One reason why Schalke fell so far in such a short amount of time was due to mismanagement of funds – namely, spending big on players who failed to impress.
Former Sporting Director Christian Heidel signed off on some of the most expensive signings in the club’s history, and many of these signings did pretty much nothing during their time in Germany to justify the transfer fees spent on them.
A reported £16m was spent on midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, defender Sebastian Rudy joined for £15m from champions Bayern Munich, and £20m was spent on Basel striker Breel Embolo. Winger Yevhen Konoplyanka was signed for £12m from Sevilla, and striker Adam Szalai was bought for around £10m. All of these players had little to no impact at the club.
Another aspect of mismanagement was the number of talented players who were allowed to run their contracts down and leave for free – the likes of Leon Goretzka, Sead Kolasinac and Max Meyer all could’ve fetched decent transfer fees, but did not, depriving the club of vital income.
Since they were relegated, there has been a lot of change at the club, especially when it comes to the transfer policy. Although helped by the crushing debt they are in, Schalke are no longer spending big on players who have impressed at other clubs, as these players are still liable to become major flops – there now seems to be a focus on bringing players through the academy or signing young, promising players via loans or small transfer fees.
seven players who have made at least 10 appearances this season have all been age 24 or under. This strategy of “playing young players in the hope that they come good so they can be sold for big profit” is one that has worked for many clubs in the past, and one that Schalke now look to be trying.
In the summer before their Bundesliga 2 campaign commenced, Schalke brought in over 15 new players and got rid of over 20 of the old guard, with the likes of Weston McKennie, Matthew Hoppe, Benito Raman, Omar Mascarell, Sebastian Rudy, Matija Nastasic, Shkodran Mustafi, Benjamin Stambouli, Suat Serdar, Mark Uth and Alessandro Schopf all leaving the club in a mass exodus.
In their place, many young players came in. 20-year-old former Schalke academy player Malick Thiaw was brought in, and 22-year-old midfielder Rodrigo Zalazar was signed on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt alongside striker Darko Churlinov, who joined on loan from Stuttgart. 23-year-old Blendi Idrizi, alongside 21-year-olds Florian Flick and Henning Matriciani, were all promoted to the senior side from the club’s reserve side, and 20-year-old midfielder Mehmet Aydin was called up from the club’s U-19 side.
To complement all these young players, older and more experienced players were signed, with 34-year-old striker Simon Terodde joining from Hamburg. Midfielders Dominick Drexler and Danny Latza were also signed, with both of them having played in Germany’s top 3 divisions in their careers. Goalkeeper Martin Fraisl was brought on a free transfer from Eredivisie outfit ADO Den Haag, and defender Marcin Kaminski, like Churlinov, joined from Stuttgart.
Only three players were signed for transfer fees – those three being midfielders Reinhold Ranftl and Victor Palsson, and striker Marius Bulter, who have all been key members of the squad.
These players have all contributed to helping Die Knappen back to the Bundesliga at the first attempt. Striker Simon Terodde, who at the age of 34 has managed to score 29 goals this season, has been the club’s main man in their promotion push.
Marius Bulter has chipped in with double-digits in both goals and assists, and Dominick Drexler has contributed to eight goals. Midfielders Rodrigo Zalazar and Thomas Ouwejan have both been involved in over 10 goals each, and defenders Marcin Kaminski, Malick Thiaw and Ko Itakura have all scored two or more goals.
Those three have also been ever-presents in the Schalke backline, with 30 appearances each in the league. New goalkeeper Fraisl has been a reliable presence between the sticks, and the experienced Ralf Fahrmann is still at the club and has been dependable in his seven outings this season.