Schalke head coach Domenico Tedesco says the best is yet to come from Weston McKennie, while sporting director Christian Heidel believes the USA international "can become one of the faces" of the club.
McKennie brought up his latest bunch of career milestones prior to the October international break, by scoring his first competitive goals for Schalke in back-to-back wins over Lokomotiv Moscow in the UEFA Champions League and Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga. Still only 20, he has already made 34 first-team appearances, and earned six senior international caps for the USA.
Watch: Weston McKennie scored his first Bundesliga goal on Matchday 7
"Weston isn't just important to us for his goals," Tedesco said following the Matchday 7 win over promoted Düsseldorf. "Even during those phases when it’s not going so well, he embodies everything that we strive to stand for. He has a good mentality, he's powerful, down-to-earth and works hard - and he can play as a six, eight or ten. As long as he continues to work hard and keeps his feet on the ground, he’ll only get better. He's just great!"
McKennie's work ethic has already taken him a long way. Initially joining Schalke's U19s from FC Dallas in 2016, the Texan got his first taste of Bundesliga football on the final day of the 2016/17 campaign. He became a first-team regular as the Royal Blues finished second only to record champions Bayern Munich last season and, other than a couple of injury lay-offs, has scarcely been out of the side since.
"Weston is a very good footballer, but he also has a lot of traits that are very, very important to Schalke," Heidel explained. "The fans love the way he plays, and the work he puts in. His body language is extraordinary. There are players in the team that already measure themselves against him, and let's not forget that he's still a raw talent. It's not like he's reached his full potential at 20. I'm sure he'll only get better. He can become one of the faces of Schalke."
And there's every reason he will. It's abundantly clear that McKennie has the drive, commitment and quality to scale Mount Superstardom - but best of all, he wants to do it in a Schalke shirt.
"I love the club and everything here: my teammates, the head coach and the fans," McKennie said after signing a long-term contract through to summer 2022 in September 2017. "It's an amazing place to be. I'd love to stay here forever."
McKennie was forced him to pull out of the USA squad for friendlies against Colombia and Peru because of injury, but is expected to be fit for Schalke's upcoming Bundesliga assignment against Josh Sargent's Werder Bremen on 20 October.