Lewis Holtby is attracting more than his fair share of attention at present. A Germany international, who turns out with Schalke in the Bundesliga, Holtby is one of the hottest transfer targets of the season.
The midfielder joined Schalke from Alemannia Aachen in 2009 and had spells on loan at Bochum and Mainz before heading back to Gelsenkirchen primed for first team football in the summer of 2011. Holtby’s father is English, while his mother is German – a combination which means he could have played for the England national team, but opted for Die Mannschaft instead.
It was at Mainz where Holtby started to make a name for himself, alongside forward Andre Schurrle, now at Leverkusen. The pair were part of a Mainz side that stormed to the top of the Bundesliga table after eight games in 2010/11, beating even Bayern Munich along the way. Soon Schalke realised their midfielder was blossoming and brought him back to the Veltins Arena at the end of the season.
Holtby has not disappointed at Schalke, becoming a popular figure with the club’s fans and playing a pivotal role in the fine form of Huub Stevens’ men, both in the Bundesliga and in Europe. As part of an attacking force with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Jefferson Farfan, Julian Draxler and Ibrahim Afellay, Holtby has played a big role in a Schalke side which has put rivals to the sword, most recently seeing off Arsenal with ease, recording a 2-0 win at the Emirates Stadium in the Champions League before coming back from 2-0 down to draw with the Gunners in the reverse fixture in Gelsenkirchen.
Still just 22 years old, his fine domestic displays convinced Germany coach Joachim Low to call him up to the national team, capping the midfielder to end any hope England had of tempting him to represent the Three Lions.
While his international future is now certainly not in England though, his club future might be, with both Arsenal and Liverpool having been strongly linked with a bid for his services. Holtby’s contract at Schalke expires in the summer and his agent admits offers have arrived from the land of his father’s birth.
Ahead of Schalke’s match against Arsenal at the Veltins Arena, Holtby was questioned about a potential switch away from the Ruhr giants. "I think people talk about it too much”, he told the assembled media. “I am blue and white, I am with Schalke and agents are there to deal with that. My focus is on the squad, the team, the club and tomorrow’s game. I play for Schalke, I don’t play for Liverpool, Arsenal or anyone else."
Holtby’s father hails from Merseyside, which on the face of it would appear to favour a switch to Liverpool, but for the fact his dad is a lifelong Everton fan. Holtby has admitted to following Everton’s fortunes closely, something which could get any potential Liverpool career off on the wrong foot.
The jury is out on whether Holtby will remain at Schalke or choose to fulfil his ambition of playing in the English Premier League. Schalke have struck a confident note over a new contract, though an acceptance of Holtby’s “English dream” hints to an uncertainty over whether he will put pen to paper.
Schalke are firmly of the opinion that their young star still has growing to do – and where better than in Gelsenkirchen? "Holtby’s doing well", explained sporting director Horst Heldt. "But he can still learn a lot."
Now Holtby must decide: is it Arsenal, Liverpool or the more comfortable surrounds of home which will provide the best platform?
Photo courtesy xtranews