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Bundesliga: What’s going wrong at Schalke?

  • November 25, 2020

The crisis at Schalke took another twist on Tuesday evening, with the news that technical director Michael Reschke has left the club by mutual consent after relations with sporting director Jochen Schneider are said to have broken down.

Soon after followed the news that Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb will train individually until further notice, with the latter to leave the club in summer 2021 at the latest. And striker Vedad Ibisevic, who only signed a matter of months ago, will have his contract terminated on December 31.

Throw into the mix the fact that the club have already sold many of their best players to ease their financial woes, sit bottom of the Bundesliga and are currently on a 24-game winless run, and it’s clear that the problems are really stacking up for the famous Ruhr club.

Reschke axed, players exiled

Schneider issued a statement on Tuesday evening explaining the decisions surrounding Ibisevic and the exiled Harit and Bentaleb, but didn’t go into detail about the circumstances surrounding Rerschke’s departure.

“Both the club and Vedad had expected his time at Schalke to take a different path,” Schneider wrote about Ibisevic. “From our perspective, it makes sense to end our cooperation and to leave on good terms. I would like to make it clear that this decision has nothing to do with the emotional outburst in training last Sunday — that’s something that can happen in football.”

Fußball Bundesliga | FC Schalke 04 | Michael Reschke

Michael Reschke, who is believed to have fallen out with sporting director Jochen Schneider, had been at Schalke since July 2019

A similar reason was given by Schneider for Bentaleb’s departure, describing the midfielder as unsuited for Schalke. “There’s no question that he’s a great footballer,” Schneider wrote. “But, we have established that Schalke and Nabil Bentaleb clearly aren’t a good fit.”

And when it came to Harit, Schneider was more open about concerns about the player’s attitude. “There were some things that happened last weekend which we were not okay with. That’s why Amine has been given time to think.”

Schneider went on to explain that Schalke’s focus was on staying in the Bundesliga and reducing the size of the squad, keeping only the players who show that “team spirit and cooperation are at the forefront” — but the question is whether Schneider is making the right calls, and whether Schneider himself may be the problem.

Controversial money-saving measures

Schalke ended the 2018-19 financial year with debts of almost €200 million ($224 million). When it was reported that football’s coronavirus-enforced hiatus could send 13 Bundesliga and second-division clubs into insolvency, Schalke were widely presumed to be most at risk.

Money-saving measures taken by the club confirmed the suspicions, while the club’s relationship with the fans became increasingly strained. A subsequently-retracted request for season ticket holders to explain why they required immediate refunds and the decision to make a number of low-salaried employees redundant were among the reasons for the tensions.

‘Moral bankruptcy’

For Schalke fans, the developments could not be further removed from the values they associate with their football club, technically the second largest in Germany with 160,000 members. Schalke pride themselves on their youth academy and continually emphasize their socialist roots in the traditional, working class, mining communities of the industrial Ruhr region.

Fußball Bundesliga FC Schalke 04 - Bayer Leverkusen Choreographie

Schalke are technically the second largest in Germany with 160,000 members

In a furious statement, the Ultras Gelsenkirchen, one of the most vocal and well organized Schalke fan groups and one of the largest ultra groups in Germany, criticized the club’s supervisory board, its honorary board, its financial management and the perceived abandonment of the club’s values.

“This entire season has been a declaration of moral bankruptcy,” they wrote. “The club is rapidly losing trust and identification… We will not let the club be taken from us and destroyed.”

Schalke and the slaughterhouse

There were also a number of demonstrations in June, organized by several supporters’ clubs under the slogan: “Schalke is not a slaughterhouse! Against the destruction of our club!” — the wording a direct reference to the coronavirus outbreak at the Tönnies meat processing plant in nearby Rheda-Wiedenbrück, owned by Schalke chairman Clemens Tönnies, the chief target of the fans’ ire. 

It’s not the first time that Tönnies, a 64-year-old local billionaire who has chaired Schalke’s supervisory board since 2001, has made headlines for non-footballing reasons. In August 2019, he was obliged to step down from his position for three months after making comments about Africa which were widely deemed to be racist.

With key players having been released and not adequately replaced and an unprecedented winless streak threatening relegation for the first time since 1988, Schalke’s off field turmoil is reflected by their performances on the field. This week’s developments are set to bring only more instability to a great club teetering on the edge, not just of relgation, but of ruin.

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