Mæhle has been flying down the wing for Wolfsburg in spectacular fashion - © IMAGO/RHR-FOTO
Mæhle has been flying down the wing for Wolfsburg in spectacular fashion - © IMAGO/RHR-FOTO

Joakim Mæhle: Who is Wolfsburg and Denmark's barnstorming fullback?


Mæhle burst onto the scene at Euro 2020, and looks set to star again with Denmark this time around. bundesliga.com profiles the defender who's already made a name for himself in Germany...

Stats correct as of 9 June 2024

Joakim Mæhle

Age: 27 (born 20 May 1997)
Club: VfL Wolfsburg
Position: Fullback
Country: Denmark (45 caps / 11 goals)

Key stats

Born in almost as northern Denmark as you can get in Østervrå, Mæhle joined the academy of local top flight side AaB Aalborg aged just 12. In 2016 he made his professional debut aged 19 and it took only nine first-team appearances before he was handed a new long-term contract until 2020. That proved to be a smart move, as just 16 appearances later, the club agreed to sell him to Belgian side Genk.

In his three-and-a-half years in eastern Belgium, Mæhle would become a star in a team full of them. He helped Genk qualify for the Europa League in his first season, and in his second they booked a spot in the Champions League. In their group were European giants Liverpool and Napoli and also a Red Bull Salzburg team containing future Bundesliga superstars Erling Haaland and Dominik Szoboszlai. Mæhle had to watch teammates Sander Berge (Sheffield United) Mbwana Samatta (Aston Villa) and (Rangers) seal big money moves, but he’d eventually get his chance when he left for Atalanta in January 2021. 

Mæhle had his first taste of the big time with Genk at Anfield, he'd later return with Atalanta - Laurence Griffiths

At Atalanta Mæhle would make himself a certified star, scoring four goals and registering six assists in 80 Serie A games, becoming a must-watch as he barraged down the wing. Amateur scouts were signing him on video games across the globe soon after his arrival in Bergamo, but that summer the secret was finally out worldwide.

Mæhle, who had already debuted for Denmark, was selected for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament and was one of the faces of their incredible run to the semi-finals. The nation’s no.5 scored in four-goal routs of Wales and Russia, and then in the quarters against Czechia he staged one of his lung-busting runs before firing a gorgeous outside of the boot cross onto Kasper Dolberg’s head for what turned out to be the matchwinner.

The highlights continued for both Atalanta and Denmark before he left the Italian side for Wolfsburg in the summer of 2023. In his debut Bundesliga season Mæhle notched two goals and three assists in 30 games, and he will again be crucial as he stays in Germany for Euro 2024.

Plays a bit like: Branislav Ivanovic

Barrel-chested and brilliantly clever in the final third, Maehle has some hallmarks of Chelsea and Premier League legend Ivanovic. Maehle wins out when it comes to pace, with his runs from one box to the other often unstoppable, but when they get to the opposition area, that’s where the similarities come through. Maehle is incredibly patient when in space with the ball in and around the opposition box, and while he makes headlines for long-range worldies, he’s at his best when he channels his inner-Ivanovic, tricking his opposing fullback and slotting past the goalkeeper.

Originally a centre back, Ivanovic was at his best when moved to right back, winning three Premier League titles and a Champions League. Similarly, Mæhle, despite being right-footed, started out on the left, but has since shown he can do it on either side of the pitch. Mæhle played 14 games at right back and 10 at left back for Wolfsburg in his debut season. 

Watch: The best of Joakim Mæhle

Did you know?

Mæhle's best friend in football is Manchester United’s Rasmus Højlund. The pair played together at Atalanta and still team up for Denmark. During their time together in Bergamo they would watch every Danish Superliga match they could as a pair. In 2023, when Mæhle's AaB were relegated, he Tweeted pleading with supporters to stay away from the players’ inboxes.

Højlund recalled: “Joakim is one of my best friends, and it was really important for me at the start that he was there, because we only speak Italian at the club, and I couldn't understand anything, not even what was happening on the training ground, and we have a coach who is very strict, so if I don't quite understand, it could well upset him.” 

Good buddies Mæhle and Hojlund will team up again at the Euros - IMAGO/Ettore Griffoni

What they’re saying

“With the experience he has gained as a national player and in Italy, he is simply a guaranteed starter. No matter what position he plays.” - former Wolfsburg head coach Niko Kovac

"He's a machine, he can run up and down the pitch for 90 minutes." - Wolfsburg and Denmark teammate Jonas Wind