Ilay who? Hoffenheim’s young midfielder Ilay Emkies may not be a household name quite yet, but with a goal in the stunning 5-2 rout of Manchester City in the UEFA Youth League on Tuesday, the string-pulling midfielder might not have to wait long for his share of the spotlight.
Position: Central midfield
Country: Israel (U19 cap)
Standing at a diminutive 5’6”, 18-year-old Elmkies might be expected to grow another inch or two over the coming years - not that the Israeli youngster needs it, orchestrating play from the base of midfield as he does. Elmkies swapped Maccabi Haifa for Hoffenheim’s U16s in the summer of 2016 and has been playing up an age group every season since. A deep-lying playmaker, Elmkies’ low centre of gravity helps him turn on a pivot in front of the defence, shielding the ball before moving it on quickly and sensibly, and he’s added an eye for goal of late, too, with his strike in the 5-2 UEFA Youth League win over Man City on Tuesday the third he’s had a hand in for Marcel Rapp’s U19s already this season.
So strong!!! Hoffenheim U19s beat Manchester City 5-2 and also won their second game in the UEFA Youth League!
Plays a bit like: Thiago Alcantara
Elmkies’ stature, distribution and increasingly comprehensive midfield contributions are reminiscent of Bayern Munich star Thiago Alcantara. Once seen as Xavi’s natural successor at Barcelona, Thiago made the move to Bayern under Pep Guardiola in 2013 with the current City coach saying “he’s the only player I want.” Twenty-five goals and 26 assists later and Thiago has evolved into more than just a pass-master. Elmkies could be at the start of a similar journey.
Did you know?
Elmkies has proved just as versatile off the pitch. Born in the Israeli coastal city of Nahariya, the 18-year-old grew up speaking Hebrew and English and has quickly mastered German. A film looking at the Jewish experience in Hoffenheim during the second World War recently aired at the Sinsheimer Citydome. Elmkies played a leading role, and provided commentary in all three languages.
What they’re saying
"Ilay forms a bridge between the past, present and future," - Sandra Simovich, Head of the Israeli Consulate in Munich, after the film’s airing.
“These are the moments you work hard for. And remember!” – Elmkies on his goal against Man City
“It fills you with such pride every time you have the flag on your chest. I want to thank the players who have long since become brothers,” – Elmkies following Isreal’s ultimately unsuccessful attempts to qualify for the UEFA European U17 Championship in Croatia last year.