Breel Embolo: Vulnerable and modest

Bundesliga, Swiss Players

He suffered frequent injuries, missed many opportunities at the start of last season and he did not dare to take penalties, but the cheerful Swiss Breel Donald Embolo could not do any harm in Germany for a long time. That suddenly changed last year when he was caught last year at a party on Lake Baldeneye south of Essen, a city in the Ruhr area. According to the Essen police, warned to enforce the corona rules, one of the partygoers fled over the roof to hide with one of the neighbors. Embolo was caught there, but he denies participating in the party.

The Germans were indignant. Embolo was punished, but his trainer and teammates stood behind him. When he was allowed to play again earlier this year in the winning 1-0 against Armania Bielefeld, he gratefully jumped into the arms of his coach Marco Rose.

Embolo was born in 1997 in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon. After his father’s divorce, he leaves with his mother and brother for France, where she meets a new love. He moves to Switzerland and has been a Swiss citizen since he was eighteen. He also wanted to play for Cameroon and national team coach Volker Finke did his best to bring him in. He likes to visit his home country. “I can relax and have fun there,” he told Basellandschaftliche Zeitung. “It’s important for me to stay aware of the difference between the two places.”

Already at the age of seventeen, Embolo plays as a substitute for Basel in the Swiss Super League. Within four minutes he scores his first goal. In the summer of 2016, Schalke 04 managed to incorporate Embolo in front of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Arsenal. José Mourinho was also doing his best to bring him to Manchester United. At Schalke they were very proud of their new acquisition at that time. “This is the perfect next step for me,” Embolo told football magazine Kicker at the time of the transfer. “I can always play in the Premier League later. What else am I supposed to do on my 25th or 26th. I am the type that gets bored easily.”

Schalke payd 22.5 million for Embolo, making him the most expensive player the club has ever bought. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar came over from AC Milan to Schalke in 2010 for 14 million. Embolo was also the most expensive player FC Basel has sold from its own successful youth academy. Mohamed Salah left FC Basel for Chelsea in 2014 for less than 20 million euros. Xherdan Shaqkiri (9 million) Granit Xhaka (9 million) and Ivan Rakitic (4 million) also sold FC Basel for less than Embolo.

At Schalke, Embolo makes a false start. After a foul from Augsburg defender Kostas Stafylidis, on October 15, 2016, he is badly injured and it will be exactly a year before he plays another game.

He is strong and fast, but Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco thought he could use those qualities even smarter. He has not yet been a killer for the goal, he says himself, not even at FC Basel. At Schalke, finishing was turned in into a game that he lost every now and then. As a loser he had to invite the other attackers at home for dinner.

Embolo also prefers not to take penalties. It’s to his modesty, but it’s a bit crazy for a striker. Even after five different players have missed out for Schalke in a row, Embolo has no desire to take over from Schalke. “I prefer to score from game situations. And I don’t want to intrude, we have so many good shooters at Schalke. Really big players like Lewandowski and Cristiano take that responsibility for granted, but I’m still working on that attitude.”

In 2018, Schalke sells Embolo to Borussia Monchengladbach for only 14 million, considerably less than the 22.5 for which he was bought. At the beginning of this year, he and his team reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League. A bigger concern than the lack of goals is perhaps Embolo’s enormous injury susceptibility. For some reason, opponents commit a huge amount of offenses against him. Whatever the opponents think of him, he is loved by the fans. During the previous European Championship in France, the Swiss supporters already sang to him: ‘Oh Emboloh’, to the tune of ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’.

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