Luca Waldschmidt has exceeded all expectations at SC Freiburg by scoring seven goals and recording three assists in his debut season.
The 22-year-old had previously struggled at Eintracht Frankfurt and Hamburger SV respectively and Freiburg supporters could’ve been forgiven for questioning the signing back in the summer.
But Waldschmidt has emerged as one of the key players in the final third, and sits only behind Nils Peterson for goals scored in the Bundesliga for SC Freiburg this season.
SC Freiburg took a huge step towards preserving their top-flight status with an emphatic 5-1 win over FC Augsburg last Saturday. That victory ended a five-match winless run in the league stretching back to 22 December 2018 and sent them eleven points clear of the relegation play-off place.
Waldschmidt was on the score sheet once again, this time with a sumptuous curling effort into the far bottom corner on 64 minutes. Nils Petersen scored a brace and Vincenzo Grifo and Florian Niederlechner rounded off the scoring.
After failing to establish himself at his two previous clubs, Waldschmidt is finally flourishing in the Bundesliga and with several appearances for the Germany Under-21 squad under his belt – it’s beyond doubt that the young forward is on the radar of Die Mannschaft boss Joachim Low.
The Rocky Mountain to the Bundesliga
Luca Waldschmidt was born in the North Rhine-Westphalian city of Siegen on 19 May 1966. His family later relocated to the city of Essen, where Waldschmidt signed for his first club, SSV Oranien Frohnhausen at just five years old.
His elder brother Sven later went onto play for the senior team at Oranien 1914, but the family moved to Herborn, a small town approximately 165 kilometres south of Essen, in 2007. Keen to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional footballer, Waldschmidt joined the local team SSC Juno Burg.
The football was played at an extremely low level, which gave him little chance of being noticed by scouts. Therefore, Waldschmidt joined TSG Wieseck, where he and fellow teammate Nico Rinderknecht were picked up by scouts of Eintracht Frankfurt.
TSG Wieseck had a good track record of producing future professional players. Daniel Davari had played for them between 2002 and 2004 during his primitive years and later went onto represent Eintracht Braunschweig in the Bundesliga. Steffen Schneider joined the Bayern Munich youth set-up from Wieseck, although he never made the first team, and Okan Derci went onto play for Turkish giants Galatasaray.
It was a smart move from Waldschmidt and he made an instantaneous impression for the youth teams, scoring 46 goals for the U17s and U19s respectively. Manager Thomas Schaaf was preparing to introduce him into the first team when Waldschmidt was suddenly struck by pubitis, which ruled him out for the majority of the 2014/15 season.
Waldschmidt returned to training in April 2015, but spent three weeks playing for the under-19s to improve his match fitness. Schaaf introduced him from the bench in a 2-0 defeat against Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park on 25 April and he was given another run-out in yet another defeat away to Werder Bremen just seven days later.
Schaaf left him on the bench during the following two Bundesliga fixtures, but gave him his first start in the Bundesliga in a 2-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen on the final day of the season. There was some confusion regarding his strongest position, which led to Schaaf deploying him in three different positions during his early appearances for Eintracht Frankfurt.
That dilemma continued during the 2015/16 season and Waldschmidt was struggling to find his feet in the Bundesliga. He was used as a utility player by new manager Armin Veh throughout the campaign and finished the season with just one goal and one assist from 298 minutes of play in all competitions.
Hamburger SV: A Fresh Start
Niko Kovac replaced Armin Veh in the latter stages of the 2015/16 season and deemed Waldschmidt surplus to requirements. He subsequently joined Hamburger SV for a fee in the region of £1.2 million during the 2016 summer transfer window and had another opportunity to prove himself elsewhere.
The niggling injury issues persisted during his debut season in Hamburg and he was demoted into the second-team. He was able to open his goalscoring account in a comprehensive 4-0 win over third-tier outfit Hallescher FC in the 2nd Round of the DFB-Pokal, but he saved his finest moment until the final day of the season.
Hamburg headed into their meeting with VfL Wolfsburg under the full understanding that victory would prevent them from facing a relegation play-off tie. It was a must-win match for both sides and Waldschmidt ensured that Hamburg prevailed by scoring an 88th minute header to decide the frantic affair.
Supporters expected him to consolidate his reputation as a rising start in the 2017/18 season, but Hamburg, it proved, had ran out of cat lives and succumbed to a long-awaited relegation into the second-tier.
Despite scoring just three goals during his two seasons at Hamburger SV, SC Freiburg triggered his £4.5 million release clause to bring him to the Schwarzwald-Stadion.
SC Freiburg: The Breakthrough
Only Hamburger SV scored fewer goals than SC Freiburg last season and German marksman Nils Petersen had been responsible for 47% of their 32 Bundesliga goals. Therefore, Christian Streich aimed to bolster the attacking ranks with the signings of Roland Sallai from APOEL Nicosia and Vincenzo Grifo from 1899 Hoffenheim on a season-long loan.
SC Freiburg is no longer relying solely on Nils Petersen for goals. Waldschmidt is currently level on goals with Petersen in the Bundesliga and Florian Niederlechner is marginally behind the pair with four league goals.
They’ve already surpassed their tally for the entirety of the 2017/18 season and Waldschmidt has been a major contributing factor to their upsurge in fortunes in the final third. He emerged from the bench on just his third appearance to score the winning goal against VfB Stuttgart and replaced the injured Roland Sallai to assist Mike Frantz for the third goal in a 3-1 win at VfL Wolfsburg just eight days later.
Waldschmidt is currently invaluable for SC Freiburg. Not only does he provide both a goalscoring and creative threat, but his versatility also allows Streich to vary his tactics depending on the nature of the opposition.
He can play as a supporting striker for Petersen, but is arguably more effective either as a right winger or centre-forward. Freiburg have a difficult journey to the finish line with fixtures against Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig over the course of the next eight matches.
However, they will close the season with matches against Fortuna Dusseldorf, Hannover 96 and FC Nuremberg, which means that Waldschmidt has the perfect opportunity to reach double figures in what has been an incredible season!