Not many players get mentioned in the same breath as Spain's Andres Iniesta before they have even appeared in the UEFA Champions League, but Roman Neustädter earned that recognition prior to his move to FC Schalke 04 in the summer.
Following in his father's footsteps
Lucien Favre was the man who compared the two players, one UEFA's Best Player of the Year, the other making his own, quiet progress to Europe's illustrious top table.
Neustädter had his father Peter Neustädter to thank for helping him make the breakthrough with 1. FSV Mainz 05, but since then he has not needed any helping hands in climbing the footballing ladder. His father was playing for Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk when Roman was born, and the first four years of his life were spent in the Ukraine.
In 1992, he moved his family to Germany after earning a contract with Mainz in Bundesliga 2, and Roman was signed up for a place in Mainz's youth team at the age of six. His father gave him his debut in Mainz's reserve team in 2006, and he made his professional debut two years later. He first became familiar to fans of his current club Schalke when he came on as a substitute in Mainz's 1-0 win over the Royal Blues in the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup in 2009.
National team conundrum
Not only that game tempted Borussia Mönchengladbach to snatch him up and, after a year in their reserve team, he became a regular in the first team, initially under Michael Frontzeck, and then under Lucien Favre. With the Foals, Neustädter also attracted the attention of Ukraine, who are keen on giving him his first cap. "My home country has a big place in my heart," he said. "I know where I come from and I speak the language."
As yet, Neustädter has not won a senior cap for Germany or Ukraine, leaving his international career wide open, but the calls are likely to intensify after he hit the ground running with Schalke, whom he joined on a free transfer from Mönchengladbach last summer. Losing him was "like Barcelona losing Andres Iniesta", according to Favre, who believes Neustädter continues to be underrated. That is slowly changing, however, as Neustädter moves out of the shadows and into the limelight in Gelsenkirchen.