You knew as soon as Schalke signed Breel Embolo that they knew they were onto a winner.
They poked fun at their rivals when they announced the arrival of their new man on Twitter, promoting a video that mocked Arsenal, Wolfsburg, Barcelona, Manchester United and Leipzig right from the off. But when you win the race to sign one of Europe’s most exciting talents, you’ve got every right to do just that. And his short yet impressive career stats show just why so many top sides were chasing his signature whilst he was out at the Euros in France.
As mentioned above, one of the sides that were keen on bringing him in was Manchester United, even before Jose Mourinho took the reigns at Old Trafford. Only this week have we learned just how much the Portuguese manager admired the young Swiss international, but it was too late as Schalke won the race for his signature.
And following his move to the Bundesliga, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that the Red Devils have well and truly missed out here.
For a man so young, his goal statistics show a player who can really hit the back of the net, even at Basel, a team hardly known as a European powerhouse. In just 86 first-team appearances for Basel, he scored 31 goals, including 13 in the season before the European Championships.
Whilst he hasn’t quite reproduced this form on the international stage just yet, it’s easy to see why he has been held in such high regard despite his tender age.
For a big man, he’s obscenely quick and sharp in the area – all statistics modern-day managers crave. Play him in a 4-2-3-1 and he’ll be fine, but we’ve also seen him play in a two-man striking offence – he is, as they say, a versatile young man.
But something that really stuck out about the youngster was just how mature he feels on the pitch. Without being or sounding patronising, we do see some younger players make elementary mistakes in their debut seasons. Perhaps attempting a 45-yard pass when a more simple option was on, or taking a pop-shot from 35 yards in sheer frustration.
We’ve seen none of that from Embolo, who named Mario Balotelli as one of his striking heroes growing up. Whilst the gulf in class has perhaps lessened over the past couple of years, the level of maturity of the two is really swinging in Embolo’s favour.
Whilst United have plenty of talent in the forward areas, especially with the addition of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, there is little doubt that Embolo can really go on to be one of this age’s best.
It could turn out to be one that Mourinho could rue to have missed out on, especially if United ever draw Schalke in the Champions League some time soon!