RB Leipzig's Elias Abouchabaka: The next Mesut Özil?
Oh, to be in Elias Abouchabaka's boots. Three years after joining RB Leipzig for what at the time was a record fee for a player of his age, the now 18-year-old has signed his first professional contract.
bundesliga.com has the lowdown on the man dubbed 'the next Mesut Özil'...
*Translation: Red Bulls kit out RBL U19 player Elias Abouchabaka with professional contract through to summer 2020. We wish you all the success, Elias!
Abouchabaka started out at Hertha Berlin, but when he was still only 15 he made the short trip south to Leipzig. What was notable about that switch in September 2015 was the reported transfer fee - €250,000 was a record in Germany for a player of that age.
"Elias is diligent, willing and very focused," Jörg Schwanke, who coached Abouchabaka at Hertha, told the Berliner Zeitung shortly after the teenager made his move.
"He’s a quick, dangerous left-footed player and strong in one-on-one situations. He can operate on both wings. Of course we would have liked to keep him."
It is easy to see why Abouchabaka was in demand. Being a left-footed number 10, he will inevitably draw comparisons with current Germany international Mesut Özil. But the Berlin native seems more direct, capable of driving runs from deep and providing a serious goal threat in his own right.
"Elias is definitely headed in the right direction – he’s made the next step," Christian Wück, Abouchabaka’s coach at international level, told the DFB website in February 2016.
"He can reach the highest level and has exceptional technical ability on the ball. He’s dealt with his change of clubs well."
In Leipzig, Abouchabaka has concentrated on finishing his secondary school education as well as his football. But in Croatia at the 2017 UEFA U-17 European Championship, there were plenty of glimpses of what the versatile attacker is all about.
Germany scored 15 goals and conceded one in three group matches, with Abouchabaka stroking home from the penalty spot for the opener in their second game against Serbia.
The youngster also got the first goal in a 7-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland. The way he arrived late to the edge of the box before caressing the ball first-time into the corner while under pressure will have got even more tongues wagging.
A keen student of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane, he showed a touch of class immediately after netting as well - ripping off a wristband to unveil a happy birthday message to his brother for the TV cameras.
Abouchabaka, who turned 18 in March, also laid on another goal in that game for Jann-Fiete Arp by providing a delicious chipped cross from the left.
Playing in behind Arp and drifting across the pitch, he had a healthy habit of ghosting into the box unnoticed - a little like Frank Lampard used to. In the quarter-final against the Netherlands, that priceless talent resulted in him eventually getting Germany’s equaliser.
Abouchabaka and Arp were stifled by Spain in the semi-finals as Germany were knocked out on penalties, but Wück said that was "part of the learning process" for such youngsters.
And so it proved. In 2017/18, Hamburg's Arp made history not just as the first player born in the 2000s to appear in the Bundesliga but to score in it, too.
Abouchabaka, who registered seven goals and 16 assists for the Leipzig reserves last term, could be the next German super talent to make the leap.