Tue, 09 Mar 2021

Struggling Schalke asking "old friends" for help

Xinhua
16 Jan 2021, 22:05 GMT+10

By Oliver Trust

BERLIN, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- The struggling FC Schalke 04 continues to count on unusual strategies to save the club from relegation.

After the Royal Blues surprisingly appointed 66-year-old Swiss Christian Gross as a new coach end of 2020, they continue their efforts to recruit former players to increase the team's quality.

Charisma and experience have been the main criterion in the case of Gross. Similar patterns seem in use when it comes to new playing personal.

Schalke favors former players who kept a specific emotional connection despite having left for other sides some years ago.

To achieve a turnaround after a disastrous season-start, Schalke is desperately asking old friends for help.

On-loan defender Sead Kolasinac was the first to return after the 27-year-old had lost his place as a regular at Arsenal.

Newest reports speak of Dutch striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Ajax) and Brazilian fullback Rafinha (Olympiakos) to most likely return in the coming days.

37-year-old Huntelaar played for Schalke 240 times (126 goals) between 2010 and 2017, while Rafinha (35) made 198 appearances in the club's shirt between 2005 and 2010.

Media speak about the club's attempt to convince former Bayern striker Mario Mandzukic to join in and Vedad Ibisevic to re-join S04.

While Huntelaar and Rafinha confirmed the inquiry and said negotiations are ongoing, have Mandzukic and Ibisevic rejected the offers. Schalke issued a denial on reports about a possible return of Mesut Oezil (Arsenal) and Julian Draxler (Paris).

The salaries of both go beyond the club's financial resources.

Due to economic turbulences, Schalke is forced to act with a low budget. The club has to deal with a debt-load of over 200 million euros.

While sporting director Jochen Schneider is busy on the phone, coach Gross is convinced former players might be the solution. The team needs charismatic characters to kick the can down the road, he said.

"It's all about identification; that's the keyword. Players need to identify with the club, it's past and have in mind Schalke needs to stay in the Bundesliga as one of the league's driving clubs," Gross said.

The Swiss appointed 32-year-old Ralf Fahrmann as number one despite 28-year-old Frederick Ronnow is said to be the better keeper. "We need Ralf's experience, his physical and mental presence," the Schalke coach commented.

Unusual strategies are the only way to save the club Gross is convinced. "We are still traveling on a bumpy road," Gross said, adding: "It's a long way to go."

Only seven points and 12 scored goals tell the story of a side that could only win of its 15 season games.

Schalke's new targets might not stand for the future but still can change a desperate team's mood to the good.

"It's like having to decide between two of your kids," Huntelaar said. "At Ajax, I might win a title. But Schalke is in real trouble. It's not hard to guess who needs me more," the striker said.

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