Wolfsburg's 35-million man Draxler starts dividend payout
By Karolos Grohmann
REUTERS - Julian Draxler's debut season at VfL Wolfsburg after a 35-million euro transfer from Schalke 04 was below expectations until he started paying some of the investment back with two goals in their 3-2 win over Gent in the Champions League.
Germany international Draxler was under fire from Schalke fans even before the season started for leaving the Ruhr valley club he had played since the age of eight, drawn to cash-rich Wolfsburg in one of the most expensive German transfers.
The 22-year-old was supposed to replace Kevin De Bruyne, who left to join Manchester City, but instead of delivering assists and goals, Draxler saw criticism mount by the week, his string of lacklustre performances doing little to justify the massive investment.
Until Wednesday he had failed to live up to the hype of his transfer, with last season's Bundesliga runners-up and German Cup winners struggling in eighth place in the league.
But the attacking midfielder, a World Cup winner in 2014 at the tender age of 20, stepped up to the plate in Belgium, first launching a move he would complete with a low shot for the lead.
He then showed his stunning skills, flicking the ball through the legs of a defender and then chipping it over the keeper for a remarkable 2-0.
"We always said Julian Draxler is the best German football has to offer at the moment," Wolfsburg sports director, Klaus Allofs, who lured the player to the Volkswagen-owned club, told reporters.
"But he needs some more time until he can deliver that quality at every game. But he will do it and he will do it with us. I think everyone saw today that he is an outstanding player."
Draxler's goals and another from Max Kruse helped them to a 3-0 lead before a late comeback from the Belgians with two late goals.
That two-goal spell was the evidence once more this season that Wolfsburg may have massive potential with a talented squad but their concentration lapses remain a major concern.
"I have very mixed feelings at the moment," Draxler told reporters. "It was by far my best game for Wolfsburg, with two goals. But we basically lost the plot yet still managed to get a good result away."
"I am focusing on my performance and sometimes it works better than other times. But I am happy to be in good form at the moment. My first Champions League double, I think I will keep the ball."
A good run in the Champions League, with the return leg in Germany next month, could also make Draxler's first season at Wolfsburg equally memorable and profitable.
(Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)