Schalke is famed as a breeding ground for young talent and their production line shows no sign of letting up, with USA youth international Haji Wright the latest to graduate from the Royal Blue stable.
But who exactly is the forward who made his Bundesliga debut on Matchday 12? bundesliga.com reveals all.
Country: USA (two caps for the U19s)
Standing at 6'3" (1.90m), Wright is a powerfully built forward who arrived at Schalke from LA Galaxy in 2016, following a trial at the club as a 16-year-old in 2014. In his first season in Gelsenkirchen he not only amazed club officials with the speed and proficiency with which he learned German, he scored six and provided three assists in his first nine outings in the U19s.
Those performances were rewarded with his inclusion in the senior squad for the first time ever on Matchday 34 of the 2016/17 campaign, but he was an unused substitute in the 1-1 with Ingolstadt – incidentally the game in which American compatriot Weston McKennie made his Bundesliga debut. In 2017/18 he was loaned out to second division club Sandhausen in order to gain match practice, but despite scoring on his debut there in a 4-0 victory over Dynamo Dresden, he struggled to settle at the club and failed to find the net again in his subsequent 14 appearances before returning to Schalke.
In 2018/19, injuries to strikers Mark Uth and Breel Embolo opened the door for Wright to return to the first team squad and he made his league debut in the 5-2 victory at home to Nuremberg on Matchday 12, replacing Steven Skrzybski in the 88th minute.
Plays a bit like: Robert Lewandowski
He may have the physique of a battering ram but, like Lewandowski, Wright is no mere target man. Able to shoot with either foot, an expert in one-on-ones with the goalkeeper and a work rate to make any self-respecting box-to-box midfielder jealous, he has all the attributes to make it big in the Bundesliga.
Did you know?
Wright comes from a sporting family. His brother Hani is likewise a former LA Galaxy player and joined him in Germany for a while at fourth-tier outfit Bonner SC. Meanwhile, one of his cousins, Isaac Addai, played in the National Premier Soccer League with Boston City, while another cousin, Joseph Addai, is former NFL running back who won the Super Bowl XLI with the Colts.
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What they're saying
"He's a dynamic and extremely dangerous striker and is also very ambitious. He's going to bring us a lot of joy in Schalke over the coming years." – Former Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt upon signing Wright in 2016
“I always describe Haji as a bag of surprises. He doesn’t have consistency in his game yet, but he has a lot of pace on and off the ball, no weaker foot, his dribbling is good and he is a threat on goal. He brings a lot to the table that makes a good striker.” – Schalke U-19 coach Norbert Elbert
"I've worked my whole life to become a professional footballer. It's my dream to make the breakthrough at Schalke." – Haji Wright