Julian Draxler enters the 2017/18 campaign off the back of two difficult seasons that has seen him amass transfer fees believed to be in excess of €77m and with little success to show for his exploits. Despite the relative malaise that has struck his on the pitch performances since the glorious start to his career at Schalke, Draxler still remains one of Germany’s most highly rated forwards.
As he enters the golden window of his career, it is pivotal that his next manoeuvre proves more rewarding than the two to have proceeded it. To understand where the German stands now, we must cast our minds back to the beginning of his mercurial journey.
The German’s talents had been known to those that follow German academy football for a keen eye, and it was in the January of 2011 that these talents were finally unleashed upon the Bundesliga.
At just 18-years-old, the prodigy was given his chance to shine in a promising Schalke side that boasted the likes of Manuel Neuer, the Croatian Ivan Rakitić and the iconic Spanish striker Raúl – becoming the second youngest player to feature in Germany’s premier division at the time.
What followed were five strong seasons of senior team service to the club for whom he had risen from the ranks as he secured an impressive 170 appearances and 30 goals for the miners.
Alongside a DFB Pokal winners medal that was claimed in the youngster’s first season at the club, his endeavours were also rewarded with several individual accolades as he secured the Bundesliga Young Player of the Season award and a place in the Bundesliga Team of the Season during a productive 2013/14 campaign.
However, as the club’s performance levels subsided and the ranks of the Schalke squad were slowly depleted as competitors successfully nicked off the club’s stars one-by-one, an opportunity presented itself for the young Draxler to seek an opportunity to further his ambitions with a reinvigorated VfL Wolfsburg side.
Draxler struggled to settle into a much changed Wolfsburg squad that failed to live up to the emphatic form that saw them finish runners-up in the previous campaign, finishing a meagre eighth place in the Bundesliga as they failed to qualify for a place in European competition for the first time since the 2012/13 campaign, their maiden season under the guidance of Dieter Hecking.
A shadow of the incisive attacking threat that had caught the attention of the footballing world during his Schalke prime, Draxler’s stop-start maiden campaign in the green and white of Wolfsburg quickly transcended into a dismal run of form that saw him secure an abysmal zero Bundesliga goals and two assists as his side’s fall from the pinnacle of German football was compounded.
An apparent escape from what the German international openly referred to as “the worst start [to a season] of my career” at the Wolves was afforded to the 23-year-old at the start of 2017, with the financial powerhouse that is Paris Saint-Germain keen to secure his creative talents.
Whilst the move to Ligue 1 proved initially fruitful for Draxler, scoring in his first two appearances for the club as he finished the season on a respectable 10 goals in 25 appearances across all competitions following his €42m move, the winger now finds himself facing an abrupt fork-in-the-road.
Having played just 12 minutes of Ligue 1 action for his team this season ahead of a World Cup year, Draxler will be eager to ensure he secures first team football as he bids to remain in Joachim Löw’s plans. Especially following a scintillating Confederations Cup that saw him secure the tournament’s prestigious Golden Ball award.
With the club’s surprise deal that saw them secure the talents of Barcelona’s Brazilian superstar Neymar Jr. for a world record €222m, alongside a reported loan-to-buy deal for AS Monaco’s prodigious teenager Kylian Mbappé for an eye-watering €180m, manager Unai Emery is believed to no longer see the German as a part of his plans for the club.
The news that Ousmane Dembélé’s protracted bid to secure a move to secure his dream move to Spanish giants Barcelona, a window of opportunity could be open for Draxler to secure a move back to his homeland with Schalke’s arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Dortmund may have secured the services of the tricky Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmolenko in a deal reported to be in the region of €25m, however, die Schwarzgelben would still undoubtedly benefit from capturing the services of a player of Draxler’s calibre.
With the likes of Mario Götze and Andre Schürrle – both signed last summer – failing to make significant impacts upon the first team, there would certainly be the potential for the nomadic Draxler to finally find a place to call home.
The American prospect Christian Pulisic may be showing plenty of signs of his up-side potential, however, it would be foolish for club to ignore the opportunity to sign a winger who already has proven Bundesliga pedigree.
Physical, with exceptional pace and a level of final third creativity that is almost unrivalled when at his brilliant best, the 35-time-capped international could easily slot into the Dortmund XI to create a fierce triple entente alongside Gabonese superstar Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and the newly arrived Yarmolenko.
The road to the present point in his career has been unexpectedly tumultuous for Draxler since his emergence as one of the hottest prospects to be produced by the S04 academy in recent times.
Undoubtedly hungry to prove his detractors wrong having been unceremoniously dumped by his current employer, a return to the forefront of Germany’s domestic scene could be the perfect move to put an end to a faltering period of Draxler’s burgeoning career.
By Joe Thomas.