Ozan Kabak - Bundesliga's Rookie of the Year who idolises Van Dijk

Ozan Kabak NxGn
The likes of Bayern Munich, Manchester United and AC Milan had been tracking the teenager before his recent move to Schalke

Despite their status within Germany, a player signing for Schalke at the present moment rarely moves the dial when it comes to being noticed by the wider footballing world.

But when the Bundesliga outfit announced the signing of defender Ozan Kabak on Sunday, it was widely regarded by those who have seen him play as one of the signings of the summer so far.

An initial fee of €15 million (£13.5m/$17m) has been reported as the price paid for the 19-year-old by Schalke as they beat off the likes of AC Milan, Manchester United and Bayern Munich to secure his signature. And if David Wagner is to guide them back towards the top of the German game, then Kabak's arrival is likely to be key in their revival.

Born in Ankara in 2000, Kabak learned his trade at Galatasaray as he came through the Turkish giants' youth academy to sign his first professional contract at the age of 17. Ten months later he made his debut for the club, coming off the bench for the final minute of Gala's Super Lig win over Yeni Malatyaspor on the penultimate day of the 2017-18 campaign.

By mid-September of the next season he was a regular starter under Fatih Terim, belying his tender years to become one of the standout centre-backs in his homeland. A former captain of Turkey's Under-17 side, Kabak's performances did not go unnoticed despite Galatasaray's indifferent form in the first half of the campaign, with Stuttgart swooping in to sign him in January for €11m (£9.9m/$12.4m).

Brought to Stuttgart to act as a long-term replacement for Bayern-bound Benjamin Pavard, Kabak was thrown right in at the deep end, making his debut against the Bavarians in a 4-1 defeat on January 27. Results did not improve from there as Markus Weinzierl's side ended the season in a relegation play-off against Union Berlin, but Kabak's performances certainly caught the eye.

Despite standing at just 6'1", Kabak's ability to match almost any striker in the league for physicality continued to see him singled out by onlookers. He won 66 per cent of his aerial duels during his 19 appearances in Germany while his impressive recovery pace and timing in the tackle ensured very few forwards enjoyed easy rides when coming up against him.

Such performances saw him named in  Goal's NxGn  list in March 2019, which charts the 50 best teenage footballers on the planet.

Ozan Kabak NxGn GFX

He also proved a threat from attacking set-pieces, scoring three goals, including a double against Hannover that, at the age of 18 years and 344 days, saw him become the youngest Turkish goalscorer in the German top flight, taking the record from Hakan Calhanoglu.

"It's incredible how worldly-wise he is for his age. It's astonishing. I see him every day and am amazed at how mature he is," Stuttgart sporting director Thomas Hitzlsperger said of the teenager. "He wants to know everything; he wants to learn German right away and understand everything. That's the kind of attitude we need. He's already a role model, despite his age."

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While Stuttgart's season ended in disappointment as they lost to Union Berlin in their play-off match to suffer relegation back to 2. Bundesliga, Kabak was awarded the Bundesliga Rookie of the Season prize, beating the likes of Borussia Dortmund full-back Achraf Hakimi and Hoffenheim forward Reiss Nelson - on loan from Real Madrid and Arsenal respectively - to claim an honour that was previously won by Ousmane Dembele during his time with Dortmund.

A player of such repute was never going to play in Germany's second tier, and as such the race was on to seal his signing. As always with the best young talent in Germany, Bayern were heavily linked, though it was Milan who seemed to be pushing the hardest to tempt Kabak to Serie A.

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But just as it seemed a move to Italy was inevitable, Schalke stepped in to keep the youngster in Germany as they look to build under new manager David Wagner following a disastrous campaign last time around.

"Ozan is one of the best defensive talents in Europe. Everyone knows which teams made every effort to try and sign him," the former Huddersfield Town boss said of his new arrival upon the start of pre-season training in early July. Kabak himself models his own game on that of Virgil van Dijk, and if he can reach the same heights as the Liverpool man then Schalke really will have a player on their hands.

For now, his development continues, but there is a belief that Kabak can become the next benchmark for all other centre-backs to follow.