DUBAI // Lewis Holtby has already captained the German Under-21 team and will join Tottenham Hotspur in the summer, but the sporting director of the club that nurtured the highly rated midfielder says doubts remain over whether he has the physical ability to succeed at the top level.
Holtby, who will leave Schalke for the English Premier League in July after this week signing a precontract agreement with Spurs, began his career aged 11 at Borussia Monchengladbach before moving to Alemannia Achen five years later.
He joined Schalke in 2009, where he has gone on to shine in both the Bundesliga and this season's Champions League.
Max Eberl, sporting director of Monchengladbach, refuted suggestions Holtby had been dismissed in 2005 for being too lightweight, insisting instead that the player chose to leave for Alemannia after Monchengladbach signed Marko Marin, the German of similar age and position who joined Chelsea last summer.
"I think Lewis is good enough to play in the English Premier League and to make the next step," said Eberl, who became sporting director of Monchengladbach in 2008 and is credited for his side signing Luuk de Jong, the coveted Dutch striker.
"Lewis played for us until he was 15 and then we brought in Marko Marin and he decided to move on to another academy. But now both players will play in the Premier League next season, so we can only take pride in that."
Eberl added however that Holtby's success at Spurs will be determined by his ability to cope with the physical side of English football.
"Now he will go to Tottenham and that is big step for him," Eberl, whose team are in Dubai for warm weather training during the German league's winter break, said.
"Naturally, I hope he will get a chance to play for them because they are a very good team and the Premier League is a very competitive league.
"He has decided to go this way, so now everybody waits to see how he adapts. But certainly he has the ability and the technical quality. What he needs in England is the physical quality too and that will be where the question mark sits when he arrives there."