Gian-Luca Waldschmidt was born in Siegen, North Rhine-Westphalia, and began his football playing career 140km north in Frohnhausen. As a youngster, he moved around various teams in western Germany, before joining Eintracht Frankfurt’s youth team in 2010. It was through Die Adler’s academy that he would break into the professional ranks, joining Frankfurt’s B team in 2014. After making just two appearances, Waldschmidt joined the first team that same year.
However, after a convincing rise to the top of German football, the striker found it difficult to make a name for himself at Frankfurt. The young forward made the move to Hamburg, where subsequently he found it equally as difficult to make a lasting impression, scoring just two goals in 35 appearances for Die Rothosen. Perhaps crucially for Waldschmidt’s career not going entirely off the rails, he scored an all-important goal which saw Hamburg stay out of the relegation play-off in 2017. Despite this, Hamburg’s relief would be thwarted just one season later, as they faced the drop to the second tier of German football for the first time in the club’s history.
Following the drop to 2. Bundesliga, Luca Waldschmidt’s release clause (set at €5 million) was triggered by SC Freiburg. Even though manager Christian Streich already had the likes of Florian Niederlechner, Tim Kleindeist, and experienced poacher – Nils Petersen at his disposal up top, he felt it necessary to make the addition. At this time, Waldschmidt had not accomplished much on paper at Frankfurt or Hamburg at all, and was certainly not something to write home about. The signing was well received by sporting director Klemens Hartenbach, who had taken a risk by triggering a hefty release clause on a player who was unproven. Waldschmidt told the club’s website: “I am in the right place for my further development.”
Since joining Freiburg, Waldschmidt has made 30 appearances and has netted nine goals. But you have to look beyond what’s on paper to appreciate his talents. Waldschmidt is also a provider of assists and a fantastic link-up player, along with a great ability to run beyond the last man. Making him a great fit for Freiburg who play with a strong focus on counter-attacking football.
Although Waldschmidt’s form in the Bundesliga over the past season has been eye-catching, and has been a big contributor to the acclaims he has received, it has been on the international football scene where he has attracted the most attention. Waldschmidt has played for Germany internationally since the U16s. However, this summer he really made a name for himself, finishing as the top scorer at the U21 European Championship in Italy. The forward scored seven goals in total, finishing three ahead of Romania’s George Puscas. Lots of really flourishing young strikers played in the tournament including; Tammy Abraham, Moussa Dembele, and Mainz’s Jean-Phillipe Mateta, all of which only bagged the one goal. This demonstrates just how effective Waldschmidt was in the tournament and why he has become a big talking point in recent months.
A combination of his international success in the U21 Euros and his massively improved domestic form earned him his first senior Germany national team call up. Joachim Low selected him for Die Mannschaft’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against The Netherlands and Northern Ireland. Both key games for Germany, and Low is desperate to find strikers who will bag plenty of goals.
Given some of Germany’s recent Euro qualifiers, now seems as good as time as ever to give players such as Waldschmidt a chance. Germany recently losing 4-2 to the Netherlands in Hamburg, in what has to be one of the worst matches the Germans have played under Jogi Low. On paper, the Germany squad is excellent whichever way you look at it, but with Jonathan Tah and Niklas Süle looking shaky together, perhaps through a lack of international experience, Germany are vulnerable at the back, therefore goals are even more important. Serge Gnabry and Kai Havertz being used as forwards has left a lot of fans scratching their heads, neither are conventional strikers.
Twenty-three is the number. Waldschmidt is still currently only 23-years-old, and so his best years are still to come. The youngster is attracting attention from some huge clubs, and reports are circulating that he will be available for just €23 million in the upcoming transfer windows, due to a release clause in his contract. With the absurd amount of money in football these days, this amount is minimal to Europe’s top clubs. And despite being a regular fixture of the Bundesliga under Christian Streich, it will be very difficult for Freiburg to hold on to Waldschmidt due to the club’s stature.
It will be exciting to watch Luca Waldschmidt in the coming months for club and country. He has waited patiently to impress, but it has been worth the wait. The move to Freiburg has helped the youngster get back on track. The risk taken by Streich back in 2018 appears to have paid off.
By Cameron O’Mara.