2 in 2017/18 and was promoted for a second season in succession - this time to the top-flight - in 2018/19. He wasted little time in making a great Bundesliga first impression, scoring on his league debut in a 3-2 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen. He ended the season by finding the target on Matchdays 33 and 34 to take his tally to five goals from 29 Bundesliga appearances, but couldn't prevent Paderborn's relegation.
At the start of 2021/22, Michel has been in fine form as Paderborn seek a return to the big time, scoring 11 times across the first 12 matchdays and adding four more assists. It means he is involved in a goal every 69 minutes of Bundesliga 2 football and takes his record to 68 goals in 174 appearances for Paderborn. The latest of which came via a third professional hat-trick - all for Paderborn - in the 4-2 win at Karlsruhe on Matchday 12 and those goals came in the space of just eight minutes and 27 seconds. His 174 Paderborn appearances leave him 13th on the all-time list, while his 68 goals are just 27 shy of equalling the club record.
Watch: Michel's nine-minute hat-trick for Paderborn
Plays a bit like: Lukas Podolski
A FIFA World Cup, Bundesliga and DFB Cup winner, Podolski too was a prolific scorer for Cologne in Germany's top two divisions before going on to star for the likes of Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Inter Milan and Galatasaray. Like Michel, Podolski also operated from the wing and all across the front line, as well as in a preferred central role, and although Michel doesn't quite boast the same highlight reel of long-range rockets as his fellow left-footer, the Paderborn man's fierce opener on Matchday 12 was straight out of the Podolski playbook.
Did you know?
Prior to his one year stay at Dortmund's academy, Michel visited Signal Iduna Park as a kid. But his first experience of the iconic stadium didn't quite go as planned. "I was out and about with my father, Westfalen Stadium, 80,000 people," he told 11 Freunde in 2020. "I was maybe 11 or 12, and when the game was over and the crowds poured out of the stadium, I just disappeared. I don't know exactly what it was, but I let myself be distracted again by something, briefly looked elsewhere and whack - I was gone.
"I didn't have a cell phone at the time, so I asked a total stranger if I could use his and then called my mother on the landline. In turn, she tried to reach my father. But that didn't really work out, I didn't know my way around the city at all and was a little boy from the village with no plan. So it was not possible to find a meeting point. In the end, I happened to see my father at a railroad crossing, less than an hour after we got lost. As you can see: I remember that well - but who Dortmund played against, who won and who scored the goals: I have no clue about that!"
Watch: Michel scores on his Bundesliga debut
What they're saying
"If I would entrust my wife to a player - when I walked on vacation and would say, 'take care of her' - then it would be Sven Michel. He's an incredibly good guy. He's totally unique, he always marches ahead, and is the anchor of our team." - Paderborn coach Lukas Kwasniok
"It's fun to play football with your shoes taped together with your closest friends in the national league. No question. But playing in front of 30,000 people is a lot more fun. I would always prefer a Bundesliga game to a national league game." - Michel on playing in lower league football and at the very top
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