The Schalke midfielder's contractual situation prompted a race to secure his signature, which Spurs won after the promising player put pen to paper on a pre-contract agreement
By Chris Myson
One of the players to watch in this January transfer window was Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby, following his announcement that he would not sign a new contract.
That had prompted Premier League interest from Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool and following up their inquiries, Spurs moved early in January to tie up a pre-contract agreement with the 22-year-old, who will join in the summer.
Goal.com had reported that Holtby would prefer to join Tottenham than the other concrete offer he had at the table from Brendan Rodgers' Reds, but what is the background of Andre Villas Boas' newest signing?
Holtby was born in Erkelenz, Rhineland, to a German mother and an English father, Chris, who had been stationed at an airbase in the country.
Holtby senior's passion for football had a clear early influence, but the youngster's hopes of making it in the sport suffered an early blow as he was released from the Borussia Monchengladbach academy at the age of 14, after being told he lacked the physical qualities to progress.
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That form saw him attract the attentions of Germany's top-tier clubs, and it did not take long for Schalke to snap their man up on a four-year contract.
The midfielder's start to life in Gelsenkirchen was perhaps not as smooth as he might have hoped, as he was farmed out on loan to Bochum and then Mainz with a view to gaining more experience. Regardless, the Bundesliga side's approach had evidently worked as Holtby returned two seasons later to make 22 league starts, scoring six goals in the process.
Unfortunately for Schalke fans, Holtby's time away on temporary deals was not backed up by an intelligent strategy of securing the promising youngster on a long-term contract, which is why the club have found themselves losing a prospect they have carefully cultivated to Tottenham, for no financial reward.
Despite agreeing to join Tottenham, one change of allegiance the midfielder will certainly not be making, despite it initially being touted due to his eligibility, is from representing Germany to putting on an England shirt, having been handed three full caps by Joachim Low.
It was this season where Holtby really burst onto continental attention. Early in the campaign, he was one of the outstanding performers in Bundesliga, scoring three goals and assisting another three in the first eight league games, as well as impressing in the Champions League.
As the campaign has progressed, though, Schalke's form has dipped and so has Holtby's. The constant distraction of his high-profile contract talks with the club seemed to affect his performances.
The uncertainty and rumours over a move to England have continued to grow and while Holtby was still a regular up to his recent announcement that he would not be signing an extension, he has not been the same dictator of Schalke’s attacking play for a while.
For some in Germany, it is difficult to understand why Holtby is leaving. Schalke have built him up and given him room to grow and learn, and now that he is finally proving himself in their starting XI, he is leaving.
His performances at the Royal Blues are unstable at times still and it may be difficult for him in the Premier League, where he will find no mercy under the intense pressure of the media and fans.
While Spurs are a good choice of club for Holtby, Andre Villas-Boas is getting a player who is not yet the finished article, and he must put his trust in the youngster if his performance levels do suffer.
However, the Portuguese coach moved quickly to secure Holtby's signature, which suggests he believes the 22-year-old can achieve big things at White Hart Lane.
The uncertainty over Holtby's future is now gone, with all paths leading to Spurs this summer, but that still leaves an interesting six months until the end of the season.
The midfielder is still contracted to Schalke, who are still in the Champions League knockout stages, and the club management face an interesting dilemma over whether to trust him to play a part in the latter part of the season.
Whatever happens, though, his expected path to the Premier League has finally been confirmed and it is Tottenham who have beaten their rivals to the punch.
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