John Brooks will leave Wolfsburg at the end of the 2021/22 season after five years at the club. bundesliga.com has the lowdown on the unmistakable USA international...
bundesliga.com has the scoop…
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 reportedly turned them down to sign professional terms with hometown club Hertha Berlin at the age of 18.
Watch: Brooks's US-German roots explored
His career was nearly derailed in April 2014, though, 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," said then-Hertha coach Jos Luhukay. 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.
3) Born in the USA?
Keep it on the down-low if you ever run into Bruce Springsteen, but Brooks has never actually lived in the United States. Unlike international teammates Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Josh Sargent, he even represented Germany at youth level. An U20 international with the country of his birth, Brooks took little persuading to pledge his international future to the US, though.
"The US really wanted me," he explained to US Soccer. "So it wasn’t a hard decision to play for the USA. I talked a lot to my family. My dad, who's from Chicago, my mom, my sister, my grandparents, my agent… all of them gave me advice. Since I decided to play for the U.S., they've been very happy."
4) A place in history
USMNT fans have been just as content. The 29-year-old has notched three goals in his 45 senior international outings, but the first of his strikes - an 86th-minute winner in his 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 teammates I dreamed that I'd scored in the 80th minute and we'd won the game," Brooks said afterwards, adding, "It's unbelievable."
According to reports, at the time Brooks moved to Wolfsburg in summer 2017 - 131 first-team appearances in a Hertha shirt better off - it was for a record fee for an American national.
5) The greatest ever?
The Ghana victory also saw Brooks bridge a gap in USMNT history at the FIFA World Cup. The central defender was thrown into the action in the second half by former national team coach Jürgen Klinsmann, subsequently netting the winner to become the the first U.S. substitute to score 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.
6) We’re friends, touch Wood
Brooks is good friends with Bobby Wood – the former USA international who played in the Bundesliga with Hannover and Hamburg. The pair have been seen attending the NBA finals together, but they have had to set their loyalties aside on the pitch before now. Brooks stopped Wood from scoring when Wolfsburg met Hannover on Matchday 11 of 2018/19, but the 96ers still ran out 2-1 winners. Despite being a thoroughbred central defender, Brooks has outscored his good pal 11 to 10 in the Bundesliga.
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 legend Andre Iguodala. There are not many the 6’4”-tall Brooks can look up to, but the 6’6” Olympic gold medallist certainly falls into that category.
8) American pedigree
Brooks is following in some illustrious Red, White and Blue footsteps in the Bundesliga. One of 63 Americans to have plied their trade in the German top flight, the 29-year-old is fourth on the list of all-time US appearance holders in Germany's top flight, ahead of compatriots such as Christian Pulisic (90) and Kasey Keller (78). Only record-holder Steve Cherundolo (302), Timothy Chandler (243) and Fabian Johnson (206) have made more than Brooks' 206.
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 has proved an impenetrable line of defence down the years, most recently helping Wolfsburg end 2020/21 with the second lowest number of goals conceded (37). Running head-first into a wall can’t have felt too different for opposition strikers.
10) Not just a wrecking ball
Despite his physically imposing stature, Brooks is almost as big an asset to his team when they have possession as when they are trying to win it back. USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter once came to watch Brooks strut his stuff against Nuremberg, and liked what he saw.
“He had a good game,” he told bundesliga.com. “He was active, he was winning balls and he was dominant as a centre-back. He had some good moments of very quick passing [too], breaking lines, [with] very firm balls on the ground, very accurate passes.”
Berhalter’s impression has been backed up time and again, with Brooks consistently around the 85 percent mark for successful passes from open play.
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