• William Patrick


At the turn of the 2010s, the footballing picture was one almost unrecognisable to the one we look at today.

Manchester City were the oil-rich perennial underachievers, Real Madrid were still seeking La Décima and Barcelona had arguably the greatest club side ever assembled. Perhaps the greatest difference, however, can be found in the Bundesliga. Prior to their omnipotence in the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich found themselves languishing domestically behind the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen. Continentally, it was a Schalke 04 team comprised of Raúl, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Manuel Neuer that was making waves. Inconsistent league form by Die Knappen was masked by the disposing of reigning Champions League champions Internazionale on route to a valiant run to the semi-finals of Europe’s premier competition. Combined with a DFB-Pokal victory in the 2010-11 season, there was an acceptance that Schalke were primed and ready for the decade to come.

This would prove to be a false dawn.

Here in 2021, Schalke currently find themselves on a 30 match winless streak in the Bundesliga, with relegation looking an inevitability rather than a possibility.

But how has this happened?

A team deeply rooted in German football history, it seems Schalke’s decline over the past decade is one that many should have seen coming. Throughout the decade, poor transfer dealings have compounded the shocking $225m debt the club find themselves in. Valuable assets such as Maximilian Meyer and Leon Goretzka were allowed to leave on Bosmans whilst expensive endeavours such as Breel Embolo have been sold on at a loss. Combined with poor recruitment for players on inflated wages, Schalke 04 began to lose ground on their rivals in the transfer market and their model looked outdated compared to the efficient machines of RB Leipzig and bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund. Indicative of this was their decline in the Bundesliga – a second place finish in 2017-18 is deceiving given third place Hoffenheim won only 15 games all season.

Whilst money was gained through the sale of academy talents such as Leroy Sané and Julian Draxler, the talent seems to have dried up in Gelsenkirchen and the consistent selling of players to more affluent teams became indicative of Schalke’s declining presence on the footballing stage. Not too dissimilar to Leeds United in the early 2000s, Schalke have spent inefficiently as a means of gaining entry into European competition yet have failed to qualify in three of the past four seasons. This financial pressure is exacerbated by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and with no fans to fill the 62,271 Veltins Arena, there seems to be no answer to the financial questions being asked of them.

No football fan ever wants to see any football team fail, especially given the growing financial disparity between the footballing elite and the silent majority. It remains to be seen if Schalke will recover from this in the near future, but one thing is certain. We are witnessing the cruel decline of another footballing powerhouse, and it seems certain that many will follow Schalke’s fate in the midst of this pandemic.