Ludwigshafen isn't renowned for being the birthplace of one of Germany's most familiar footballers, but in Andre Schürrle the city now boasts a sporting star and World Cup winner plying his trade at the highest level.
Boys to men
There is no doubt Schürrle always harboured a great passion for football: "From the first kick in the garden, to kicking the ball against the side of my house, a ball was always close at hand," he said.
After playing for his local side Ludwigshafener SC for a decade, Schürrle joined Bundesliga outfit 1. FSV Mainz 05 in 2006 as a 16-year-old. It may have taken him three years to get his first taste of success, when he won the 2009 Under-19 Bundesliga with Mainz's youth team, but since then the nimble winger's career has taken off.
Schürrle made his Bundesliga debut the following season before becoming Mainz's youngest ever goalscorer when he bagged a brace in a 3-2 win against Bochum. The forward's dynamism saw him emerge as a fan favourite, while his combination play with fellow youngster Lewis Holtby gave rise to the infamous Mainz "boy band" during the 2010/11 campaign.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen, against whom Schürrle made his debut, recognised his potential, acquired his services and immediately slotted him into their starting line-up. Though his first season with die Werkself wasn't perfect, performances against Barcelona in the Champions League Round of 16 first leg proved his class and maturity.
It was only logical that Schürrle knocked on Germany coach Joachim Löw's door with a greater degree of insistency, and he has become a regular fixture in the national team since featuring at UEFA EURO 2012, further demonstrating his ability to play against the world's best.
That is precisely what 2012 UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea FC have as a blueprint for all their new signings, and Schürrle fit the bill, moving to London in 2013. It stands to reason that he was also a key element of Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup winning side, and his move to VfL Wolfsburg six months after scaling the summit of the world game saw one of Ludwigshafen's finest return home, to the Bundesliga.