With a £4.3 million fee agreed with Köln for defender Kevin Wimmer, Tottenham Hotspur have a rising star on their hands, writes Alex Chaffer...
The 60-second story
- Date of birth: November 15, 1992
- Place of birth: Wels, Austria
- Position: Centre-back
- Height: 6ft 1in
- Current club: FC Köln (66 apps, 2 goals)
- International: Austria (1 cap, 0 goals)
After starting out his footballing career as an 11-year-old, Kevin Wimmer still didn’t know what he wanted to do when he turned 15, having won junior ski races in his first-loved sport.
Now 22, the traditional central defender appears to have made the correct decisionr by sticking with football. Following his move to FC Köln from Austrian side LASK Linz for a measly €250,000 in July 2012, the powerful enforcer has proved to be well worth the money.
"Family is everything" is his permanent status on WhatsApp, and so it should when your parents drove you 40 minutes each way to and from training as a youngster. His mother, Karin, even came to his medical before he signed with Köln.
After being considered a flop following a stuttering start, the now-capped Austria international has enjoyed an impressive turnaround on and off the pitch.
Wimmer has started and finished all but one of the Billy Goats’ games this season, and has been the leader of the sixth-best Bundesliga defence. After earning promotion from the 2.Bundesliga as champions, Köln are 12th – but now they're reportedly set to lose their promising stopper in a £4.3 million move to Spurs.
Why you need to know him
As a youngster at second division Austrian side LASK Linz, Wimmer was acclaimed as one of Austria’s best prospects. He still is, having only turned 22 at the end of last year.
His parents drove the 20 miles between Wels and Linz daily, and were rewarded when he signed a contract at 17. "They always believed in me," he told Bild. "Without my parents, I wouldn’t be here."
Köln were rubbing their hands with glee when they landed the then-19-year-old for a snip. Yet after struggling to find form in his first season – starting nine of the first 12 games before not featuring again – Wimmer’s future was in doubt. However, new Köln boss Peter Stöger offered the defender a chance to prove himself, and so he did, assisting twice at left-back in his first game of the 2013/14 season.
He was then moved into his natural role in the centre of defence, and played the full 90 minutes in all but two games en route to promotion back to the top flight last term.
Nicknamed 'Hacki' after Rhein rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach legend and namesake Herbert Wimmer, the defender has continued his progression with both his playing style and physical shape in the Bundesliga. Upon joining in 2012 the teenager was slightly overweight, which drew concern from the Köln faithful. "I’ve been able to lose two kilos, turn body fat into muscle mass and bulk up with my gym programme," Wimmer said later. "For a defender it’s important to have power."
Turning weaknesses into strengths is something Wimmer has prided himself on. Now, with a buffed-up chest and body built for purpose, the fast, robust and technically-gifted defender is one of the strongest players in the Bundesliga and rarely gets pushed off the ball.
Wimmer has a developing mix of traditional and more modern defensive attributes. A 74% pass-completion rate shows he is a capable ball player, and his average of two tackles, two interceptions and seven clearances per game shows his strength in doing the simple stuff.
The left-footed Wimmer is also competent at left-back, where he started out in his youth team days. Adapting to a central role has allowed him to improve with his right foot, too.
Another strength off the pitch is his clear determination to succeed. He admitted in an interview with kicker: "I wasn’t surprised people said I should leave after how little I played. Some said I should go, but I was determined to take this chance. I knew my chance would come and that I had to take it." And so he did.
The lad likes a giggle...
Wimmer’s positioning has often let him down in Köln colours, having been caught ball-watching while his opponents drift into space on several occasions this season. Heading is also not a particularly strong suit for the defender, which he has already set as the next area of improvement.
On the pitch his development is good, but his persistence on being in the limelight can be seen in two ways. He's already done as many as four interviews with newspapers, and doesn't shy away from boasting about the levels of female fan mail he receives. Take that how you wish.
Boss Stöger confirmed last week to kicker that interest in Wimmer had come in the winter, and that it has grown in the last few weeks. When Stöger came to Köln, the fellow Austrian claimed: "I’ve had him [Wimmer] on my radar for a long time. He’s a great lad and I’m looking forward to working with him." It was always a perfect match, it would seem.
Did you know?
Some players get heaps of fan mail from young supporters who aspire to be like their heroes. For Wimmer, though, his is mostly from women who have taken an interest in him. It became such a problem for Kevin that his now-ex-girlfriend called off their relationship due to his increased fame.
"I've been single since late January," he said in August last year. "It was not a problem of distance, but when I became a regular player, my ex-girlfriend could no longer handle the hype that comes with football. She was also jealous when she found the fan mail from other women."
- Shooting 5
- Heading 7
- Passing 7
- Tackling 7
- Pace 8
- Dribbling 6
- Creativity 5
- Work-rate 6
What happens next?
With a move to London and the Premier League with Tottenham in its final stages of completion, Wimmer’s next step is to settle in his new surroundings. His style appears to suit the Premier League, with pace, power and technical skill all on show frequently.
For the rest of this season, keeping Köln in the Bundesliga is the main priority. Wimmer confirmed talks had taken place about a move away this week, but he has been keen to show his respect for the Billy Goats at the same time. Nevertheless, his departure from the North Rhein-Westphalia is nearing, and a new chapter in his life is about to begin.