Manuel Veth –
Luca Waldschmidt had a sensational tournament with Germany’s U-21 in Italy and San Marino. The striker scored seven goals and one assist in just five games at the European Championships.
For the SC Freiburg striker, it all started with a perfect performance against Denmark where he scored the third goal for Germany in the country’s 3-1 win. Up next were Serbia. The Serbs, ranked among the favourites ahead of the tournament, had the likes of new Real Madrid star Luka Jović and Benfica winger Andrija Živković in their lineup.
It was, however, Waldschmidt’s performance that had people talking after the game. The SC Freiburg striker scored three goals and was the man of the match.
What stood out, in particular, was his ability to score from almost every position. Adaptable to play both on the wing but also as a classical centre forward in a 4-3-3 formation Waldschmidt throughout the tournament highlighted his ability to score from various positions on the field.
Goal of the tournament: Luca Waldschmidt v Austria pic.twitter.com/48R285R3lN
— Bayern & Die Mannschaft (@eMiaSanMia) July 1, 2019
Many will remember the goal from about 25-yards out against Austria. That goal ultimately won him the goal of the tournament award on top of the Golden Boot Trophy. But Waldschmidt is also dangerous from inside the box and with his deep runs can slice open opponents.
“He was surfing on a wave,” U21 head coach Stefan Kuntz said to Transfermarkt ahead of the final against Spain. “Sometimes it is like that for a striker, you can do whatever you want, and you will score. Then you have periods when you don’t score from one metre out,” Kuntz added.
Waldschmidt’s seven goals in the first four matches equalised a record set by Swedish striker Marcus Berg in 2009. Luca Waldschmidt hoped to score the eighth goal against Spain in the final, but unlike two years ago when Germany beat Spain in final to win the U21 European Championships this time, La Roja would be the once celebrating after a 2-1 victory.
Overall it was a deserved result, but at the same time, the future remains bright for Germany and Luca Waldschmidt. In fact, Waldschmidt could soon find himself in high demand.
Once a country of great strikers Germany have struggled to fill the void up front. In 2014 Germany won the World Cup with a 36-year-old Miroslav Klose leading the attack. Then at Euro 2016, Mario Gomez led the line, but Germany had no backup when he went out with an injury in the quarterfinals and ultimately could not find a way through a tight French defence in the semifinal.
Then at the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup Germany had Timo Werner and Lars Stindl. Werner remains the most promising attacking prospect in the German system, but he is also a player for whom it is tough to find a perfect role. A poor World Cup — where he was put in a position that did not suit him — meant that Bundestrainer Joachim Löw has moved to a formation with two flexible wingers leading the attack in a 3-5-2.
Difficult for Werner but a fantastic chance for Luca Waldschmidt. The striker has shown that he can play on either wing and even as a false-nine. It is the sort of flexibility that Bundestrainer Joachim Löw loves about players.
“[Luca Waldschmidt] has been in our notebook for quite some time,” Löw said after the tournament to the DPA. “He has developed well in Freiburg and made a big step forward. When he gets in an area where he can shoot on goal, he is always dangerous; his goals show that” Löw added.
Goals that have made Waldschmidt an interesting proposition for other clubs — in the past linked with RB Leipzig, where he could replace Timo Werner, Luca Waldschmidt reportedly also had an offer from Lazio Rome. “First, I will go on holiday, and then I will see what comes next,” Waldschmidt said about potential offers to the Augsburger Allgemeine.
With 0.45 goals per 90 minutes, only Nils Petersen (0.46) had more goals per 90 minutes than Luca Waldschmidt last season. Also, no Freiburg striker took more shots than Waldschmidt (3.02 per 90 minutes). What also stood out is his high percentage in completed crosses (43.75%), which highlights his ability to move out wide and play with a central striker.
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It is not just in the end product that Waldschmidt is successful. The forward also manages to set his partners in scene and with 76.04% completed passes into the final third-ranked fourth in Freiburg’s squad last season.
A move this summer could be premature. Although the 23-year-old managed nine goals and three assists in 30 games for SC Freiburg last season the question on many club executives’ minds will be whether his performances for Freiburg and Germany can be replicated on a consistent basis.
After all, ahead of his move to Freiburg Waldschmidt never managed to score more than one goal a season, whether it was with Hamburg, or before that, with Frankfurt. It was, in the end, Freiburg’s head coach Christian Streich, who got the best out of the striker last season.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others contributes to Forbes.com and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.