One that got away?
As part of our Look to the Future series we profile a young sensation in Germany who could play for England. Lewis Holtby is a player Fabio Capello should be looking at, writes Alex Dunn.
Fabio Capello doesn't come across as the type of man who spends his free time, and he has plenty of it, sitting on a riverbank waiting for the fish to bite but what he might share with anglers over the next few months is a tale of the one that got away.
The ghosts of South Africa have only partially been exorcised by much improved recent showings in Euro 2012 qualifiers, but the spectre of Germany's rampant young side running amok through England's leaden and cumbersome charges is a reoccurring motif resurrected by those that champion change in our footballing mindset.
The question on the lips of many is 'where are England's Ozils, Khediras and Mullers going to come from?' amid widespread criticism of youth development in this country.
In a month's time Lewis Holtby could well be added to that list.
It is an unfamiliar name that sits at the summit of the Bundesliga these days.
Mainz arrived in Munich last weekend on the back of five wins from as many games and left with another three points as Bayern became the latest scalp for a side who were only promoted last year.
It is an unlikely tale and one that is made even unlikelier by the fact their star man, Germany Under 21 captain Holtby, is eligible for England.
The name's a bit of a giveaway when you think about it. Lewis Holtby sounds like the type of chap who'd get caught up in the banking scandal or pen a society column for the Telegraph. Holtby's father, Chris, a handy footballer himself who played at a good amateur level until he was 41, is Yorkshire to the core.
Holtby senior hails from military stock and having been born in RAF Hospital Cosford in 1961 he was brought up in Britain, before following his father's career path in signing up at 16.
It was while stationed in West Germany in 1981 that he met Lewis' mother Heidi. After two tours of the Falkland Islands the Holtbys returned to England for four years before moving back to Germany in 1988, where Chris now works in Duisburg having left the RAF.
Holtby's rise to become the playmaker at Germany's table toppers has been meteoric. At 17 he broke into Alemannia Aachen's first XI and lit up the Bundesliga's second tier with a series of sparkling performances. It was not long before scouts began to fill the stands and in the summer of last year Schalke came calling with a bid in the region of £3million.
Chances have proven few and far between at one of Germany's biggest clubs though and after a bright loan stint at Bochum last year, he jumped at the chance of continuing his football education at Mainz this term.
He has not disappointed.
While Holtby appears to have sneaked under the radar in these shores he has long-since been considered a future senior international in Germany.
Having represented Germany at every youth level since Under 16 it is expected a senior call-up will come after the forthcoming round of Euro 2012 qualifiers next month. A friendly against Sweden on November 17 is a more likely date for inclusion.
"Players such as Lewis Holtby of Mainz have edged very close to the Germany squad. But I think it is better for them to play in the U21s this month," said Germany coach Joachim Low, in an admission that may prick up the ears of Capello.
According to Fifa, Holtby is still eligible for England: "He had both nationalities at the time of his first competitive appearance for a German youth team, and he hasn't played for the seniors."
In his own words, Holtby is 'a similar player to Joe Cole', but given he's scored twice already this season and tops the assist charts he might be doing himself a disservice.
Capable of playing on either flank or floating behind a central striker, Holtby is a flair player as alien in style to the archetypal stock produced in this country as you're likely to see.
In short, he's just what we need. Earlier this month he conceded that he had 'both countries in his heart' and that as an 11-year-old in 2001, when England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich, he was 'really English, I had my shirt on, everything'.
And that's where the promising news ends.
While not ruling out pulling on the Three Lions should Low overlook him long-term, Holtby concedes his heart lies with the country who has housed and honed his talent since birth: "I must have honour and respect for Germany. I love the country of England, but Germany have given me the honour of the captaincy at Under 21 level and I have to give them back that respect."
In an interview in Friday's Independent Holtby senior admitted as an Englishman he has mixed loyalties, but that his son had definitely come to the right decision.
"As a professional footballer, playing for Germany is the way to go for him. I have never put pressure on him to play for England as he is German, this is where he learned his trade. As English as I may be, he should play for Germany.
"Hand on heart I would be as proud of him playing for Germany as playing for England. My feeling is 100 per cent that he should play for Germany but with the option of playing for England if Germany don't want him."
While Holtby's family are putting no pressure on him to represent England, there's nothing to stop Capello asking the question. Germany's success in recent years has been built on embracing ethnic diversity in their squad.
A number of their ranks are Polish-Germans of Silesian background, including Miroslav Klose and Lukas Podolski, while Low has also selected players of Bosnian-Serb, Brazilian, Ghanaian, Nigerian, Polish, Tunisian and Turkish descent.
If it's good enough for Germany, it's certainly good enough for us.
After all, all's fair in love and...football.
Should Capello get on the blower quick-smart, or is Holtby right to commit his future to Germany? Is Holtby the real deal and have any of you seen him in action? Have your say by filling in the feedback form below...
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Matt Ruddell says...
