In recent years, Schalke have struggled to find a consistent striker. Last season aside, that is: Simon Terodde scored 30 times to finish as the top scorer of the Bundesliga 2 and help Schalke earn promotion back to the Bundesliga. Terodde is the leading scorer in Bundesliga 2 history, has led the league in goals four times, and yet never seems to impress in the Bundesliga. This year, he has two goals in nine games in the top flight.
In the season Schalke was relegated, Matthew Hoppe finished as the team’s highest goalscorer with, uh, six strikes. Three of those came in one game, and he has failed to impress elsewhere. In the 2019/20 season, Schalke’s highest Bundesliga goalscorer was a midfielder, Suat Serdar, who scored seven times. In 2018/19, it was Daniel Caligiuri, with seven. The list goes on and on.
Schalke have invested heavily in the position with hopes to upgrade, but they’ve had little success outside of Terodde. With the striker turning 35 by the end of this season, it’s likely that the club from Gelsenkirchen will be on the hunt for a striker once more. Fortunately, they won’t have to look far, as they have a talent on their U19 team: Keke Topp.
ST Keke Topp, 18, Schalke 04
Topp was born in Gnarrenburg, where he played until joining Werder Bremen in 2013. At Bremen, he earned call-ups for Germany at U16 level, while additionally making some impressive performances with Bremen’s U17s. In 2021, however, he left Bremen, joining former Bundesliga giants Schalke at age 17.
Although Schalke spent last season in Germany’s second tier, the club’s U19 side still played in one of Germany’s top youth leagues, the Junioren Bundesliga West (the youth leagues are divided regionally). He started the season in impressive form, with four goal contributions in his first five games, and even featured in the Bundesliga 2 in a 2-1 loss to St. Pauli.
In his appearance against St. Pauli, Topp became the 9th youngest player to appear in Schalke’s history. Three of the eight players ahead of him (Bernhard Klodt, Olaf Thon, and Julian Draxler) went on to win the World Cup with Germany at some point in their careers.
Topp struggled with his form as the season went on, ending the year with just four goals in eleven league matches. Counting domestic cups as well, he scored seven goals with two assists in 18 matches. Not bad, but certainly room for improvement.
This season, Topp has hit the ground running. In the first match of the year, he scored against Dortmund’s U19s, a team he hadn’t scored against in four matches prior. Topp followed that performance with three consecutive braces in the league (all victories), while scoring a hat trick in the Junior DFB Pokal. After five matches in the Bundesliga U19 West this year, Topp has scored eight goals. Including his performances in the Pokal and U19 Euro qualifiers with Germany takes his tally this season up to 15 goals and one assist in just nine games. Or, in other words, more than twice his tally from last year.
Topp is a traditional number nine. His height (6’3″) and strength make him a threat in the air, with many of his goals coming from headers. However, Topp has a strong leg and good accuracy, and he’s able to score goals both inside and outside the box. He’s a threat from set pieces, as he often takes (and scores) free kicks. Topp is not the fastest, but he still has decent pace and footwork.
With Schalke struggling for goals — averaging just over one a match in the Bundesliga — there’s a good chance that Topp appears for the first team this season. At the very least, expect him to be with Schalke II (their reserve side) by the end of the year. Topp is showing right now that’s he’s too good for U19 level.
Image Courtesy of Moinsen95, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.
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