Draxler follows footsteps of Thon, Özil and Neuer

It is never easy leaving your childhood club but new Wolfsburg signing Julian Draxler is in good company: several Schalke old boys have reached their peak elsewhere.

Julian Draxler celebrates a Bundesliga goal in August
Julian Draxler celebrates a Bundesliga goal in August ©AFP/Getty Images

Kevin De Bruyne's departure to Manchester City left Wolfsburg with a big pair of boots to fill with just 24 hours of the transfer window remaining in Germany, but they are confident that in Julian Draxler, 21, they have just the man.

For Schalke it is a familiar story. Over the years their esteemed academy has produced a litany of talent, and several went on to achieve great things elsewhere in Germany and beyond. Can Draxler, a member of Germany's 2014 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, follow their lead?

Olaf Thon
Thon was a Schalke wunderkind before he became the 'Professor'. Like Draxler, he made his senior debut at 17 and he was still in his first season when he struck a hat-trick against Bayern in a remarkable 6-6 German Cup draw. A few years later, in 1988, he joined the Munich outfit and by the time he rejoined Schalke in 1994 he had three Bundesliga titles and a World Cup to his name. Once a creative midfielder, Thon excelled in the later stages of his career as a libero, captaining Schalke to UEFA Cup glory.

Lehmann scores against Dortmund
Lehmann scores against Dortmund©Getty Images

Jens Lehmann
Schalke's goalkeeper for that 1997 triumph, Lehmann ended his 11-year association with the club at the end of the following campaign, joining AC Milan. He was back in the Ruhr area within months ... at arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund. Once lauded for a last-minute header against the enemy, he was less appreciated now. He went on to play for Arsenal's 'Invincibles' and replaced Oliver Kahn as Germany No1 before turning out for Stuttgart after 2010.

Mesut Özil
Born in Gelsenkirchen, Özil spent the early phase of his career with other local teams. Schalke's decision to take him on paid immediate dividends as he led the U19 side to their first German championship in 30 years. A senior debut soon followed but he left 29 games and no goals later. He proceeded to lift the German Cup with Werder Bremen, inspire Germany to U21 EURO success in 2009 and then sign for Real Madrid and Arsenal. Özil was another member of the 2014 World Cup squad.

Ten great Neuer saves
Ten great Neuer saves

Manuel Neuer
Neuer was not even five when he linked up with Schalke, and when he departed two decades later there was a sense of bereavement in Gelsenkirchen. He was a regular at 20 and captained the club for a season before heading to Bayern. Neuer has found another level since, claiming three Bundesliga crowns, three German Cups, the UEFA Champions League and, of course, playing a star role in Brazil in 2014. Few would deny him the title of the world's best goalkeeper.

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