"Was the lad born in England or Germany? That is the question, he should play in the country he was born not the country he grew up" What?? I mean......what?? So if you happened to be born in Tenerife because your mum was on holiday for a few weeks would that mean you should play for Spain?!!? Being born somewhere has nothing to do with your affiliation to that location. By that reckoning half of the Man Utd supporters in the world should be supporting the Kaiser Chiefs, Shamrock Rovers, Shinuwara Reds or Millwall! Your geneology and your upbringing should dictate who you play for, not your place of birth. I would face a similar choice to Holtby, albeit from an England/Ireland point of view. I was born in Bublin to Irish parents who moved over to this country when I was less than 2 years of age, does this mean I should only be allowed to play for Ireland or would it be ethical for me to consider playing for the country that has provided my upbringing, education and way of life?? As it happens I would always choose the Republic of Ireland, because I feel more passionate about them than I do about England (it''s a close run thing to be honest but it''s true) but if I chose to play for England then who should be able to complain? Incidentally, nobody seemed to mind that Canadian born/German bred Owen Hargreaves chose to play for a country he had never lived in!! Hypocrisy of the highest level
Posted 14:34 7th October 2010
Gavin Edden says...
f this is the case why cant arteta play for the three lions seems to be one rule 4 one and one 4 another? this lad seems gd we should try n call him up like owen Hargreaves with out the injury''s
Posted 04:32 3rd October 2010
Jake Naylor says...
Capello wont be on the phone to holtby or visiting him like he should he will be to busy trying to tempt Emile Heskey out of retirement because at the end of the day Capello is CLUELESS!
Posted 23:50 2nd October 2010
T Man says...
Wow, I can''t believe it, I.ve heard of the kid in pes 2010, young, great stats and a complete unknown! Very impressed by his actual existence. can you imagine if he was selected for their world cup squad and played against england! I still think a premiership manager should have spotted this talent sooner, considering the obvious talents of the german under 21 players and team. Good luck Holtby!
Posted 16:29 2nd October 2010
Tyler Clarke says...
Fair play to the boy, he respects the country that made him a professional in the game and they deserve his commitment. As an Englishman I feel it''s a shame to see a good talent play for another country but it seems he was raised in Germany due to his family living there rather than due to a lack of opportunities in England so good luck to him. I''d say Capello and the FA should be more preoccupied with developing and scouting players in the UK anyway. I think there''s enough young talent in England, just not enough opportunities at Champions League and international level for them. Wilshere is the stand out player at the moment and he''s playing beneath his level in the under 21''s... Go figure!
Posted 08:21 2nd October 2010
Pete Gilbourne says...
Not as promising as Jack Wilshere. All England needs is a manager brave enough to give young english talent a chance. Its not always about superstar players, its about 11, 12, or 13 players who gel together on the pitch and who understand each other. Time for some of our " superstars " to retire from international football. Terry and Ferdinand have lost their edge, Lampard doesn''t work enough and Glen Johnson needs to be told which way he''s facing because he keeps passing backwards. Wilshere and Gerrard in the centre of midfield is the way to go, Just my opinion.
Posted 08:16 2nd October 2010
Steve Smith says...
Personally, I have been watching the Bundesliga more than the Premier League because it''s been a more challenging competition than the usual top 4 teams here in our Premier League. Lewis Holtby is an amazing talent, one Germany will be proud to have in their national team for many years to come. He has flair, speed, an amazing technique, but most importantly, he has an uncanny ability to pick out the perfect pass. A very gifted player to have on any team. He can change the game from the start or from the bench. A lively individual, but a team player. For sure, Schalke and Germany won''t let him go. Personal SkySports Talent ranking: 68/80. A famous commentator once said..."Remember the name..."
Posted 22:06 1st October 2010
Paul Smith says...
As a Yorkshire man living in a foreign country(Lancashire) i feel for the lad but I wouldn''t hesitate in playing for my natural birthplace and wouldn''t entertain playing for this hovvle they call Lancashire god save the White Rose!! Yorkshire forever.
Posted 20:43 1st October 2010
Paul Smith says...
Was the lad born in England or Germany? That is the question, he should play in the country he was born not the country he grew up, good luck to the lad if he plays for Germany we need their winning mentality not necessarly their players, the press and the whole of the country get on our players backs if they play poorly me included, i feel they shouldn''t be paid to play for your country you should want to play for them, those who say there not fit for a certain game but then play for their respective clubs the week after shouldn''t be allowed to play in the next few games let them risk their careers has an english international and seee what happens then. Mourinho wouldn''t stand for it and would drop them like a brick if they didn''t turn up but the FA must think people like Rooney,Terry Lampard and Ferdinand are bigger than the country.
Posted 20:40 1st October 2010
Jj Johnson says...
I know them personally, he would be a cracking player to get in for England. He loves England, he just hasnt been noticed yet. He''s definitely on the same wave as Ashley Young but younger and more confident and has the potential to be up their with the best.. Bring him on....
Posted 19:48 1st October 2010
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