The 20-year-old wonderkid is being courted by the best clubs across the globe but the attention of Jose Mourinho could be enough to tempt him to the Premier League
By Jay Jaffa
As one of the most gifted young playmakers in world football, picking the right option comes naturally to Schalke’s Julian Draxler, but on the morning of what is being painted as his Chelsea audition the German could be forgiven for feeling daunted by the multitude of choices he has, with the whole of Europe courting his services.
The German playmaker - yes, another one - boasts a burgeoning reputation after a couple of spectacular seasons at die Konigsblauen. Talk is, in a world of Mesut Ozils, Toni Krooses and Mario Gotzes, Draxler could exceed the achievements of them all, he’s that highly rated.
It is no exaggeration to say that Draxler has every major club side in Europe courting his signature. He has been linked to Barcelona and Arsenal, spoke of his dream of playing for Manchester United or Chelsea, how he lost sleep over offers from Real Madrid and Manchester City, his pride at being linked to Inter, aspirations of representing Bayern Munich, while Juventus attempted to negotiate a deal with Schalke.
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Yet, his new contract ties him to Schalke until 2018 with a hefty €45.5 million (£38.5m) release clause, a move that put his suitors at bay, at least for now. The feeling in Germany is that he will stay until after the World Cup before moving on. Draxler comes across as a smart, level-headed operator - mature beyond his years. He has said previously that he will know when the time is right to fly the Veltins Arena nest and make the jump to an elite club.
Speaking to WAZ earlier this year, he said: "There are for me Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United.
"I say quite honestly that I dream of one day playing for one of these teams - but I also say that I’ve always loved Schalke. My family and I have much to thank the club for. But my dream is still to play for the biggest club in Europe."
There will of course be those wondering what Chelsea will do with another attacking midfielder. The club is saturated with tricky, diminutive attackers. Draxler, according to his Schalke team-mate Kevin Prince Boateng, is cut from a different cloth.
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Across London, the fanfare that accompanied Ozil's move to Arsenal this summer will be difficult to rival, such was the club's desperation for a marquee signing, but we should look beyond the bluster and more closely at Ozil's development to understand why and how Draxler may prosper at Stamford Bridge.
Goal revealed in July that the German rejected a pre-contract approach from Chelsea but there is a strong feeling that if he moved to the Premier League, only the likes of Mourinho or Arsene Wenger could tempt him.
Mourinho, of course, oversaw Ozil's superlative form at Real Madrid during his three-year spell at the Bernabeu. Ozil, a wiry No.10, not dissimilar to Draxler, racked up 67 assists between 2010 and 2013 after signing for Mourinho - one of many achievements the Portuguese coach can boast. Such care and attention to a player he clearly adored bodes well for Draxler and would be a significant selling point were Chelsea to return in 2014.
A word of caution, though. Mourinho's responsibilities have been scaled back in comparison to his first spell at Stamford Bridge and it was clear that Michael Emanalo and Roman Abramovich conducted the club’s transfer business in the summer. Mourinho has toed the party line, praising the qualities of players such as Willian and Andre Schurrle - players the club had identified and chased for over two years.
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On Tuesday night, he will get a first-hand look at Draxler. He will be flanked by the similarly talented teenager Maximillian Meyer, but with Marco Hoger and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar long-term absentees, responsibility will lie with their No.10 for this Group E Champions League clash.
In the previous round of fixtures, the Gladbeck-born technician scored the game’s only goal - a wonderful volley - as Jens Keller’s side triumphed 1-0 at St Jakob Park over Basel, pushing their record to a perfect six points from six. This was only Draxler’s second goal of the season, but both have been saved for the big stage - the Champions League.
That said, Mourinho's interest first spiked as he watched Draxler net a last-gasp winner for Schalke in a cup game against Nurnberg on his debut. That was over two years ago and it became a genuine talking point in Germany as workers' rights groups protested the involvement of a 17-year-old in professional football.
Fortunately such fears about his upbringing have evaporated, although Draxler's sense of fun remains. In keeping with his flirtatious character, Draxler closed the pre-game press conference by joking that he would love to emulate Schurrle’s hat-trick for Germany last week by scoring a treble against Chelsea.
An endearing quip and one to keep the home supporters onside, were it not for the addition that: “Of course I have spoken to Schurrle about the English league, which is one of the best in the world.”
He may be plotting the downfall of Chelsea on Tuesday evening as Schalke aim to steal a march to the Champions League knockout rounds, but this superstar in the making could be poring over Mourinho's blueprints in years to come, should the Special One get his way.