Donis Avdijaj: Why Did Schalke Send €49 Million Talent to Sturm Graz?

Allan JiangTransfers CorrespondentJanuary 15, 2015

Schalke's Donis Avdijaj kicks the ball during a training session at Stamford Bridge stadium in London Tuesday, Sept. 16, 2014. Chelsea will play Schalke 04 in a Champions League group G soccer match at the stadium on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Schalke's German-born-Albanian centre-forward Donis Avdijaj, 18, will at long last play in the Bundesliga this season—the Austrian Bundesliga.

Avdijaj will start an 18-month loan at Sturm Graz in the 16th-best league in Europe.

Schalke are presumably hoping Avdijaj puts up big numbers in a second-tier league, thus reigniting his development, which has been dormant.

Valued at a flabbergasting €49/£38.1 million, following Avdijaj has been anticlimactic.

2011-14Schalke U17Schalke U19
Games5324
Goals5917
Credit: Transfermarkt.de.

Avdijaj is the teenager worth €49/£38.1 million to Schalke who is Refik Resmja-like.

  • Six hat-tricks for the Schalke U17-U19s
  • Scored 26 goals in a 13-game run for Schalke U17
  • Scored 12 goals in a five-game run for for Schalke U19

Having scored 76 goals in 77 combined Schalke U17-U19 games, you can understand how Avdijaj may have bought into his own hype. 

Credit: instagram.com/donisavdijaj10.

Promoted into the first team against Chelsea in the UEFA Champions League, Avdijaj watched from the bench as then Schalke manager Jens Keller subbed on Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Tranquillo Barnetta and Chinedu Obasi in a 1-1 draw.

The chance was gone; back to grafting for Schalke II in the Regionalliga West, the German fourth division.

Succeeding Keller, Roberto Di Matteo is heavily influenced by Schalke centre-back Benedikt Howedes.

"I'm so happy that [Howedes is] at Schalke," Di Matteo said, per DFB.de. "We have plenty of young players in the team who look up to him. He is a leader, both on and off the pitch."

Howedes believes some up-and-coming footballers possess an entitlement mentality.

"Sometimes the young players lack the humility we had back in the days," Howedes said, per kicker (h/t Stephan Uersfeld at ESPN FC). "I see a lot of talented players who ... have high goals, but no longer the extreme ambition to settle in professional football."

Granted, Howedes did not single anyone out, and his comments may have been a general overview, but his message coincidentally applies to Avdijaj.

Thiemo Muller at kicker (h/t Uersfeld) foreshadowed Avdijaj being a no-show at top-flight level due to the "premature hype which nearly inevitably [leads] to sporting demise."

Di Matteo seemingly blackballed Avdijaj, who was not even afforded a single minute to prove his worth.

FootballerClubPeriodGamesGoals
Richard Sukuta-PasuBayer Leverkusen U192006-083534
Konstantinos MitroglouBorussia Monchengladbach U192005-073538
Borut SemlerBayern Munich U192003-042831
Credit: Transfermarkt.de.

If Avdijaj studies the recent trend of German youth football, he would know scoring prolifically in age restricted games does not guarantee success in the Bundesliga.

Richard Sukuta-Pasu: He was highlighted as an outstanding player alongside Toni Kroos at the 2007 FIFA U17 World Cup, per FIFA.com.

Sukuta-Pasu was in and out of the Bayer Leverkusen first-team.

He struggled mightily post-Bayer Leverkusen, scoring once in 1,299 minutes of combined Bundesliga play for St. Pauli and Kaiserslautern.

Nowadays, Sukuta-Pasu is on the books of Cercle Brugge, whereas Kroos is an integral starter on UEFA Champions League contender Real Madrid.

Konstantinos Mitroglou never made the grade at Borussia Monchengladbach but found his comfort zone in the Greek Super League.

According to former Olympiacos teammate Roy Carroll, Mitroglou needs a strong supporting cast, which was not available at Fulham.

"When [Mitroglou] was at Olympiacos he had good players around him and he scored goals in the league and in the UEFA Champions League," Carroll said, per Rory Dollard at the Press Association (h/t the Daily Mail). "[When Mitroglou] went to Fulham, it was very difficult because they were in a bad situation."

Fulham viewed Mitroglou as a €14.2/£11 million relegation insurance package.

Mitroglou went goal-less in 151 minutes over three Premier League games. 

Fulham were relegated to the Championship and loaned Mitroglou back to Olympiacos.

Borut Semler: Pre-social media boom, unless you were German or Slovenian, you were only aware of his existence due to his exploits on simulation game Championship Manager.

His life changed for the worse, per FCBayern.de: "Borut Semler has been hit by a serious injury setback after the Slovenia starlet sustained a suspected torn cruciate ligament in Sunday's reserve match against Mainz ... the current diagnosis has confirmed ligament and kneecap damage."

It was a debilitating injury. 

Nowadays, Semler plays in Kazakhstan, a country more known for Borat and Gennady Golovkin than football.

CNN or ESPN 30 for 30 should consider a documentary on Semler with a narrative loosely inspired by ESPN's Marcus Dupree - The Best that Never Was.

TeamGoals Per Game
Schalke U171.11
Schalke U190.71
Schalke II0.36
Credit: Transfermarkt.de.

Another reason why the Avdijaj panic meter should be on high alert is his scoring is trending downward when he steps up a tier.

The blunt reality check is there are 23 teenagers in the Bundesliga who have played more minutes than Avdijaj this season.

Three are Schalke players: Max Meyer, Marvin Friedrich and Leroy Sane.

Bundesliga Teenagers (2014-15)
FootballerClub/sAgeMinutes Played
Niklas SuleHoffenheim191270
Tin JedvajBayer Leverkusen (Roma loanee)191108
Timo WernerStuttgart18963
Max MeyerSchalke19890
Marc-Oliver KempfFreiburg19861
Davie SelkeWerder Bremen19809
Marc StenderaEintracht Frankfurt19686
Timo BaumgartlStuttgart18565
Carlos GruezoStuttgart19384
Pierre-Emile HojbjergBayern Munich/Augsburg (loan)19286
Julian BrandtBayer Leverkusen18264
Levin OztunaliBayer Leverkusen/Werder Bremen (loan)18149
Gianluca GaudinoBayern Munich18145
Julian GreenHamburg (Bayern Munich loanee)19112
Marvin FriedrichSchalke1965
David KinsombiEintracht Frankfurt1963
Leroy SaneSchalke1955
Bard FinneKoln1924
Tolcay CigerciHamburg1917
Mitsuru MaruokaBorussia Dortmund (Cerezo Osaka loanee)1910
Patrick PfluckeMainz189
Devante ParkerMainz188
Maximilian EggesteinWerder Bremen187
Donis AvdijajSchalke/Sturm Graz (loan)180
Credit: WhoScored.com.

Why Sturm Graz?

The Austrian Bundesliga can be a rebound for prospects, who initially fail to make a lasting impression in Germany.

  • Kevin KamplBayer Leverkusen Various German clubs → Red Bull Salzburg → Borussia Dortmund
  • Terrence Boyd: Borussia Dortmund  Rapid Vienna → RB Leipzig

Avdijaj's loan is a strategic ploy from Schalke as Marco Djuricin, a former Hertha Berlin hopeful who is Sturm Graz's top scorer, has transferred to Red Bull Salzburg.

Nonchalantly scoring a volley in Sturm Graz's 4-0 win over regional team SC Kalsdorf is a tiny step in the right direction for Avdijaj as he steers his career back on track.

+allanjiang.

When not specified, statistics via WhoScored.com. 

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