Manuel Neuer, Leroy Sane, Julian Draxler, Mesut Özil, Leon Goretzka... the list of Schalke's top-class academy graduates is seemingly endless, and much of their success is down to one man in particular: Norbert Elgert.
The Royal Blues have a reputation for delivering talent after talent from their revered Knappenschmiede production line. Its success is so well documented that it has become more of a showcase of some of the world's best talent.
Behind the extraordinary success of the Gelsenkirchen club's inimitable academy is Elgert. Now 62, he played as a striker for Schalke in the 1970s and 80s, and has been coach of the U19s since 1996, earning a reputation as the man who launched the careers of many a world champion. He is still going strong when it comes to honing some of the rawest talent the game has to offer as coach of the Bundesliga club's under-19s.
In addition to the aforementioned quintet, Sead Kolasinac, Joel Matip, Thilo Kehrer, Max Meyer, Benedikt Höwedes and Weston McKennie have also reaped the benefits of Elgert's expertise and made the step up to the senior side.
"No doubt that would be a team who would be capable of seriously challenging Bayern Munich," Elgert told the SID agency on the calibre of players he has nurtured and then seen fly the nest. "Many players have left because they want to be playing regularly in the Champions League."
Real Madrid, Arsenal, Juventus, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain, Liverpool and Bayern Munich are the perennial Champions League pretenders all to have benefitted from Elgert's work, acquiring gems which have been hammered and chiselled into effusive diamonds by Schalke's under-19's coach, who has a distinct knack of forming stars.
Watch: Schalke's famed Knappenschmiede
So what is his secret? "I always saw my job as much more than a trainer," Elgert told Sky Sports. "We coaches must be a little bit like psychologists and a little bit like gardeners. We have young plants and we must help them to grow. It is not just about preparing them for soccer. It is about preparing them for life and helping them to become more than soccer players.
"Schalke is special in that we have that tradition and we want to bring through players," he continued. "But it just makes sense if the players are good enough. You can transfer that thinking to any club. It is not impossible. You just need to take the right decisions."
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