A fresh face was evident at San Jose Earthquakes practice on Tuesday, as former Germany international Thomas Hitzlsperger trained with the MLS standings leader. Currently out of contract after requesting his release from VfL Wolfsburg following the 2011-12 Bundesliga season, the 30-year old Hitzlsperger continues his quest to return to full fitness before resuming his search for a new club to call home.
The 2006 World Cup veteran has scored six times for Germany in an international career that extended through the qualification stages for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. His most successful stint at the club level came from 2005-10 as a member of VfB Stuttgart, where Hitzlsperger helped his side capture the 2007 Bundesliga title. Prior to his move to Germany, Hitzlsperger enjoyed a four season run with English side Aston Villa.
Nicknamed "The Hammer" during his time at Villa Park, Hitzlsperger has struggled to make an impact at the international and club level since a move midway through the 2009-10 season to Serie A side Lazio. Ballyhooed moves to West Ham United in 2010 and Wolfsburg in 2011 resulted in early termination of successive three-year contracts.
During his training stint on Tuesday with the Earthquakes, Hitzlsperger joined the second team as part of an 11 v. 11 intrasquad scrimmage. He played centrally in partnership with newly acquired Mehdi Ballouchy and held his own after the Earthquakes starting central midfield duo of Rafael Baca and Sam Cronin. He never had a clear opportunity to unleash a vintage left-footed blast on goal and was held scoreless in the practice session.
A source with information on the German’s stay in San Jose confirmed that Hitzlsperger was not trialing with the Earthquakes and was just participating in training. While the secondary MLS transfer window closed at the end of July, players on a free transfer can still join MLS clubs and be eligible for the postseason if they are signed prior to Roster Freeze date of September 15. The Earthquakes currently have space available on the roster and an international player slot at their disposal.
San Jose has welcomed other players into training in the past without overtly placing them on trial — most recently current Colorado Rapids forward Kamani Hill in the latter stages of the 2011 season — and Hitzlsperger appears to fall into that category. One thing is for sure, with only 23 club appearances and 3 goals to his credit in the last 31 months, much of that due to a series of injuries, Hitzlsperger will need to prove he is fully fit before he can resume his career.
For video highlights of Hitzlsperger’s career, continue reading after the break:
Thomas Hitzlsperger " Once A Villain Always A Villain" | HD
For more highlights, check out Thomas Hitzlsperger-Der Hammer, Wolfsburg 2011/12