Schalke midfielder Sebastian Rudy may be known as one of football's Mr. Nice Guys, but his reputation masks a battle-hardened will to win that has propelled him to the very top of the game. takes a closer look at a man has flown under the radar for far too long…

1) Footballing family

The second oldest of four siblings in a football-crazy family, Rudy grew up in the town of Dietingen, which lies between Freiburg and Stuttgart in south-west Germany, although he was actually born in the nearby town of Villingen-Schwenningen – where Schalke team-mate Daniel Caligiuri is also from. Rudy's older brother Florian was likewise a professional footballer in the third division, but their passion for the game came from their father Claude, who once played alongside Jürgen Klinsmann in a Baden-Württemberg state XI and was also Rudy's coach in the local youth team at FC Dietingen.

Watch: All you need to know about Rudy's new club Schalke

2) Fritz Walter Medal winner

After joining the VfB Stuttgart academy in 2003 at the age of 13 with his brother Florian (who left in 2004), Rudy rose through the ranks and eventually made it into the first team as a fresh-faced teenager in 2008.

Earlier that year he received the seal of approval for any up-and-coming young footballer by winning the silver medal in the prestigious Fritz-Walter Awards in the U-18 category, behind future Germany colleague Toni Kroos. Nevertheless, things did not go entirely to plan in Stuttgart - though he did score one and set up another in a UEFA Champions League victory over Rangers - and after making just 15 league outings he departed for Hoffenheim in 2010.

He may regret the haircut, but not the moment: Rudy proudly shows off his Fritz Walter Medal in 2008. © gettyimages / Thomas Langer

3) Late bloomer

At the time, Hoffenheim were still finding their feet at Germany's top table, having only been promoted to the Bundesliga two years earlier. Yet with Rudy's assured presence on the ball and ability to play in various positions across the midfield – even filling in at right-back on occasion – they became a firmly established Bundesliga force and have remained there ever since.

And although Rudy became a full Germany international in 2014, it was not until Julian Nagelsmann became head coach in 2016 that he truly blossomed into the top-class player he is today. "We don't need to talk about his footballing qualities, because they're exceptional," said Nagelsmann shortly after taking over. "But sometimes he's lacked that 'decisive-gene'. And if he can bring that toughness onto the pitch he can be very influential and decide every game." It is safe to say that Rudy took that advice on board, progressing enough to persuade Bayern Munich to sign him in summer 2017.

4) An international career spanning 10 years

Rudy's name may have only come to the fore in recent months, but they have long known about him in Germany's footballing circles. He partnered Kroos in midfield at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in South Korea in 2007, helping the side finish third. He also represented the U-18s, U-19s and U-21s before making his debut in the senior side in a 0-0 draw with Poland in May 2014.

Although he just missed out on being named in the World Cup squad for Brazil 2014, he was the leader of the Germany team that stormed to the FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 title in Russia, starting each of his side's games and only missing 16 minutes of the whole tournament. Joachim Löw was impressed enough to take him to the 2018 World Cup, but he played just 31 minutes after suffering a broken nose in Germany's game against Sweden.

Sebastian Rudy helped Germany win the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2017, having previously represented his country at every youth level. © imago / DeFodi

5) Hummels' mate

Although Rudy only stayed at Bayern for one season before joining Schalke, he became close friends with fellow Germany international Mats Hummels. The pair are similar in age (Rudy is 28, Hummels 29), have similar interests and are down-to-earth people away from the football pitch. Both are dog lovers (Rudy as a Golden Retriever called Diego, Hummels a Labrador called Coco) and both became parents at almost the same time (Rudy in March 2018, Hummels in January 2018). Hummels was even invited to the baby shower for Rudy's wife.

As such, Hummels was moved to post a touching farewell message on Instagram when news of Rudy's transfer broke. "A brilliant footballer and person is leaving us," he wrote. "He's a virtuoso at video games, a machine at the table-tennis table […] and a genius at playing two-touch football."

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