Sami Khedira: Juventus and Germany's midfield marvel, made in the Bundesliga
Sami Khedira has achieved enough throughout his career to have volumes of scrapbooks full of headline-making material, yet the Juventus midfielder's cuttings may not, actually, extend so far.
Often a measure of a player's influence is not the number of goals or assists they make, or the attempts they torpedo, but in their stealthily silent steadying presence on the field. Khedira is such a star, and where he may lack in terms of headlines, he more than makes up for in trophies and accolades.
A total of 12 years since making his professional debut in the Bundesliga with VfB Stuttgart, Khedira has an enviable list of achievements, all earned in his almost inimitable, humble manner. Khedira lets his actions do the talking, succinctly.
Watch: Khedira - made in the Bundesliga
Almost an end before a beginning
Born in Stuttgart in 1987, Khedira caught the eye of Stuttgart's talent scouts at the age of eight, playing for TV Oeffingen. The Baden-Württemberg club's youth academy being the envy of many in Germany, Khedira did not need to be invited twice to his home-town club, where he marched his way through the ranks to appear for the Swabians' reserve team, perhaps a little too quickly as the burden almost cost him his career.
As he was on the verge of making his first-team debut under then coach Giovanni Trapattoni, he injured his knee so badly, surgery was required – and it was not guaranteed to resolve the issue. Indeed, Khedira was just 17 when he was told his knee was never going to be strong enough for a professional career. "I was under shock and couldn't believe it," he told spox.com. "If I'd needed one more operation, I would have had to quit."
It may not have ended his career, but it was a setback nonetheless. "When you're out for so long, people stop considering you," Khedira recalled. "There's nobody there to support you." Rather than capitulating, Khedira took strength from the toughest time of his life, which proved to be a pivotal moment. "It wasn't easy as a teenager to suffer through rehabilitation work while everybody else is out on the field, but I never gave up and always believed I would make it."
Craving something new
"I travelled to the second leg of our semi-final against Bayern Munich and just before the end, Xabi Alonso got an unnecessary yellow card and I thought to myself 'that means his place is available in the final' and that gave me yet more motivation. I knew I had a chance, and I made it – it was a special moment for me."
More was to follow just a few months later as Khedira inspired Germany, in a similarly silent yet effective role, to victory at the FIFA World Cup. Mario Götze may have taken the headlines with his final-winning goal, but Khedira helped lay much of the groundwork before another injury denied him his place in the final, but did not stop him partaking in the celebrations.
Having reached the zenith of his profession, Khedira still saw room for improvement and accepted another challenge at Juve. "I craved something new, and Juve were back to their best: winning Serie A year on year, playing in Champions League finals – a new country, new language, new culture," Khedira said. "I knew I could play a role here and I was at an age where I had high demands of myself of taking responsibility and becoming a lead figure. It was just the ticket."
With Juve, Khedira became even more versatile, filling the boots of the departed Arturo Vidal and stepping into the footsteps of another Juve legend before him: Andrea Pirlo. Trained in the Italian school by Massimiliano Allegri, his game gained nuances which even led to him becoming more prolific; making a more tangible contribution to Juve completing a record-breaking run of seven straight Scudettos. Six goals in five seasons in Spain were almost matched in his first year in Serie A, when he netted five. A further five followed in 2016/17 before his personal best single-season haul of nine in 2017/18.
It earned him a third Serie A title, to add to the Spanish La Liga crown he earned in Madrid, to go alongside the three Coppa Italias, FIFA World Club Cup, UEFA Super Cup and two Copa del Reys in his trophy cabinet.
Khedira does not make a song and dance about it, though, even if he would have every right to do so. "I want people to remember me as a fair, ambitious and absolutely professional footballer and person," he said about the legacy he would like to live. Those are values he learned and honed in his early days, when Sami Khedira was made in the Bundesliga.
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