It has been a difficult year for millions of football fans, but very few have been tortured just like Schalke supporters.
The German giants’ implosion has been brewing for a few years now, and everything came to a peak in the 2020/21 campaign. Three wins in 34 miserable matches left Schalke rooted to the bottom of the table, which confirmed their relegation to the second tier and left their loyal supporters with very little to smile about.
However, there has been a ray of light during this dark, dark season. It is the emergence of the 20-year-old American striker Matthew Hoppe. The kid made headlines by hitting a super hat trick against Hoffenheim in January and kicking Schalke to his first win of the campaign.
He went on to score three more goals in a team that often looked like it did not know how to shoot, and it has made some of Europe’s giants sit up and notice.
Tottenham Hotspur is one of several Premier League sites interested in his services, along with Wolverhampton Wanderers, Newcastle United and Southampton. But who is Hoppe, and what is there to know about him?
Not one, but TWO? ?
A wonderful hat trick from 19-year-old Matthew Hoppe to end Schalke’s unprofitable run. ?? pic.twitter.com/ZLzAr4dVEW
– Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) January 9, 2021
Life is full of these sliding door moments, and you came extremely early in Hope’s short career. Hungary had committed to play for the San Diego State University football team, but an offer from Schalke convinced him to take the leap of faith.
Hoppe killed college and instead moved to Europe and drifted out of his comfort zone as a teenager. However, he has taken full advantage of that opportunity, after breaking into the Schalke first team and then writing his name in the club’s folklore with his wonderful hat trick against Hoffenheim.
Happiness is the bold bee.
If there is one thing we can be sure of, it is that Hoppe knows where the goal is. The American expedition has shown clinical finish at all levels, and even in Schalke’s youth team there was evidence that the icy blood was flowing through his veins.
This stay against Inglostadt was a warning sign of things to come, with his first goal against Hoffenheim ending with an incredibly similar finish, and cutting the ball over the goalkeeper with his left foot.
His second strikes were equally brilliant, first competing on a passing ball to round the goalkeeper and roll home, and then arrogantly swinging a right boot to cut a goal for the first time in the far corner. Unsettling self-confidence.
Hoppe was particularly impressed by Fati / Quality Sport Images / Getty Images
Ok, so maybe he’s not a real product of Barcelona’s famous “La Masia” academy, but Hoppe spent two years at Arizona’s “Barcelona Residency Academy” … which is basically the same thing, right?
The academy is associated with la Blaugrana’s wonderkid factory, and the experience even allowed Hoppe to spend 2 weeks training at the real Masia academy, where he played with some of the soon to be biggest names in our sport.
The American chose Ansu Fati as the most talented of all – maybe he has a future as a scout as well.
Bad hair day / Lars Baron / Getty Images
Every player, no matter how famous or otherwise, has an idol. It is not so surprising that the man that Hoppe looks up to is Borussia Dortmund striker Erling Haaland.
Only a year younger than the Norwegian robot, Hoppe has previously admitted that he studies the attacker’s movement and tries to learn as much as possible from his ideas.
With 40 league goals in 43 games, there are worse examples to follow, for Hoppe.
??? HOPPE HAT-TRICK ???
⏱️ 64 ‘| # S04TSG 3-0 | # S04 pic.twitter.com/m9O3vj68qF
– FC Schalke 04 (@ s04_en) 9 January 2021
That Hoffenheim trick was Hoppe’s crown in his domestic career so far, and when he hit the treble he also broke a Bundesliga record.
The forward became the first American footballer to score a hat-trick in German top flight, helping Schalke to equalize the longest unprofitable stretch in Bundesliga history with a game and winning 359 days for the first time in his 31st attempt.
The only way is up for Schalke, and if Hoppe holds on, he will pull them on that journey. If not, he has earned his crack at the big time.
Slips into Schalke’s front line / Lars Baron / Getty Images
Unbelievably, Hoppe has not always been a striker. Until just a couple of years ago, the American played as a midfielder and showed his attacking intensity from the middle of the field.
In the end, his ruthless nature and impressive finishing shone brightest, and it was only a matter of time before he got his chance to lead the line, an opportunity he has taken with both hands.
Hoppe also likes to sink deeper from his attacking position and uses his experience in both areas on the pitch to damage the defense. He will be a star.