Cologne - A World Cup winner at 20, he's a veritable Bundesliga old-hand already, to say nothing of being one of the coveted players in the European game. VfL Wolfsburg's latest acquisition, Julian Draxler, has come a very long way in a very short time.
The prodigiously gifted midfielder is now hoping to continue his upward trajectory with the 2014/15 Bundesliga runners-up after leaving boyhood club FC Schalke 04 at the end of the 2015 summer transfer window.
bundesliga.com has put together a few odds and ends on a local lad made very good...
Blue collar roots
Draxler first saw the light of day in Gladbeck, just north-west of Gelsenkirchen - a coal-mining town typical of the region until the last pit closed down at the start of the 1970s. The working-class ethos ingrained in the local culture tends to have a palpable influence on locally-produced talent, and the former Schalke man is no exception. “If I ever seem like getting big-headed, my mum and dad bring me right back down to earth,” he has admitted, while adding that “they rarely have to.”
Next stop Schalke
He was evidently kicking a ball around virtually as soon as he could walk and completed his first transfer before the age of seven, swapping hometown club BV Rentfort for SSV Buer in nearby Gelsenkirchen. There, it was not long before FC Schalke 04 got wind of an early talent in the making and in 2001, Draxler switched to the club he often with his dad - starting out in the U-9s.
New kid on the block
His rise through the ranks continued at a whirlwind pace and on 15 January 2011 the moment had come: seven minutes from the end of the season re-opener against Hamburger SV, he came off the bench to become the youngest Schalke player ever to turn out in the Bundesliga. At 17 years and 117 days old, he was also the fourth-youngest top-flight debutant in the history of the entire league. And if a 1-0 defeat somewhat soured the moment...
...there was ample compensation just ten days later, as the teen wonder came on in extra time and spectacularly fired the Royal Blues into the last four of the DFB Cup with the 119th-minute winner against 1. FC Nürnberg. His first senior competitive goal capped a memorable week in which he had put pen to paper on a professional contract running through to 2014 before laying on the only goal of the game for Raul (far right) against Hannover 96.
The new kid on the Royal Blue block was far from done with the 2010/11 DFB Cup, however. Schalke progressed to the final in Berlin, where they proved altogether too hot to handle for Bundesliga 2 side MSV Duisburg. Draxler got the ball rolling in an eventual 5-0 rout of the underdogs, adding another youthful best-mark to his collection as the youngest scorer in a German cup final. His 18th-minute belter was voted Goal of the Month for good measure.
Even as his sporting reputation skyrocketed, Draxler demonstrated his level-headedness by continuing to study for his school-leaving certificate at the Gesamtschule Berger Feld. The school has a long-running working relationship with Schalke and the likes of Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer and current Royal Blues skipper Benedikt Höwedes have all passed through its portals. Draxler duly departed with certificate in hand in July 2012.
By that point, he was already a full-blooded Germany international, earning his first senior call-up under Joachim Löw in a 5-3 friendly loss to Switzerland at the end of May, just ahead of Euro 2012. Draxler didn't make the cut for the finals in Poland/Ukraine, but he has since established himself as a squad regular and clocked up 14 minutes of playing time in Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning campaign in Brazil.
Far from being an additional burden in an already crowded schedule, excursions with the national team are a veritable perk of the job in Julian's eyes - with regard to activities both on the pitch and away from it. “I think it's really great that I've already seen so much of the world,” he has revealed, “travelling's one of my hobbies.” The mode of transport on the right is certainly a bit out of the ordinary - Draxler's at the back, behind Germany teammates Per Mertesacker (on point) and .
Dynamic, pacy and outstanding one-on-one, Draxler has also been able to progress so rapidly due to a precocious match intelligence. As his former coach at Schalke, Felix Magath, put it, “He's got a very advanced understanding of the rhythm of the game. He's very focused and not prone to sloppiness.” All qualities that saw him became the youngest player, at the age of 20 and 225 days, to break the 100-appearance barrier in the Bundesliga on Matchday 33 of the 2013/14 campaign.
Reportedly courted by a handful of Europe's top clubs, Draxler chose Wolfsburg as his next destination, signing a five-year-deal with the 2014/15 DFB Cup winners on 31 August 2015. Schalke hearts were broken, but the 21-year-old believed the time was ripe for change. "The club offers me fantastic opportunities and has an extremely strong squad," said Draxler. "I’m looking forward to playing in the Champions League with VfL and competing for titles."