Gelsenkirchen – Johannes Geis may not be the most well-known of footballers on the international scene, but make no mistake: in Germany, home of the world champions, he is as highly rated as they come.
That was why FC Schalke 04 sporting director Horst Heldt could not hide is delight when the Royal Blues secured the 22-year-old’s signature on a four-year deal in June, saying: “We’re very happy that one of the most coveted young players around has decided to join us.”
For the ambitious Geis, it was not a difficult choice to make. “I came here to improve,” he told the club’s official website. “Schalke are a huge name all around Europe. They're a great side in a good environment where you can get on with your job. Even in training you can just see you're part of something very special here. Lots of fans turn up to watch, regardless of the weather.”
Schalke have started the 2015/16 campaign in a solid, if unspectacular, manner. They have four points on the board so far, a tally that has left them ninth in the standings. “The football we're playing is very different to last season,” Geis said by way of explanation. “There's a good atmosphere in the squad and we're aware that we need to improve, but we know what we're capable of. I think we're on the right path, and the manager is preparing us well.”
Room for improvement
Geis has not missed a minute of Bundesliga action this season, a telling statistic considering the fierce competition for places in Schalke’s midfield, with Leon Goretzka, Max Meyer, Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg and Roman Neustädter, among others, all vying for a spot in the starting XI.
Yet Geis is not one to rest on his laurels. “I think I've done alright so far,” he said. “Given that I'm new here I'm fairly satisfied, but I need to keep getting better and I feel like I'm making progress every day.”
Schalke fans will have the chance to gauge his development on Sunday when 1. FSV Mainz 05 visit the Veltins Arena in the final game of Matchday 4, and the occasion will have an added edge for Geis, who only left Mainz in the summer. “I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “It’ll be nice for me to face my old team-mates as I had two great years there.”
Nevertheless, he is in no mood to let sentimentality get in the way of performing to the best of his abilities: “It’s going to be a hard game, but if we make the most of the quality we have, we'll win. We've worked very hard during the international break, with our complete focus on Mainz. We want to show that on Sunday.”