Back from injury and keen to make an impact, Schalke’s star summer signing Ozan Kabak is ready to bolster the only Bundesliga backline to have kept more than one clean sheet this season.
Being ruled out injured after his second training session was hardly the introduction the 2018/19 Rookie of the Season was hoping for after swapping Stuttgart for Gelsenkirchen and his debut didn’t quite go according to script either.
Kabak's foot kept him sidelined throughout the entirety of pre-season, but having passed up on the opportunity to join up with the Turkish national team, he instead used the international break to get his first minutes in Royal Blue under his belt.
Watch: Ozan Kabak’s Top 5 tackles!
"I received an invitation and spoke with the national team head coach [Senol Gunes]," Kabak told BILD. "But because I still needed more time, we decided that I would stay here and continue working on my comeback."
In Saturday's friendly, Schalke were on the receiving end of a 4-2 defeat to third-tier Viktoria Köln. Nevertheless, Kabak did enough to catch the eye of David Wagner, who like the 19-year-old, joined the club in the summer.
"Ozan has a presence and a fantastic sense of calm on the ball," Wagner told reporters after the game. "In one or two situations you could tell that he’d been out of action for three months, but that’s completely normal because it’s all about generating rhythm and feeling."
One of the most highly-regarded defensive talents on the continent, Kabak made his mark on Germany’s top flight in just half a season. That was despite being part of the Stuttgart side who ended up being relegated for the third time in the club’s history after the play-off defeat to Union Berlin.
Upon signing the dotted line on a deal to join Schalke, Kabak said he hoped to "carry that form into next season", but has had to be patient in waiting to make his Royal Blue bow. The youngster’s relief was evident on Saturday.
"I'm delighted to be back," he told BILD. "Sitting on the sidelines was really difficult. I'm going to keep working hard and hopefully I can be in action in the Bundesliga as well soon. My foot feels fine. I didn’t have any problems."
Watch: Kabak won the Bundesliga's Rookie of the Year award for 2018/19!
Being able to bolster a backline that has only been breached by a breath-taking hat-trick from Robert Lewandowski can only be a good thing for Schalke. Kabak’s qualities on and against the ball will add a different dynamic to the Royal Blues’ defensive approach, which already looks to have been refined under Wagner.
Winless Paderborn provide the opposition as Schalke look to build on their first win of the season when close the play on Matchday 4 and Kabak is back in chomping at the bit: "I'm ready for the next game, but the coach is ultimately who decides."
Even if Kabak is made to wait on his Bundesliga debut for the Royal Blues, big things are expected of the club’s star summer signing as they look to establish themselves back amongst the European contenders in Germany’s top flight.