How new FC Schalke 04 signing George Timotheou, never stopped believing in his European football dream despite being cut by Sydney FC.
The Australian youth international has made a dramatic leap from the NSW NPL to the German Bundesliga after the 20-year-old performances for Sydney Olympic helped him seal a move to Schalke.
Just two months ago the left footed defender was in the semi-professional second tier of Australian football, but over the last few weeks, Timotheou has played in three pre-season friendlies for Schalke’s U23 side.
Speaking from his base in Germany, Timotheou said he was still buzzing about his sudden ascension to one of Europe’s elite competitions.
“This has been a dream of mine, like most Aussie football kids who want to play in Europe,” he said speaking to FourFourTwo.
“I feel very humbled, and grateful, to be offered a contract by one of the biggest clubs in Germany and Europe.
“It is a dream to play in the first team. but I have to first establish myself in the U23 squad and that is not going to be easy, so I have to prove my worth.
“I have to repay the faith that Schalke have shown in me and perform at an exceptional level for the U-23 squad.”
After being part of the Sky Blues youth set up for two years, Timotheou was promoted to Sydney FC’s first team squad but was released by the club at the end of the 2016/17 campaign.
Even though he was axed, Timotheou holds no ill will towards his former club despite not being judged good enough.
“I learnt a lot about how the football world works and about myself at Sydney FC. Every experience betters you in some way,” he said.
“But I never gave up on the dream. I have worked extremely hard at my game since coming back to the NPL.
“I was receiving overseas offers within a couple of months to go on trial but I wanted to be ready.
“When I was ready I went to Schalke and I feel I have gone to the right club.
“I always thought that if I played to my potential that doors back to the A-League or overseas would open, and they did.”
Timotheou grew up in Canberra and played youth football for Gungahlin. After before being selected for the ACT Academy of Sport, he was then awarded a16 month scholarship at the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS).
While he believes the youth development program (that was axed last year) was key to his progress, Timotheou admitted the lack of pathways made it difficult for Canberra youngsters to break into the A-League.
“It seems to be hard in my experience,” he said. “Then again it shouldn’t necessarily be easy either.
“However if you come from Canberra like myself - I was a bit more fortunate in that I had some exposure as an AIS player - it’s even harder without a local A-League club.
“Before I left Canberra I had played in the National Youth League and National Premier League for the AIS.
“So, I would also say that the old fully professional environment at the AIS also prepared me for this move, as this laid the foundations for me later.”