Over the years, Schalke 04 have emphasized on young talent, be it purchasing or using them from the academy. Now, Schalke seem to have got a star in making in the shape of Timon Wellenreuther. Wellenreuther has proved to be a testament to the claim that Schalke can be one of the breeding centres for young talent. He is also tipped to be the next Manuel Neuer, who made it from the academy to the big lights in Bundesliga, and has stayed with the club for ten years.
Who is Timon Wellenreuther?
Nineteen-year old Wellenreuther is a 6 ft and 1 inch goalkeeper. He was born and bred in Karlsruhe, which is three and a half hours away from Gelsenkirchen. He is the son of Ingo Wellenreuther, who is a politician and chairman of the Karlsruhe SC.
He started playing football in 2002, at the age of eight for SC Bulach. At the age of fifteen, he got transferred to Karlsruhe SC from FC Astoria Walldorf junior team, and had featured for their Under-17 and Under-19 teams.
He signed for Schalke on a free transfer from Karlsruhe in 2013, and was chosen to play for their U-19 team. In 2014, he secured his future at Veltins Arena and penned an extended contract till 2017, thus becoming the 13th player from the successful U-19 side to pen the senior deal.
Schalke general manager Horst Heldt was quoted saying on the club’s official website that a couple of talented goalkeepers from their youth academy turned professional in the recent years and felt that Wellenreuther would do the same. He also stated that Wellenreuther will take part in the first team activities and will receive additional match action for the reserves as well.
He has made sixteen appearances for Schalke II in the Regionalliga West, which is the fourth division in the German football pyramid. Before the start of the season, Wellenreuther was the fourth choice keeper after the likes of Ralf Fahrmann, Fabian Giefer and Christian Wetklo.
But in the second half of the season, things seemed to look from bad to worse for Schalke as Fahrmann, the first choice keeper from Schalke, tore his posterior cruciate ligament at a training session in Doha and back-up keeper Giefer had to be replaced by Wellenreuther, as he suffered a groin injury during the match against Bayern Munich. This meant Schalke had a fit third choice keeper in 35-year old Wetklo, but manager Roberto Di Matteo was convinced that Wellenreuther would only get better after he analysed his performance against Bayern. Di Matteo had an option to purchase a keeper in the January transfer window, but decided to not do so, thus giving Wellenreuther a chance to prove himself and provide a healthy competition to the experienced keepers.
Style of play, Strengths and Weaknesses
He stands 1.86m tall. He exudes confidence in his play. He loves taking risks and is often being seen coming out of his area and clearing the ball away from the danger area. He doesn’t like to stand at one place. He loves to use his legs more than he uses his hands. His aerial ability is very good and it can be seen very well during set pieces or when his team have conceded a corner. For the past two seasons, Schalke’s defending hasn’t been up to the standard and there have been many shaky displays from the defence, and there have been many times where they have been conceding many goals. His attentiveness and concentration have been extremely sharp, and his involvement in the team’s games have been pivotal.
Surely when he has been around, there have been a few confident defensive displays, but at the same time there have been many mistakes as well, but he has gone beyond his reach to avert any possible chance of the ball going into the back of the net.
He’d often being seen making clearances in order to avoid any kind of corners or set plays or even tap in from a cross, and he also has good punching skills. His physical presence isn’t great, but it is suitable given his age. He can get better as he ages. He loves to make a crucial tackle as well.
He may be inexperienced at the moment after making five Bundesliga appearances and one Champions League appearance, but his style of play suggests the contrary. But at times, he can prove to be a risky player and putting himself and the team in unnecessary trouble may count against him. He may be a long way off to be the next Manuel Neuer, but everyone around Gelsenkirchen has touted him to be the next rising star.
Surely, making a debut by coming off in the second half of the match against Bayern would have been a dream come true, and to also play against Real Madrid would have been a sweeter and an extremely special moment for him. Schalke have secured Wellenreuther’s services until 2017. As far as his performances and involvement are concerned, Roberto Di Matteo has taken a wise decision or a good gamble by not purchasing another goalkeeper and decided to give him some game time.
Once Fahrmann and Giefer come back from their injuries, they will face tough competition for obtaining the number one jersey and winning back the manager’s faith. The future looks as if Wellenreuther is focused on becoming the first choice goalkeeper in Gelsenkirchen, and it would be better if he plays two or three seasons in Bundesliga to get huge experience in the top flight. It would be best if he honours his contract.
But on an international stage, there are so many keepers, especially young goalkeepers, who are vying for recognition into the squad and there is immense and neck-to-neck competition between the talented keepers. Surely it will take a lot of time for him to get game time on an international stage but it will be easy if he gets an U-19 or U-21 call ups.
Written by Pranay Nair