There is one simple statistic that explains why Brentford have signed Kevin Schade on loan and why they are prepared to make him their club-record signing.
When the forward was playing for Freiburg against Greuther Furth in the Bundesliga last season, he recorded a top speed of 22.6mph (36.4km/h), making him the seventh-fastest player in the league’s history.
Brentford’s plan is to refine Schade’s technical ability and combine it with his explosive pace to create a clinical forward capable of terrorising defences.
— Kevin Schade (@kevinschade_) January 4, 2023
The 21-year-old is only on loan at Brentford for now but he will join permanently, on a contract until 2027, if certain performance-related criteria are met. Brentford have agreed to pay Freiburg €25million (£22.1m; $26.3m), including add-ons, which would represent the fourth time they have broken their transfer record since they were promoted to the top flight after Kristoffer Ajer (£13.5m), Aaron Hickey (£14m rising to £18m) and Keane Lewis-Potter (£16m rising to £20m).
The club’s interest in the Germany Under-21 international stretches back to last summer. There were six Premier League clubs monitoring Schade but Brentford got in contact with Freiburg first and presented the best vision and sporting fit as their playing style suits his strengths. Brentford pushed hard to complete a deal before the season, but the two sides failed to agree on a price while Schade was struggling with a persistent abdominal injury, which complicated the situation.
Brentford got back in contact with Freiburg in November and discussions progressed fairly smoothly throughout December. Schade completed his medical and flew to London on Tuesday evening to finalise the paperwork. He spoke to Brentford’s German midfielder Vitaly Janelt during the process.
— Brentford FC (@BrentfordFC) January 5, 2023
It is an excellent start to the January transfer window for Brentford, who are ninth in the Premier League after an impressive 3-1 victory over Liverpool on Monday, and Schade’s arrival will reinforce the belief they can finish in the top half.
With so much uncertainty around Ivan Toney’s future (he has been charged by the Football Association for allegedly breaching betting rules and could be suspended from playing matches if he is found guilty), signing another forward should help to ease concern.
There is a lot of hype and excitement around Schade, but it would be unfair to place too much pressure on him. He only made his senior debut for Freiburg in August 2021, as a substitute in a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund, and went on to make 36 appearances for them, scoring six goals. He played only eight times for Freiburg this season as he recovered from surgery on the abdominal issue that kept him out between March and September.
Brentford’s plan is to build up Schade’s fitness and strength and slowly integrate him into the starting XI. We have seen with Lewis-Potter and Mikkel Damsgaard that it can take time for new players to adjust to Thomas Frank’s demands and style of play.
“He is a young, promising talent that we see big potential in,” Frank told Brentford’s official website. “We have been following him for a while and we think he will suit our style of play.
“He can play anywhere across our front three positions. He could play for us on either wing or as the central striker. He has great pace and is very promising in the way he runs behind defences.”
You can find a great example of what Schade will offer Brentford in Freiburg’s 5-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund last season. He picks up the ball next to the touchline under pressure from Thomas Meunier.
He effortlessly spins away from Meunier, which prompts Manuel Akanji to confront him.
The forward skips past Akanji with ease and Dortmund’s defence has suddenly been carved wide open.
Schade has several options in front of him and decides to pick out Roland Sallai, but his pass is slightly under hit.
Sallai comes under pressure from Raphael Guerreiro and manages to get a shot away.
Gregor Kobel palms the ball straight into the path of Ermedin Demirovic who has an easy finish to make it 3-1. Freiburg had been given a brief injection of hope from Schade’s dynamism and bravery on the ball.
When Freiburg played RB Leipzig in November, Vincenzo Grifo’s through ball triggered a race between Schade and Amadou Haidara.
Schade breezes past Haidara to reach the ball first and drives towards the box.
Willi Orban comes over to block the winger’s path but he is determined to reach the byline.
Schade could have shown better awareness and picked out Maximilian Eggestein, who was free on the edge of the box. Brentford’s coaching staff will help to improve his decision-making.
However, Schade produces a stepover to trick Orban and whips a cross into the box, which Sallai fails to convert.
Schade is not a prolific goalscorer, but the quality of his strikes is impressive.
During Germany Under-21s’ match against Italy in November, the right side of the pitch is heavily congested, so Tom Krauss passes it towards Schade.
The pass is overhit so Schade eventually collects it around 30 yards from goal and spots an area of space opening up.
Nicolo Rovella and Lorenzo Pirola attempt to shut Schade out, but he cleverly chops the ball and wriggles between them.
The forward remains composed and fires a low effort past Italy goalkeeper Marco Carnesecchi.
Schade is comfortable shooting with both feet, which makes him unpredictable and difficult to mark.
In this German Cup tie between Hoffenheim and Freiburg last January, Demirovic sweeps the ball out wide to his team-mate.
David Raum steps off Schade as he expects the winger will try to run past him towards the byline.
But Schade catches Raum off guard by shifting onto his left foot and firing a powerful strike past Oliver Baumann.
Frank believes Schade, in addition to his pace, “is very good aerially” and can develop “to be a real threat as an offensive option with his head”.
During the negotiations, Schade requested Brentford provide him with a header pendulum so he can consistently work on his heading and his stability when it comes to jumping and landing.
The 6ft (1.83m) man demonstrated his impressive ability in the air on his debut for Germany Under-21s against Israel in a qualifier for the Under-21 European Championship. In the 87th minute, Noah Katterbach picks up the ball on the left and floats a cross towards the back post.
Schade leaps above Doron Leidner and powers a header past Omer Ya’akov Niron to draw Germany level.
It is easy to imagine the forward rounding off similar moves for Brentford by latching onto a delivery from Rico Henry or Aaron Hickey.
For now, Schade will be mainly competing against Lewis-Potter, Bryan Mbeumo and Yoane Wissa for a place out wide in the starting line-up.
However, do not be surprised if Brentford transform him into a centre-forward who is equally comfortable at running defenders ragged with his speed or towering above them to score a header.
(Top photo: LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images)
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