Julian Draxler: World Cup-winner ends Wolfsburg debacle
Draxler had the world at his feet when Wolfsburg paid Schalke 35 million euros ($37.3m) back in August 2015.
Julian Draxler had the world at his feet when Wolfsburg paid Schalke 35 million euros ($37.3m) back in August 2015 for Germany’s rising star.
"We’re convinced Julian will develop further with us," beamed Wolfsburg’s then-director of sport Klaus Allofs with Draxler signed as a playmaker to replace Kevin De Bruyne, who had just left for Manchester City.
Wolfsburg confirmed Saturday that the attacking midfielder was joining Paris Saint Germain.
Draxler, who signed a five-year deal, wanted to play Champions League football with Wolfsburg, the 2015 German Cup winners, who had just beaten Bayern Munich in a penalty shoot-out to win the German Super Cup.
But by December 2016, the winger had repeatedly made it crystal clear he wanted to leave, which saw him kicked out of the squad for their 5-0 league drubbing at Bayern.
At 23, with a World Cup winners medal in his pocket and 27 caps for his country, he was now too big for Wolfsburg.
"This kind of attitude always brings confusion in a team," said Wolfsburg’s coach Valerien Ismael.
"If you focus on something, you have to put all your heart into it."
As his team-mate Mario Gomez put it "those who want to leave should be allowed to go. It should have already been settled in the summer!"
In August, Draxler first said he wanted to leave Wolfsburg, but his request fell on deaf ears with then-coach Dieter Hecking, who was sacked in October by Allofs, who in turn left in December after poor results.
It was not an option to let their star go less than a year after signing HIM, but things went from bad to worse in the league table.
Draxler did not even bother celebrating with fans after their 1-0 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt on December 18 in the last league game of the year.
There had been little sign of the trouble ahead in Draxler’s first season.
The attacking midfielder helped Wolfsburg qualify top of their group for the Champions League’s knock-out stages for the first time in the club’s history — sealed by a 3-2 home win over Manchester United.
Draxler ran the show, then dazzled again in the 2-0 home win over Real Madrid in the quarter-finals, before Wolfsburg bowed out after losing 3-0 at the Bernabeu.
Wolfsburg finished eighth last season, missing out on even a Europa League place, and Draxler returned from Euro 2016 having played in five of Germany’s six games.
‘Train to Berlin’
When magazine Der Spiegel asked what was the nicest thing about Wolfsburg, a city dominated by car manufacturer Volkswagen, he replied: "the short train journey to Berlin."
Draxler has always been a precocious talent, gifted with extreme pace, who is an excellent reader of the game and strong in one-on-one challenges.
He joined Schalke when he was eight, then set a club record by making his Bundesliga debut in January 2011 aged 17 years and 117 days.
He had yet to turn 18 when he set two German Cup records in the 2011 final as the youngest player to appear and score in Schalke’s 5-0 thrashing of Duisburg.
He made his Germany debut at 18, coming off the bench in a 5-3 friendly defeat to Switzerland in May 2012.
In January 2014, UK newspaper The Observer named him, along with the likes Manchester United’s Paul Pogba and Everton’s Romelu Lukaku, amongst Europe’s top 10 youngsters.
At 20 years and 265 days, he became the youngest player to captain Germany, in a friendly against Poland in May 2014, and made the cut for the World Cup squad, coming off the bench in the infamous 7-1 semi-final victory.
But his performances this season have been nowhere near his reputation.
As ex-Germany captain Lothar Matthaeus put it in early December,"if I was in charge of a big club, I would not recruit Draxler at the moment.
"First, because of his weakness of character and then because, although he certainly has talent, he has never proved at a high level that he could make a lasting difference."