Bundesliga seems to have found its answer to England’s Jamie Vardy in Hendrik Weydandt, a former Kreisliga striker who is now plying his trade in the top tier of German football.
If you think it’s too late for you to prosper your dream of becoming a professional footballer, just be sure that it’s never too late for anything, especially when it comes to football. Take Hendrik Weydandt for example, the Hannover striker, who has become the poster-boy of the cliched “nothing is impossible” and certainly Bundesliga’s answer to England’s Jamie Vardy, but perhaps with more beer and pretzels.
Pardon our ignorance for not introducing the 23-year-old Bundesliga striker, who, not more than just four years ago was still playing in what can be deemed as amateur football of the German league strata. That was before he worked his way up to various divisions of German football before making his Bundesliga debut in 25th of August this year against Werder Bremen.
But wait, that’s not the end of the story (of course not!). Weydandt’s Bundesliga debut went from ‘exciting’ to ‘unforgettable’ when he netted just 75 seconds after coming on.
Before going further, we should acknowledge the fact that, prior to the game, Weydandt was coming on the back of an extraordinary DFB Cup performance against Karlsruher SC, scoring a brace in the 6-0 rout. Thus, his 75th-minute substitution against Bremen was not a surprise move by Andre Breitenreiter by any means but instead, a logical one.
So in came Weydandt, replacing Takuma Asano with both teams striving hard to find the elusive opener. And minutes later, attacking superstar Ihlas Bebou produced a finely tuned lobbed through-ball to set Weydandt one-on-one with the keeper and scoring his third goal of the season in all competitions. It was his third goal in the span of just 23 playing minutes, which was enough for Hannover to offer him a professional contract earlier this month.
Congrats to Hendrik Weydandt on signing a professional contract!
— Jack Grimse (@JackGrimse) August 28, 2018
But, let’s just back up a bit here and start from the beginning.
As iterated earlier, Weydandt worked his way up to the various stages of German football before earning a professional contract in early September. But, four years ago, the tall striker was still playing for TSV Gros Munzel – a seventh-tier club situated in the village of Calenberger country in the region of Hannover, home to about 1,000 people.
As a matter of fact, he was reported to be earning only €400 per month during his time with Gros Munzel, which is astonishing and can certainly be compared to Jamie Vardy’s amazing story from turning up for Stocksbridge Park Steels for £30 a week, to reaching the pinnacle of English football.
As for Weydandt, he later moved to 1.FC Germania Egestorf in the summer of 2014.
Much like Gros Munzel, Egestorf belongs to the same district of Barsinghausen in Lower Saxony, a 16-minute drive from his hometown Gehrden. It was at Egestorf/Langreder where then 18-year-old Weydandt started to showcase his true potential, playing a key role in their promotion to Regionalliga Nord (fourth tier) in 2016, which is seen as the biggest achievement in the club’s history.
Weydandt scored 13 goals in 25 matches during that season as well two goals in the qualification playoffs and in total, the 1.95m tall striker netted 46 goals in just 108 outings for the Lower Saxony outfit during his four-year stay at the club. Last season, however, the 23-year-old yielded his best ever scoring record with 15 goals in 31 appearances, impressing Hannover coach Andre Breitenreiter.
And thereof, Weydandt arrived at the HDI Arena earlier this summer to bolster the club’s reserves, despite his lack of experience of playing at any youth department. As Bundesliga.com expressed, Weydandt’s journey from being a “village footballer” to playing in one of the best leagues in Europe within a matter of weeks has made him feel like he is “in a trance”.
Indeed, during an interview, the attacker iterated, “Obviously there are difficulties in adapting to the step up to the Bundesliga from the fourth division.”
“Even just in the summer, it was a huge adjustment for me being in the Hannover U-23 side because I’d never played for a professional club or even been in a youth academy. My thought process at the time was: ‘OK, you need to soak everything up. Try to do things right from the beginning because first impressions are lasting’.”, Weydandt added.
Coach Breitenreiter firmly believes that Weydandt’s impressive performances in the German top flight are no coincidence given his strong fighting spirit and tireless attitude. “He’s very hard working, so actually it’s no coincidence he’s here.”, he said.
Sporting director Horst Heidt has also praised the striker for his diligence and fighting spirit and believes that his rise to the top of German football is no short of a fairytale.
“It’s crazy – it’s like a fairy tale,” said the former Schalke sporting director. “This is what makes football so special. He was still kicking about in the local amateur leagues just a few years ago. I think this was only his second or third time on the ball, and he takes his chance so coolly.”
What next for Germany’s Jamie Vardy?
Hendrik Weydandt lethal goal-scoring prowess could really prove to be useful for a Hannover side, who are somewhat lacking the offensive firepower this season.
While Niclas Fullkrug has emerged as a proven goalscorer in the German top flight, doubts remain over the credibility of Bobby Wood and Takuma Asano, both of whom have appeared inconsistent in recent years. Wood, in particular, missed a sitter against Dortmund, which could have sealed the valuable three points for the Reds.
Therefore, Breitenreither will be keen to utilize Weydandt as a super-sub for now, given the fact that he still an inexperienced striker at this level. However, the former Schalke manager is fond of using a three-man backline, which can easily accommodate two strikers up front. Thus, it shouldn’t be much of a surprise if we see Weydandt starting alongside Fullkrug in the coming matches.
Meanwhile, the Lower Saxony giants will travel east to face RB Leipzig as the Bundesliga resumes next weekend. This could be a perfect opportunity for Weydandt to show his mettle in top-flight football and to further prove his credibility of performing in the highest level of football, especially after remaining an unused sub in the game against Dortmund.