The early signings of Salif Sané from Hannover and Mark Uth from Hoffenheim had Schalke fans instantly purring at the addition of quality to the squad in both defence and attack, but the recent acquisition of winger Steven Skrzybski from Union Berlin has raised more than a few eyebrows.
So just who is the latest addition to the Königsblauen squad?
Schalke manager Christian Heidel is well-known for his ability to spot a player that will perfectly suit a club’s needs and in 25-year-old Skrzybski he feels he has found another. Last season he finished as the second highest goalscorer in Bundesliga 2 and was a major factor in Union Berlin staying within sight of the playoff promotion spot. A clause in his contract has allowed die Knappen to sign him for just €3.5 million.
It is however not just Union’s main source of goals they are losing, but a real ‘Identitätsfigur’ at the club. Berlin-born Skrzybski joined die Eisernen as a nine-year-old progressing through all the youth ranks before making his debut just before his 18th birthday in the Zweite Liga. Up until last season, he was found just as often playing for the U-23 side, but the 2016-17 saw his breakthrough with 8 goals.
Union Berlin President Dirk Zingler is well aware of the loss Skrzybski will be saying, “If I received 20 million, I could go out and buy a striker, who will score just as many goals. But as a personality and as a person from this region and club, he’s irreplaceable whatever the amount of money.”
The player has shown good development over the past couple of seasons and has sadly outgrow the confines of Union and feels the step up to the Bundesliga and Champions League football with Schalke is the logical next stage of his career
He will have a lot of competition on his hands to get game time at the Veltins Arena with a host of established players ahead of him, but the Schalke hierarchy are confident that their second acquisition from the second tier (they signed Nürnberg’s Cedric Teichert in January) can make the breakthrough.
“Steven Skrzybski was one of the best players in the Bundesliga 2 last season. We’re delighted he’s chosen to join the club,“ coach Domenico Tedesco explained of the new signing. “He’s a threat in front of goal, always gives 100% and is a flexible player. He can help us out in lots of positions.”
The added-burden of Champions League participation will put extra pressure on the Schalke squad and they will be keen to avoid the experience of RB Leipzig last season, when the Roten Bullen struggled to replicate their second-place finish and compete in Europe.
Skrzybski’s departure from the Stadion an der alten Försterei leaves a further gap in the squad that has also seen Toni Leistner, Dennis Daube, Stephan Fürstner and Daniel Mesenhöler leave , while defender Kristian Pedersen is on the verge of joining Birmingham City in England. Oh and they are also trainer-less after André Hofschneider also exited.
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