[dropcap]F[/dropcap]ollowing Germany’s World Cup triumph in the summer, a number of older heads retired from the national set-up and a period of transition is underway for Joachim Löw’s side.
Although a sprinkling of experienced players featured heavily during their glorious campaign in Brazil, the core of Die Mannschaft’s contingent at the tournament were aged in their early-to-mid 20’s.
With scope for new young stars to take the step up into the senior German side ahead of Euro 2016 in France, Schalke duo Julian Draxler and Max Meyer are expected to play a prominent role in the European nation’s continued presence amongst the football elite.
Both are products of the Gelsenkirchen outfit’s youth system and have showed considerable promise in recent years that suggests they can be stars for club and country for years to come.
Arsenal were heavily linked with a move for Draxler in the summer, while Liverpool are also touted as major suitors of the younger Meyer.
With plenty of interest from overseas, the next step in the pair’s careers is a critical one if they are to live up to their respective promise.
At 21 Draxler is the senior statesman of Schalke’s prodigious pairing and has been involved in the Bundesliga side’s first team for the bulk of five seasons.
On his day there is valid reason for reading into the hype; the attacking midfielder’s technique, blistering pace and footballing intelligence is there for all to see.
Despite having represented Germany on 15 occasions, amassed plenty of experience in domestic football and stepped out in the Champions League, Draxler must still be adjudged as something of a raw talent rather than a current star on the world stage.
He does have the ability to change a game and has shown that he can be a match-winner, but his shows of brilliance have been all-too infrequent over the last 18 months to suggest that he is ready for the next step in his career.
Draxler has proven himself to be wasteful on occasion when he gets into promising attacking positions, while the accusation that he does not score enough goals is given credence by the fact that he only netted twice last term.
The Gladbeck-born playmaker has also had injury concerns to overcome, with his young career blighted by prolonged periods on the sidelines.
He has been absent for the last number of months due to a thigh injury, while Achilles tendon problems have reared their head in the past.
There is no doubting that Draxler is a player that has the attributes to potentially develop into a world beater, but comparing his current ability with someone such as compatriot Marco Reus shows that he is by no means the finished article.
Like Draxler, Meyer made his Schalke debut as a fresh-faced teenager after impressing in club and national youth ranks and has continued to improve over recent seasons.
The youngster’s vision and creativity stand out when he is given space by opponents, but his ability on the ball and dribbling must be seen as his most impressive attributes.
Having netted the decisive goal that ensured Schalke’s place in the Champions League knockout rounds this season and also struck from range yesterday against Werder Bremen, he has also displayed an ability to hit the back of the net with regularity.
Versatile enough to play in a number of attacking positions, Meyer has made one senior appearance for the Germany national side and has shown maturity beyond his young years.
Since Roberto Di Matteo took over at the Gelsenkirchen club, Meyer has been mostly included in Schalke’s starting XI, but he is yet to nail down an automatic place in the German club’s first team.
Given his age and relatively limited experience of senior football, it would be advisable that Meyer continues his development with an impressive Germany under-21 outfit, which seems like the sensible option.
Like Draxler, Meyer has impressed with his ability but has a lot still to learn.
In big games he has been accused of having limited impact at times, but this is understandable given his age.
Both Draxler and Meyer are unique talents that can be real stars for club and country for years to come.
At this stage in their careers, a move to one of the Premier League’s top teams may well be a year or two premature, but with the Bundesliga continuing to prosper and Schalke playing in the Champions League, Gelsenkirchen seems like a good place for the duo to develop.
For Draxler, getting fit and working on his precision in the final third can see him become a regular for the German national side.
Meyer will have a regular spot in the Schalke team as his short-term goal, but his vast talent means that the sky is the limit in the long term.
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