George Timotheou was playing on suburban grounds for semi-professional NPL NSW club Sydney Olympic little more than a year ago.
On Saturday evening, the 21-year-old Australian defender made his Bundesliga debut for FC Schalke in a 0-0 stalemate with VfB Stuttgart – and helped nullify one of the best German strikers of all time in the process.
Replacing the injured Matija Nastasic in the starting XI, Timotheou slotted into a back three and was tasked with containing legendary forward Mario Gomez in Gelsenkirchen.
Timotheou’s professional aspirations appeared to be dashed when he was discarded by Hyundai A-League giants Sydney FC in 2017.
But the Canberra-born defender caught the eye while plying his trade for Belmore-based Olympic and moved to Germany in July 2018 after successfully completing a two-week trial with the Schalke U23 team.
Timotheou’s trajectory has been upward ever since. He has made more than 20 appearances for the U23s, has scored two goals and was an unused substitute on three Bundesliga match days for Schalke prior to Saturday’s debut in the final match of the campaign.
It is expected Timotheou will continue to knock on the door of the first team in the second year of his contract next season.
“Honestly all I want to do is make a profession out of the game I love,” Timotheou told Greek newspaper Neos Kosmos in August last year.
“I want to be able to play at the highest possible level for as long as possible. The club initially expects me to be at a standard to be selected as a starting player for the U23 squad during the season proper.
“They have already spoken to me about how they see me going forward, and what my potential is, and I am encouraged by their confidence in my ability and potential.
“I can't think of a better place than being at Schalke to keep chasing that dream.”