Once regarded as the future of German football and lauded as one of the best young prospects in Europe, having established himself as a standout player in the Bundesliga 2012/2013 season with FC Schalke, Lewis Holtby’s career seemed destined for success. However, since moving to the English Premier League in the hope of furthering his career, things have not gone quite as smoothly as they should have.
Challenging English experience
A versatile player with an immense work rate, Holtby’s transfer to Tottenham Hotspur in 2013 was initially considered a highly promising one, with his adaptability, creativity and technical qualities playing a major factor to his advantage. Moreover, his English heritage certainly did not harm his credentials, either. Despite his ambition to prove himself in England and possessing the capabilities to make an instant impact, he never quite managed to inject his influence in the starting line-up, especially after a managerial change and the wealth of players competing for his position. As a consequence, just a year into his English adventure, he was already at the bottom of the pecking order at Tottenham. With his hopes of making into the World Cup squad, Holtby joined Fulham on loan until the end of the 2013/2014 season. Reflecting on his early days in Germany, having had two successful loan spells with VfL Bochum and Mainz before returning to FC Schalke, the move to Fulham had all the potential to instigate a new confidence and motivation in Holtby to bounce back from a difficult start with Spurs. Unfortunately, he was not able to prevent Fulham from relegation and was criticised for his poor attitude, which not only drained his hopes of qualifying for the World Cup squad, but also left him short of first-team opportunities to redeem himself as the ‘one that got away’ sensation.
Germany the new beginning
Now back in Germany for the 2014/2015 season, having agreed to join Hamburg on a season-long loan, it is time for Holtby to truly settle down and focus on becoming a regular first-team player rather than to continue enhancing his reputation as a player on a constant loan tour. More importantly, if he is to ever break into the national team, he simply cannot afford to be shipped out for loan anymore, as he would never establish the level of consistency required to challenge the current Mannschaft players in his position.
Furthermore, Holtby must push for a more creative role at Hamburg to unleash his true potential, as his versatility, although a massive asset, has not provided him the stability to sustain a specific role within a team, encouraging critics to label him a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ player as opposed to a ‘playmaker’ role that suits him best. On the contrary, having players of tremendous versatility can provide a much-needed depth and flexibility to the team, with Borussia Dortmund’s Kevin Grosskreutz a prime example. However, in order to rediscover his form and further mature as a player, Holtby must authorise a permanent role at Hamburg to have any chances of knocking on the doors of the national team.
What the future holds for Holtby?
It was never an easy task to fulfill the expectations that were poured down on Holtby’s shoulders since his departure from FC Schalke, which have evidently hindered his development. Nevertheless, the opportunity to come back to Germany provides an essential platform for Holtby to showcase what he is capable of and to prove his critics wrong. At Hamburg, he has the chance to play week in week out, and alongside the likes of Maximilian Beister, Julian Green and club captain Rafael van der Vaart, they have the potential to yield the best out of Holtby by reigniting his confidence.
As to Holtby’s international future, the former under-21 captain is still miles away from receiving a call-up. Moreover, his contract with Spurs, which runs until 2018, is not helping his chances either, as it inevitably means that if he cannot convince Hamburg with his performances to purchase him at the end of the season, his loan cycle may yet again continue. And even if he were called up to the national team, he would only be used as a substitute to the impressive plethora of players in his position. However, he can certainly add depth into the national team, and at the age of just 24, there is still time and hope for Holtby. But he must act now.
Prior to HSV’s MatchDay 7 contest with Borussia Dortmund, Holtby had started four games for the red-shorts, playing 356 minutes. He has HSV’s only assist this season while creating 17 chances. He’s taken eight shots on goal and completed 65% of his 140 passing attempts while winning 47% of his challenges. Despite being only 24, Holtby has played in 214 senior squad matches in Germany and England, including 32 European matches, and has three caps for the German NT after representing Germany over 40 times at the youth level.
Header photo courtesy of focus.de
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