November 24, 2017

Schalke’s Ticking Time Bombs: Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer

Young Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco looks to be creating something special at the Veltins Arena and although it is early days in his project to reinvigorate the Königsblauen, the signs are there that he could finally be the man to bring success back to the club.

Currently fourth in the Bundesliga after a positive start to the season, the future looks relatively bright for the long-suffering fans. Key to the early season success has been midfielder Leon Goretzka, while Max Meyer has also been deployed by Tedesco in a new role he looks to be relishing.

However, these two key elements are also a cause for some concern within the club as both the talented youngsters have contracts that expire at the end of the season, and it is far from certain they will tie themselves long-term to the Tedesco project.

The renowned Knappenschmiede youth academy has long been a conveyor belt of talent churning out great youngsters. The problem for Schalke in recent years has been keeping that talent with the likes of Mesut Özil, Manuel Neuer, Julian Draxler, and Leroy Sané all now starring elsewhere. The danger now is that either one, or both of Goretzka and Meyer will follow that pattern.

22-year-old Goretzka has long been tipped for big things and this season in particular has seen him looking like he going to really deliver on that promise. Four goals already (one a fine free-kick and one a penalty) and he has become the leading figure on the pitch with his performances.

He also impressed for the national team in the recent qualifier with Azerbaijan scoring an impudent back-heeled goal. It seems that he improves with every game, but that just adds to the speculation linking him with a move away from Schalke. In one recent match TV co-commentator and ex-Schalke midfielder Bjarne Goldbæk stated he thought “Goretzka too good for this Schalke side.”

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There will be no shortage of bidders should the player decide to move on to bigger and better things. Barcelona, Juventus and both Manchester clubs are reportedly keeping a watchful eye, while Bayern Munich are already reported to have held preliminary talks with his advisor Jörg Neubauer.

Goretzka will want to be playing Champions League football next season. The Bundesliga will have four places in next year’s competition, but in a highly competitive league, it is far from certain that Schalke will finish in the top four.

The club is doing all they can to persuade their influential midfielder to stay and are prepared to offer a club record €10 million wage. The real challenge for manager Christian Heidel is to sell the club to Goretzka. It is rumoured that the contract on offer will have a release clause of around €70 million built into it so that a move in two years can be considered.

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That figure would certainly not put off the big clubs that have already shown an interest. Signing a new contract with such a clause would also give Goretzka the chance to continue developing at Schalke, while leaving the path open for a big move. It was also remove the horror option for the club of losing him on free transfer in the summer.

Having recently seen Sead Kolasinac, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting and Joel Matip all leave for nothing recently, the business brains at Schalke will not what to see Goretzka depart without compensation.

Then there is the case of Max Meyer. The 22-year-old looks likely to be leaving at the end of the season, although nothing is certain. “I received an offer of a contract extension, but with my management I decided to turn it down” he explained to Bild in the summer.

“I will take things as they come. Sure, there is hope that things will be better for me at the club. I have not said that I will leave Schalke, but rather that I won’t extend my contract. We’ll see about the rest.”

Like Goretzka, there is already a queue forming for the Schalke youth product with Arsenal and Liverpool already linked. However, it is not as clear-cut as it may seem.

Under former coach Markus Weinzierl, Meyer struggled for game time and understandably began to doubt his future at the club. This season under Tedesco, he has played in seven of Schalke’s nine games and has been given a new role by the young trainer.

The number ten, has been dropped back to a new role as a number six giving him the opportunity to pull the strings from a deeper role and he has drawn much praise from his team mates for recent performances against Hertha Berlin and Mainz in his new role.

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“Gattuso, Verratti? Meyer!” Goretzka wrote on Instagram.

A future with both Leon Goretzka and a rejuvenated Max Meyer in the Schalke line-up would bring huge smiles of optimism to the faces of the Königsblauen faithful. There is however the nightmare situation of losing both on free transfers in the summer.

Tick, tock, tick tock (boom?)

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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