Shkodran Mustafi provided emphatic proof that playing in the Bundesliga is not a prerequisite for representing Germany by capturing head coach Joachim Low’s attention despite never playing club football in his homeland. After establishing himself at Italian side Sampdoria, the talented 25-year-old has become a regular starter for Arsenal, having initially tried to make his English Premier League breakthrough at Everton several years earlier.
Born and raised by Albanian parents in the German state of Hesse, Mustafi’s talent was discovered at an indoor tournament when he was a teenager. He opted to join the academy at Hamburg, where he was transformed from a striker into a defensive specialist, before moving to England at the age of 17.
The robust and tough-tackling centre-half represented Germany at every level from U-16 to U-21, made a crucial contribution to his country’s triumph at the UEFA U-17 Championship 2009 and took part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup the same year. Four years later, he was part of the squad that travelled to the UEFA U-21 Championship.
Mustafi won his first senior international cap in a 0-0 friendly draw with Poland in May 2014 and was included in the provisional 30-man squad for the World Cup in Brazil. Despite initially failing to make the cut, coach Joachim Low called up the defender after Marco Reus was ruled out through injury. Mustafi went on to make three appearances and ultimately lift the World Cup Trophy into the Rio night sky.