As it stands, Max Meyer’s contract with Schalke is set to expire in the summer of 2018. This is bad news for Schalke, but good news for the multitude of interested parties who have been coveting the young German’s signature since he broke out as a fresh-faced teenager four years ago.
Those interested parties, including Premier League sides Tottenham Hotspur and Liverpool, will be further intrigued by recent comments made by the player that seem to suggest a move may soon be on the cards.
Schalke must either tie up Meyer’s contract soon or risk losing him on a free transfer at the conclusion of next season. With this in mind, a cut-price sale would also appear a viable option, particularly when considering that the 21-year-old told Bild on Monday that, “The chances [of him signing a new deal] are 50-50.”
It is believed that the Bundesliga outfit would be open to offers of over €20 million. Given Tottenham reportedly offered over twice as much for the player during last summer’s transfer window, the prospect of paying such a comparably low fee just one year on is likely to prove extremely attractive. But Liverpool, managed by Jürgen Klopp, a man with vast knowledge and experience of German football, could provide stiff competition for the player’s signature.
Meyer first showed signs of greatness as a 16-year-old at the 2012 European Under-17 Championship as part of a Germany side that also featured Niklas Süle, Leon Goretzka, Julian Brandt and Timo Werner. Each of the above quintet would go on to win full caps for their country in the years since, but Meyer was the undoubted star of the show that summer. He was the tournament’s top scorer with three goals, made the team of the tournament, and was voted the competition’s best player as Germany reached the final.
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The following season, Meyer made his first team debut for Schalke, though it wasn’t until the 2013-14 campaign that he truly made his mark on the Bundesliga. Ironically, his breakthrough came about primarily due to the sale of another academy graduate, Lewis Holtby, to Tottenham. Holtby’s move created space in Schalke’s attacking midfield ranks, and Meyer duly obliged.
Prior to his first full campaign at senior level, he was handed the number seven shirt that had been left unworn since the departure of Spanish icon Raul in 2012. Many youngsters would have crumbled under the pressure of filling such a shirt, but Meyer thrived. In 30 league appearances he scored six goals and set up a further three; at 18 he was already developing into a pivotal member of the team.
At the end of that season, the lithe playmaker was called into Joachim Low’s provisional squad ahead of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and he made his senior international debut in a pre-tournament friendly against Poland. Ultimately he failed to make the final cut, though this was only due to the presence of more experienced campaigners such as Mesut Özil, André Schürrle, Mario Götze and Julian Draxler.
Unfortunately, Meyer’s inordinately fast rise to prominence was followed up by a more gradual, less noticeable decline in form. In 2014-15 and 2015-16 he continued to contribute goals (five in the Bundesliga in each season) but his rate of growth wasn’t quite as fast as it had been initially. As a result he has struggled to hold down a regular starting berth this season, with eight of his 22 league outings coming from the substitutes’ bench. In addition, he has failed to provide any assists and has scored just one goal in league action. Nonetheless, at 21 he remains young, and he is still capable of changing a game.
— FC Schalke 04 (@s04_en) August 13, 2016
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As a youth, Meyer played a lot of futsal. This experience of his shows in his footballing performances, primarily through his immediate and continuing control of the ball. At ease receiving under almost any circumstance and comfortable when taking on opposing defenders, he has quick feet, intelligent movement and exceptional technical ability. He is also versatile, capable of operating almost anywhere behind the strikers.
Rather than any shortage of ability, one of the primary reasons behind Meyer’s stalled development has been the concession of managers hired and fired by Schalke in recent years. Jens Keller, who gave Meyer his chance in the team and handed him the number seven shirt, was sacked in October 2014. Keller’s replacement Roberto Di Matteo preferred a more defensive brand of play that didn’t quite suit the attacking midfielders at his disposal, Meyer included, and the Italian resigned in May 2015. André Breitenreiter took Di Matteo’s place only to leave after one season in charge.
Currently, Markus Weinzierl occupies the Schalke dugout. He is the club’s fourth manager in three years.
Understandably given the level of managerial change — and subsequent tactical shake-ups — since his breaking into the first team, Meyer has generally struggled to cement his place in the side. And, with the player and the team struggling this season, he would be wise to consider moving to a club who will not only get the best out of his attacking talents, but can offer him a longer term project to get stuck into. Both Tottenham and Liverpool would satisfy the player on both counts.
— Hotspur Related (@HotspurRelated) March 27, 2017
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Under Mauricio Pochettino, Spurs have changed from 4-2-3-1 to a rough 3-5-1-1, with Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen acting as the team’s primary creative fulcrums. The former brings aggression, physicality and intelligent movement, while the latter brings refined passing and vision. Meyer, with his dribbling skills and ability to win in one-on-one situations, would offer a different, but entirely necessary, type of attacking midfielder for Tottenham to utilise.
Liverpool, meanwhile, have established themselves as the Premier League’s highest scoring team thanks in the main to a front three of Philippe Coutinho, Sadio Mané and Roberto Firmino that includes no natural number nine. Their dynamism, combinative quality, precision and pace is almost unstoppable at its most effective, and Meyer would fit into the wide roles in this fluid system.
Financially affordable, young and in possession of undoubted quality, Meyer would represent a positive addition for both Tottenham and Liverpool. And, in turn, both clubs would offer Meyer the chance to finally make the crucial next step in his career.