From Riches to Rags: The Downfall of Schalke 04

From Riches to Rags: The Downfall of Schalke 04

31/01/24 15:39

Schalke is the third most decorated club in German football. Having employed players like Klaus Fischer, Raul, Neuer and even Mesut Özil in the past, they remained an important part of German football for decades.

Yet, The Royal Blues find themselves playing in the Bundesliga II this season. How the mighty have fallen. Here, we take a look at some of the reasons that led to the destruction of one of football’s biggest clubs.

In 2018, Schalke finished second in the Bundesliga. It seemed like the Gelsenkirchen were ready to propel themselves into a new era of dominance in German football but in the span of the next 5 years, Schalke found themselves being relegated twice. There are multiple factors to explain this fall from grace.

Schalke infamously lost some of their biggest players on a free transfer. In 2016 Joel Matip, who was one of Schalke’s brightest academy talents, joined Liverpool on a free transfer because the management was late in starting talks to extend his contract. This became a common theme in the coming years. Players like Goretzka, Nubel and Kolasinac left the club in similar circumstances.

Whilst Schalke were losing large amounts of potential transfer fees, they were also spending big in the market. With Borussia Dortmund regaining prominence, Schalke wanted to compete with their rivals, which forced them to change their transfer strategy to make big moves with huge fees involved. Players like Breel Embolo, Rabbi Matondo, Omar Mascarrel and Sebastian Rudy were all signed on huge fees but unfortunately most of them ended up being flops. In fact, Schalke faced a loss of €91.5m on their big signings between 2015-2019.

Despite having some underpar campaigns before the 19/20 season, they seemed back on track under David Wagner. They finished 2019 as third in the table. However disaster struck yet again in the form of the Covid 19 outbreak. This seemed like the final nail in the coffin, as the Royal Blues were never the same after that.

They went on a downward spiral in the aftermath of the lockdown and their debts started to become out of control, to the point where they could not offer their supporters season ticket refunds whilst football was being played behind closed doors.

The 20/21 campaign started with disaster, as Schalke conceded 15 goals in their first 3 games, including 8 to Bayern Munich. This led to Wagner being sacked. Here began a period where Schalke frequently changed managers to no avail, eventually ending the campaign with relegation to the Bundesliga second division. They ended the season with 16 points, which saw them win 3 games, draw 7 and lose a whopping 24 in one of the worst league campaigns in Bundesliga history.

The 21/22 campaign saw them regain some pride on the pitch, as they had a successful season in Bundesliga II and gained promotion back to the first division. However, they failed to retain some of their most figures yet again, with players like Ko Itakura leaving the club as well as sporting director Rouven Schroder also departing the club early in the 22/23 season. Frank Kramer was sacked 10 games into the season. Things seemed to improve a bit under Thomas Reis but the club was eventually relegated yet again.

Heading into the Christmas break in the 23/24 season, Schalke are currently 14th in the Bundesliga II and only 6 points above the relegation zone. At the moment, things do not look too positive for the club. The manager Karel Geraerts has a huge task ahead of him, if the club plans to play top division football again in the near future. Schalke 04 remains a huge example of how mismanagement can destroy a once formidable institution.


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