A year in the life of Eintracht Frankfurt's versatile young talent Marius Wolf makes for fascinating reading, with the 22-year-old going from Hannover reserve to a player dreaming of taking to the field with Brazilian superstar Neymar.
The sun may be shining down on the face of the Coburg native at Eintracht's winter training base in Alicante these days, yet it was a different tale this time last year, when Wolf faced an uncertain future in the game. Struggling to make an impression at Hannover following a move from 1860 Munich, the predominantly right-sided schemer felt compelled to discuss his sporting options with those closest to him - namely his parents and agent.
"When I was sent to the amateurs [at Hannover] it wasn't easy at all," Wolf explained to German sports publication kicker. "I was thinking, 'How come I'm not getting my chance? Why can't I show what I can do?'" He resolved to roll up his sleeves and press on, ever hopeful that his opportunity to shine would one day arrive.
The flurry of activity that often fills the final day of the winter transfer window suddenly found Wolf heading for Frankfurt on 31 January 2017. Eagle-eyed Eintracht sporting director Fredi Bobic saw potential in the disgruntled dynamo and put together a loan offer that included various extension clauses plus an option to buy.
"I knew coming here represented one final opportunity," Wolf recalls. "He stood out in the way he plays the game, his running - always tirelessly going back and forth," Bobic noted.
As the weeks passed, Wolf grew not just in confidence, but in his physical aspect too, gaining six kilos of muscle mass. "His [weight gain] has given him more power and helped in his development, which we believe he can continue to do with us here," Bobic explained.
"When I arrived here I weighed 74 kilos, now I'm up to around 80, which is a big jump," Wolf added.
The performances duly followed. In the current campaign, Eintracht's No.27 has managed three goals and three assists in 12 Bundesliga appearances while he also has a goal and an assist to his name in this season's DFB Cup. Having excelled as a winger since those trying times a year ago - Wolf has also shown his defensive capabilities this season, filling in for the previously injured USMNT international Timothy Chandler at right-back.
"I don't care what position I play, I just want to keep working and developing and playing as much as possible," Wolf said. "I've learned a lot defensively, which is where I feel I still have my biggest weakness."
He also, it seems, has something of a weakness for Eintracht star Kevin-Prince Boateng, who has delighted in taking the young Wolf under his experienced wing. "Things just clicked with us straight away," Wolf enthused. "However, [Boateng] doesn't just help me, he helps the whole team."
The much-travelled former Ghana international recently outlined his ambition with Frankfurt - currently eighth in the standings and going strong in the DFB Cup - one that he no doubt imparts to his enthusiastic team-mates. "When I walk the streets here, I see how positive the people are [for the team], the whole city is behind us, behind our multicultural squad," the 30-year-old told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Giving something back to this city and to those fans in the form of a trophy in the near future is my vision," the former Hertha Berlin, Borussia Dortmund and Schalke midfielder said.
Indeed, it was one of Boateng's former clubs, AC Milan, that prompted a rubbing of shoulders for Wolf with current Paris-Saint Germain superstar Neymar. Boateng was showing Wolf around the Italian city when the pair stopped for a bite to eat in a Milanese restaurant, where the Brazilian trickster just happened to be dining.
"My aim is to one day play against [Neymar], or even with him!," Wolf told kicker. For now, the coming-of-age Eintracht loanee is more than happy to continue to work hard in order to help Eintracht and Kevin-Prince Boateng achieve the team's goal of giving something back to their faithful fans.