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Ahead of Saturday's derby showdown between Dortmund and Schalke, Goal.com examines Germany's eternal fountain of star-power, honouring the best players it has produced

ANALYSIS
By Clark Whitney | German Football Editor

Not long ago, the Ruhr area was synonymous with German industry. But since the closure of many coal mines and steel mills in the late 1900s, the small pocket in the North Rhine-Westphalia has gained a new reputation: producing talented footballers by the dozen.

Mesut Ozil, Manuel Neuer and Marco Reus are just a few of the many stars of today’s game who were born in the Ruhr area. Indeed, even though it is just one eighth of the size of Catalunya, the region that contains Dortmund, Gelsenkirchen, Essen, Duisburg and Bochum can be compared to the Spanish territory in terms of the sheer quantity of classy players who called it home during their formative years.

RISING STARS FROM THE RUHR AREA
PIERRE-MICHEL LASOGGA (20, FW, HERTHA)

Scored 13 goals in the 2. Bundesliga last term, but has since stumbled. The Gladbeck native is a powerful and lethal finisher.
PHILIPP HOFMANN (19, FW, SCHALKE)
The towering Arnsberg native has been prolific for the German U19 side, but has yet to make an impact since being promoted to the S04 reserves.
JULIAN DRAXLER (18, MF, SCHALKE)
From Gladbeck, Draxler made his senior debut last season and has since earned a starting role. He is the youngest member of the German U21s.
KORAY GUNTER (17, DF, DORTMUND)

The centre-back captains the BVB U19 team, and with Emre Can was the first of the 2011 Germany U17 side to be promoted to the U19s.
MAXIMILIAN MEYER (16, MF, SCHALKE)
Even at 16, the versatile attacker has flourished with the S04 U19s. This season he has scored 11 goals and given 10 assists in just 17 matches.
A combined Ruhr-born team would be formidable at any level, and an extension to include all players from the North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) would have the class to contend with any European regional team.

It might at first come as a surprise that there is no European powerhouse that resides in the NRW. But the west of Germany contains many cities - and with them, many clubs - among which the local talents are distributed.

Indeed, Schalke, Dortmund, Monchengladbach, Leverkusen and Koln draw from talent pools all within 80 kilometres of one another. Bayern Munich, by contrast, have only Augsburg (65km) and Nurnberg (170km) as first division sides that can compete for academy recruits.

As for fanbase - and with it, market power - the mere fact that the stadiums of Germany’s fiercest rivals, Dortmund and Schalke, are situated only 30km apart clearly illustrates how divided the Ruhr area is. But, collectively there is a tremendous concentration of talent coming through the ranks of the region’s biggest clubs: Dortmund, Schalke, Bochum and Duisburg.

While the Ruhr area accounts for just 1.2 per cent of the land mass in Germany and only 6.3% of the country’s population, clubs from the former industrial centre have sent 23 players to the German Under-15 to U20 national teams this season. A further eight with ties to the Ruhr area have been called up to the U21 side.

Indeed, true to its industrial past, the Ruhr has become a factory that churns out footballing talents every year.

And now, as Germany's greatest rivals, Dortmund and Schalke prepare to kick-off for the 137th time in their competitive history on Saturday, Goal.com honours the top players to be born in and/or to play in the Ruhr area during their pre-professional years.

BEST XI | Players born or trained in the Ruhr area

MANUEL NEUER
BAYERN MUNICH
Birthplace: Gelsenkirchen*
Ruhr Youth Club: Schalke
*Ruhr area

BENEDIKT HOWEDES
CHRISTOPH METZELDER
JOEL MATIP
SCHALKE
SCHALKE
SCHALKE
Birthplace: Haltern
Birthplace: Haltern
Birthplace: Bochum*
Ruhr Youth Clubs: Herten-Langenbochum, Schalke
Ruhr Youth Club: Schalke
Ruhr Youth Clubs: Bochum, Schalke

ILKAY GUNDOGAN
HAMIT ALTINTOP
NURI SAHIN
DORTMUND REAL MADRID
REAL MADRID
Birthplace: Gelsenkirchen*
Birthplace: Gelsenkirchen*
Birthplace: Ludenscheid*
Ruhr Youth Clubs: Schalke, Gelsenkirchen-Hessler, Buer, Bochum
Ruhr Youth Clubs: S-W Gelsenkirchen, Rotthausen, Wattenscheid
Ruhr Youth Club: Bor. Dortmund

MARIO GOTZE


MESUT OZIL


DORTMUND

REAL MADRID
Birthplace: Memmingen
 
Birthplace: Gelsenkirchen*
Ruhr Youth Clubs: Hombruch, Bor. Dortmund


Ruhr Youth Clubs: Westf. Gelsenkirchen, Teut. Schalke-Nord, Falke Gelsenkirchen, R-W Essen, Schalke


MARCO REUS
KEVIN GROSSKREUTZ



 
MONCHENGLADBACH
DORTMUND
 
Birthplace: Dortmund*
Birthplace: Dortmund*


Ruhr Youth Clubs: Post SV Dortmund, Bor. Dortmund
Ruhr Youth Clubs: R-W Obereving, K'hausen, Merk. Dortmund, Bor. Dortmund


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