It seems like nearly every day someone else appears headed out the door of the Westfalenstadion these days. Despite Jürgen Klopp’s claims that Borussia Dortmund’s Champions League runner up squad will not be broken up, more and more players seem to be leaving the club. Centerback Felipe Santana had been expected to force a move from the club for a chance at more playing time in hopes of making the Brazilian National Team and he got his wish as Santana signed a three year contract with Dortmund’s revier rivals Schalke.
The transfer satisfies both Santana’s hopes of being an every matchday player and being on a Champions League squad, as he tries to make his claim at cracking the Brazil 2014 World Cup team. At 27, the time for Santana to be a depth player (albeit behind one of the best defenders in the world in Mats Hummels) is over and the move to replace Christoph Metzelder at Schalke will give the Brazilian a chance to showcase his skills on a team that has made the Champions League knockout stage on multiple occasions in recent years, and will be looking for a higher climb up the table in 2013/14 after earning the fourth CL spot on the last matchday this season.
It seems that Schalke has had difficulties keeping their eyes on both the Bundesliga and Europe; for example, in 2010-2011 the club finished 11-7-16 during their run to the Champions League semifinal when they lost to Manchester United 6-1 on aggregate. In their return to the Champions League this season, the club fell as low as tenth in the Bundesliga table while falling in the Round of 16 to Galatasaray. A second half bounce saw Schalke climb to fourth and stay there, holding off the hopeful underdogs of Freiburg. This kind of slump is something Schalke must avoid next season, and, with this concern in mind, the club has wasted little time to add to its arsenal by grabbing a defender – after barely a week had passed since the end of the Bundesliga season.
The addition of Santana now gives the Royal Blues a formidable rotation at the back to work with, as the promising Santana will join Benedikt Höwedes and Joel Matip and the young Greek Kryiakos Papadopoulos at the centerback position. Santana will most likely squeeze into a starting role, given he made the move from Dortmund to play regularly. If all goes well, Santana will be able to reprise to career arc of Dante, a fellow Bundesliga late bloomer who has soared into the Brazilian ranks after stellar seasons at ‘Gladbach and his run so far at Bayern.
Santana’s departure at Dortmund is already offset by Sokratis Papastathopoulos’s arrival from Werder Bremen; however, Santana served Dortmund well in his a five year stint as a youngster. He made 95 Bundesliga appearances for the Yellow-Blacks, as well as six in the Pokal and 10 in the Champions League. Santana also claimed two Bundesliga titles with BVB in 2011 and 2012, as well as the Pokal title last season when Dortmund took the double. This season. the peak moment of Santana’s career came at the Westfalenstadion when he scored the late winner to send Dortmund through to the semifinals against La Liga underdogs Málaga.
Even with the addition of the Greek international Sokratis, Dortmund will still miss Santana next season. His skill has been evident in the time he did get into Klopp’s lineup, and his penchant for terrorizing the box will be a weapon that the BVB will have to move on without the dynamic Brazilian. A player like Felipe Santana is hard to replace, Sokratis will be able to replace him in the depth department, but it is unlikely that he will be able to bring the special things to the table that the Brazilian did in his stat at the club.
Yet Santana was doomed at the club to be a permanent backup to Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic in Klopp’s lineup sheet. His 1456 minutes in the Bundesliga with Dortmund were just slightly over half of the pairing of Hummels and Subotic and he made a total of just 31 appearances in all competitions for the BVB. That type of role was finally not satisfying enough for Santana who has high aspirations of being a member of his country’s national team saying:
“It was a tough decision for me to leave,” he told Dortmund’s official website. “That is clear by the fact I extended my contract last summer even though I was not playing regularly.
“But I have got to play regularly now if I want my dream of playing for the national team to become reality, and that is the aim I have.”
Schalke comes off as the clear winner, as Santana’s arrival adds another top player to a team that is on the mission to load up during the summer. Adding an aerial threat and hard tackler, like Santana, will make the club that struggled in the first half of the 2012/13 campaign that much stronger, something that sporting director Horst Heldt is excited about:
“We’re delighted that Felipe Santana has chosen FC Schalke 04,” said Heldt. “He’s aggressive in the tackle, reliable and he pops up with goals. He also has five years of Bundesliga experience.”
Schalke’s first test of their next campaign will come August 20/21 when they will take to the pitch in Champions League Qualification action in hopes of making the tournament for a second straight season. Their two knockout stage runs in their past appearances have them as one of the top seeds in the drawing, meaning they will avoid European giants AC Milan and Arsenal. The addition of Santana will definitely help the club manage their European aspirations as well as staying consistent in the Bundesliga, something that has plagued the club in recent years. Shoring up the backend to make up for the loss of Metzelder will be a huge step in turning Schalke into a club that contend for both European and Bundesliga success.
For now, Schalke supporters can be excited as it appears that the club is taking even more steps to adding world-class talent to the Veltins-Arena. Question marks do remain with loans to Michel Bastos and Raffael coming to an end (Bild has rumored Claudio Pizarro was in the mix for a potential move to Schalke this summer as a replacement on the offensive end), Jens Keller and Horst Heldt have a lot of work to do this summer in ensuring that a Schalke team – who has been on the cusp of something special in the past few seasons, especially in Europe – can continue to make progress for another season. Adding Santana from their hated rivals was a step in the right direction.
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