The German attacker benefitted from playing with one of the game’s sharpest shooters
As a teenager breaking through the ranks of Schalke, Julian Draxler quickly found himself rubbing shoudlers with Real Madrid icon Raul.
The Spanish striker moved to the Bundesliga in 2010 and soon found himself playing alongside a nervous, young German desperate to impress.
Draxler had grown up idolising Raul and admits he found it difficult to simply communicate with the Los Blancos legend early on.
“When Raul stood in front of me, I couldn’t talk,” Draxler told Goal and DAZN.
“I wanted to say in English, ‘Hello, I am Julian.’ But only mumbling came out. I gave him a quick hand, went on fast, sat down and shut up.
“I always liked him. When I saw Real Madrid earlier in the Champions League, he was on the pitch, sometimes even as the captain of the Galacticos. And suddenly the same person is standing in the locker room next to you, you have to pinch yourself.
“You ask yourself in the first moment how Felix Magath has done it that Raul plays for Schalke now. And the next moment you’re wondering how you actually managed to be in the same room with him right now.”
After the initial awkwardness, Draxler was determined to make the most of Raul’s skill and experience to ensure his own talent didn’t go to waste.
Raul for his part soon noticed the German had something special and happily took him under his wing.
“At some point I realised that he understood very early on that I had great talent,” Draxler said.
“I also played relatively early in the Bundesliga. Raul used to play as a number 10 and I on the left wing. He knew that he needed to get me on the right track so I could give him assists.
“I absorbed everything from him and tried to change my game in a way that he is happy with me. If he had said I was not ready, I probably would not have played anymore.
“I asked him after training sessions or games, which runs I should do if he has the ball, which kind of pass he wants to have if I have the ball.
“He realised that I wanted to learn from him. Nowadays there are many 17, 18 or 19-year-old’s who think: ‘I’m doing it’. For me it was the other way around. This eventually led to a friendship.”
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While Raul was a crucial influence on the pitch as Draxler’s professional career was beginning, the now Paris Saint-Germain player’s father also played his part ensuring his son strived for the very best.
“He never said I had to [become a professional], but he pushed me very hard in that direction,” Draxler said.
“If we lost on Saturday or I played badly, the weekend was over for the whole family. He was really angry and very, very critical.
“Sometimes I did not feel that my performance was so bad. He then made it clear to me that that was not enough. My dad was definitely demanding.
“In retrospect, I’m incredibly grateful to him because I’ve developed such an ambition that otherwise I might not have had.”
On an individual level, Draxler himself also made a significant sacrifice most teenagers wouldn’t dream of making.
“I used to say that I would never go to a party until I did my first pro game. And that was really the case,” Draxler revealed.
“I drank my first sip of alcohol after winning the cup final. After that, I also went to a party for the first time. Before, there was only school, training, school, training, school, training.”