Andre Schurrle has had to wait one year, and seen two Chelsea managers depart the club, before his long-planned move from Bayer Leverkusen finally went through this summer for £18m.
When it came to the crunch in June, his acquisition by Chelsea was approved by the one man whose approval he really sought – Jose Mourinho.
Schurrle is in the squad tonight for Chelsea’s game against a Malaysia select XI in Kuala Lumpur - a 2.45pm kick-off, UK time - and there was enough in his first half performance in Bangkok on Saturday night to suggest that he could be a big part of the team next season. He is tall and rangy and likes to run at the full-back. Rudi Voller, the former Germany international who is now the technical director at Bayer Leverkusen, says that his former player can be one of the best, providing he can cope with the physical side of the English game.
Schurrle was part of the Mainz team who prospered under Jurgen Klopp and then Thomas Tuchel who took over a year after Klopp left. Like Lewis Holtby, who also played for Mainz on loan, Schurrle, 22, had attracted interest in England for some time. He joined Bayer Leverkusen two years ago and was a substitute in the side that beat Chelsea in November 2011 in a group stage game, the same season Chelsea went on to win the trophy.
In the end, it was Michael Ballack, a team-mate of Schurrle at Leverkusen, who encouraged him to make the move. “I played at Stamford Bridge with Leverkusen in the Champions League and I could see the passion and love the people had for their club,” Schurrle said. “It was a great feeling. He [Ballack] told me all the time this is a great club, with great people in this club, like a big family. He told me if I had to change then I had to do this move to Chelsea.
“Everybody knows he [Mourinho] is really good and good for the players. That’s what Michael told me. He convinced me that he could make me a better player, of course.”
Chelsea wanted to bring the player to London last summer but Leverkusen blocked the deal. “I always hoped it would happen, it took a long time,” Schurrle said. “I wanted to come last year to Chelsea and it didn’t work. It wasn’t my decision. It was the decision of Bayer Leverkusen. They didn’t want me to go and I had to make the best of the situation.
“It was a missed opportunity of course but I said to myself I had to do my best in every match and every training session it would come at another time and so it was. I had the contact all the time and now I’m very happy to be here.”
There has been much talk from Mourinho this last week about being “an educator” to the group of young players the club have signed. It is Schurrle and the likes of Marco van Ginkel and Romelu Lukaku he is talking about when he speaks about the challenge of moulding them as players. Schurrle and Van Ginkel are new to the Premier League and while they have proved themselves in Germany and the Netherlands, the expectations at Chelsea represent a different challenge altogether.
There is also the matter of the fee paid by Chelsea, standard for them but still not inconsiderable. “Of course it's a lot of money and everybody knows that,” Schurrle said. “There's no extra pressure for me that they paid so much money for me, it's more an honour, it makes me proud that the club want me that much and paid that money for me. There's no pressure. I want to give my best for the club, for the team, for the fans. That's all I want.”