"I could start crying knowing that I won't be coaching this guy," said Jürgen Klopp on his Borussia Dortmund departure of Felix Passlack – and the versatile right-back is now showing why.
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Borussia Dortmund's youngsters are no strangers to our wonderkid series. Today we shine the spotlight on a precociously clever and versatile player, who used to hold some affection for BVB's arch-rivals and can move Jürgen Klopp to tears.
Name: Felix Passlack
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Debut: 2 March 2016 v Darmstadt
Born: 29 May 1998
Preferred foot: right
They say ...
"I could start crying knowing that I won't be coaching this guy."
Jürgen Klopp before his departure as Dortmund coach
"Felix is versatile and acts as a leader on the pitch. We have not coaxed this characteristic out of him – it comes naturally to him."
Germany Under-17 coach Christian Wück
"Felix is an intelligent boy and the future of Borussia Dortmund belongs to him."
Łukasz Piszczek, Dortmund's regular right-back, whom Passlack is understudying
"I am a 'Ruhrpottler'," says Passlack, alluding to his roots in the Ruhr district of western Germany. This region is renowned for its hard-working people, and the famous local word 'malochen' (to graft) certainly applies to the 18-year-old. This attitude, allied to his technical talent, attracted scouts from various big clubs in his early teenage years.
Once a supporter of Schalke – he stresses he "converted in due course" – Passlack joined Dortmund aged 14 from RW Oberhausen. He quickly thrived in the BVB academy, winning Bundesliga titles at U17 and U19 levels.
Playing style ...
The brawny Passlack knows how to make life tough for opponents. Among those players frustrated by his robustness and tenaciousness is Franck Ribéry, who experienced Passlack's stubborn streak first-hand when they faced off during the German Super Cup in August. With the ball at his feet, however, Passlack is a dynamic, attack-minded player who has shown leadership qualities for both Dortmund and Germany's underage sides.
Shades of ...
Often likened to Mario Götze, especially in and around Dortmund, Passlack says Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup final hero is "an idol" – but insists he has no desire to copy him. As a right-back, though, his stature, technical qualities and work ethic elicit readier comparisons with Bayern München's Rafinha.
Eureka moment ...
Having shone at the UEFA European U17 Championship in 2015, he received that year's Fritz-Walter-Award in gold as Germany's best U17 newcomer. His fierce duel with Ribéry during the Super Cup brought more national attention, however, and in Dortmund's 8-4 victory against Legia Warszawa in November he became Germany's youngest ever UEFA Champions League goalscorer.
Best-case scenario …
Amid BVB's recent injury crisis, rising stars like Passlack and fellow tyro Christian Pulišić proved they can meet high demands. Internal competition for places remains intense, but with Passlack you get the feeling he not only accepts the challenge but revels in it.
His fine showings for Germany's junior teams also aid his chances of one day making the senior set-up. This may all be in the future, but in Thomas Tuchel he has a club coach who nurtures the same qualities that Joachim Löw seems to covet.
He says ...
"Philipp Lahm's someone I look up to, but my main role model is Mario Götze. I love his dribbling, speed, movement, touch on the ball and link-up play."
Speaking to UEFA.com in May 2015
"As a small ball boy, I always dreamt of playing in front of a packed stadium in Dortmund. There are always nerves before a game, but they quickly fade on the pitch."
"I don't like talking about myself, but I'd probably say my main qualities are my speed, two-footedness, dynamism and leadership."