Gelsenkirchen - Drive through the heart of Germany’s Ruhr district at the moment and you’ll soon know when you’ve reached Gelsenkirchen. All entrances to “Schalke City” are adorned with supersized billboards of Julian Draxler modelling the club’s new kit for next season.
“With pride and passion until 2018,” reads the slogan, a reference to Draxler’s recent contract extension at the Veltins Arena.
Still only 19, the talented midfielder has emerged as one of the most exciting young players in Europe this season, his nine goals so far establishing him among the finest attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga barely two years after he burst onto the scene as a 17-year-old, netting a stunning extra-time strike against 1. FC Nuremberg to take Schalke into the semi-finals of the 2010/11 DFB Cup.
Draxler, set to become the first 19-year-old to reach 75 Bundesliga appearances this weekend, has come a long way since, influencing pivotal games with his guile – and goals – to become a leading figure at a the Gelsenkirchen club.
“This is a huge step,” proclaimed sporting director Horst Heldt upon agreeing terms with the youngster. “We’re absolutely delighted that Julian identifies with the club. He’s blue through and through.”
Draxler, who juggled training with schoolwork to emerge from the club’s youth ranks just a stone’s throw from his family home, makes no secret of his affinity to the Knappen, revealing his hope for further success in the future: “I’ve extended (my contract) until 2018 because I want to build something great with Schalke.”
"On the right path"
The timing of his new deal could hardly have been better, with Schalke currently preparing for a decisive final-day showdown at SC Freiburg for a place in next season’s Champions League. Draxler, who missed out on last week’s 2-1 home defeat by VfB Stuttgart through suspension, is determined to fire his side back into Europe’s premier club competition, but even if they don’t make it, Schalke fans can be sure their shooting starlet will be around for some time to come.
“I want to help shape the future of this club,” said the talented youngster, who will inherit the No10 shirt vacated by Lewis Holtby back in January, after putting pen to paper. “Schalke is on the right path, a path I want to tread too.”