A rare capture from the Continent at an early age, Shkodran Mustafi was snapped up by Everton under David Moyes as a teenager in 2009 where he was a highly-regarded addition to the Finch Farm Academy.
His rich promise would eventually see him emerge on the international stage for Germany, first at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil and then as a starter at Euro2016 but by then his days with the Blues would long be over.
Born on 17 April 1992 in Bad Hersfeld, Germany, to parents of Albanian descent, Mustafi grew up in nearby Bebra and played for FV Bebra and SV Rotenburg, cutting his teetj initially as a striker.
He started his professional football career in 2006 in the youth system of Hamburg SV, passing up offers by Bayern Munich, Werder Bermen and Eintracht Frankfurt, partly because of the club's excellent boarding home. The switch to Hamburg also saw Mustafi move further back in the line-up, eventually finding a home in defence.
Somewhat surprisingly, he decided to leave Hamburg just before the 2009 U17 European Championship kicked off, however, moving to Everton on a three-year contract in preference to the likes of Newcastle United, Manchester City and Borussia Dortmund.
He played all five games for his country in those U17s Euros, including the 2-1 final victory over the Netherlands in extra time and made 14 appearances for Germany at that level scoring three goals.
No surprise, then, that Hamburg were disappointed to lose him that summer.
"We really tried to keep Shkodran at our club, but when there is a club from England coming up we are unable and unwilling to compete financially," said Jens Todt, the head of the Bundlesliga club's youth academy. "It is tough to accept, but it will not destroy us. We are just hoping this is not going to happen too often again."
Mustafi cited Everton's reputation for pushing their young players and giving them a chance to play for the senior side was a big reason for his decision, telling
Uefa.com: "They give young players the chance to play in the first team and get experience, like Wayne Rooney, and that is the reason I went there.
"With the transfer to Everton, a dream is coming true for me. I think I'm an enormously strong-willed guy who never gives up. Therefore I think I was made for the English league. I will fight as long as I have to and give everything I have until I eventually play in the top flight."
He would never get the opportunity for the Toffees, however. A senior debut for Everton against BATE Borisov in the dead rubber in the Europa League in December 2009, coming on as a substitute for Tony Hibbert, would be his only first-team appearance, though he was an unused sub in five other games that season.
Eventually, despite what he describes as a lot of work that didn't yield any more chances under Moyes, Mustafi was released to Sampdoria on a free transfer in 2012. He would later admit to how disillusioned he felt after his experience in England, saying:
"At the end of my time in England, I thought 'wow, I'm only 20, and I'm already sick of football'."
Since leaving Goodison, his career came on leaps and bounds as he emerged as one of the
star players in Serie A in the 2013-14 season.
for that was a place in the German national team for the 2014 World Cup after midfielder Marco Reus was ruled out, and then a move to Valencia
where he signed a five-year deal in August 2014. He would also score his country's first goal in the 2016 European Championships in a 2-0 win over Ukraine.
Mustafi returned to England and the Premier League at Arsenal for a
reported £35 million in August 2016 and went on to wn the FA Cup with
The Gunners in his first season.
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