Bundesliga debut at 25, first Germany cap one year later? It may sound like fantasy, but for RB Leipzig's Marcel Halstenberg, it is anything but fiction.

The Leipzig full-back made his first start for Germany in Friday's goalless draw with England on Friday,, just over a year after appearing for the first time in Germany's top flight.

Joachim Löw is likely to take a closer look at one of the pillars of Leipzig's rise from Bundesliga 2 to UEFA Champions League when the World Cup holders face the Three Lions and France over the coming 10 days, giving the full-back an opportunity to stake his claim for a place in his World Cup squad next summer.

The rise to the ultimate stage in world football is continuing for a player who has followed an unorthodox path to get there.

Formerly a forward, he reverted to the role of central defender at Hannover and that is where he caught the eye of Borussia Dortmund scouts, who saw the then 19-year-old as a candidate for their first team in years to come.

"He wants to catch Jürgen Klopp's eye and we expect him to do so, because he's big and fast," said Lars Ricken back in 2011, when he was head of Dortmund's youth academy and Klopp was coaching the Westphalians' first team to a Bundesliga and DFB Cup double.

Halstenberg's path to the top may be unorthodox, but it has taken him to within reach of a first Germany cap.

Halstenberg turned down more lucrative offers – including some who were already willing to offer him Bundesliga football – to play for Dortmund's reserves in the third division, following a step-by-step development programme rather than risking getting his feet burnt irreparably by biting off more than he could chew.

It was a wise move. Working for the current coach of English Premier League side Huddersfield Town, David Wagner, Halstenberg was shifted across to the left full-back position he has now made his own at Leipzig – and potentially for Germany.

"David Wagner said to me back then: 'we've got plans for you on the left'," recalled Halstenberg in the Mitteldeutsche Zeitung.

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The next step from the third division followed more logic than fantasy, as he moved to the second tier of German football by joining St Pauli, spending two seasons with them before joining Leipzig – still in Bundesliga 2, but not for long.

"I always believed that I had what it takes to play in the Bundesliga, and I knew that I would get there, step by step," Halstenberg said. After one more season in Bundesliga 2, his dream became reality as he took his Bundesliga bow, aged 25, in a season which saw Leipzig tear up the history books by finishing second only to Bayern Munich.

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Champions League football was the next step in Halstenberg's steady yet remarkable rise, and now he has tasted Europe's elite club competition, the world's his oyster.

"Jogi Löw called me at 10:30," said Halstenberg of the phone call he had waited 26 years for. "This is the ambition of every child, and I'm so happy and proud about it. I'm just going to take it all in."

One year after making his Bundesliga debut as a relatively unknown 25-year-old, Marcel Halstenberg is now a name to note with the World Cup looming ever larger on the horizon as he strides out those next few steps on his stairway to stardom.

Ben Gladwell

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