Manuel Veth –
After being stripped off his captaincy and twice overlooked from the first team, Benedikt Höwedes has pushed for a move away from Schalke and will now join Juventus Turin. The Höwedes situation will now become the first real test of the still young reign of new Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco.
The 31-year-old Tedesco was brought in from Christian Heidel this summer after Heidel’s first choice as head coach, Markus Weinzierl, failed to reach an international spot last season. Tedesco was appointed after he guided Erzgebirge to safety in Bundesliga 2 last season.
While without a doubt a talented coach there was some doubt whether Tedesco could guide a club like Schalke. Schalke as a club is a very different beast than Erzgebirge Aue. Whereas Aue are located in the beautiful scenic Ore Mountains in Saxony Schalke are the fifth biggest club in the world regarding membership.
Schalke are an Entirely Different Beast to Erzgebirge Aue
With almost a 144,000 members Schalke have a strong support base, and the Arena auf Schalke is one of the loudest in term of atmosphere. At the same time, Schalke’s fan base is also restless. Without a title since 1958, there are always endless expectations ahead of any Bundesliga season.
It was for that reason that Schalke brought in Christian Heidel from Mainz last season. Heidel ran a tight ship at Mainz and consistently managed to put together a squad that would finish ahead of expectations. Schalke’s board hoped he could achieve the same in Gelsenkirchen.
As part of that Heidel started to restructure the entire club and hired Markus Weinzierl. After the results did not match expectations last season, Heidel made a clear cut and brought in Tedesco.
Tedesco in the meantime has left no stone untouched and hoped to restructure the club. One of the biggest tasks for Heidel and Tedesco this season has been to entice 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup star Leon Goretzka to sign a new contract at the club.
Goretzka – The Hope for a New Contract
Goretzka’s contract will expire next summer, and the attacking midfielder is not short of suitors for a new contract. Bayern München especially has been sniffing around the midfielder, and while the deal is not perfect, there are indications that the Bavarians are the frontrunners for his signature.
Schalke, therefore, hoped that they could motivate Goretzka to sign a new contract at Schalke. Hence, they stripped Höwedes of the captaincy and gave the armband to goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann. The idea is that Fährmann would hold the captaincy until Goretzka could be motivated to sign a new contract and take over as the new leader of the club.
Schalke believed that Höwedes would go along with the measure—after all the defender was loyal enough in the past to forego offers from abroad. After the 2014 FIFA World Cup Höwedes had several offers to leave the club. But Höwedes was loyal to Schalke, and at that point, many believed that he could become a one club player.
Christian Heidel and Domenico Tedesco, therefore, must have believed that Höwedes would silently accept his demotion. Instead, he openly voiced his displeasure with his demotion to both Heidel and Tedesco. Tedesco then concluded that Höwedes would be too distracted to help the club at the start of the season and after being left off the squad in the DFB Pokal and then on the bench in the first two games of the season, Höwedes pushed for a move.
Höwedes to Juventus Could Damage Schalke’s Squad Hierarchy
That move is now about to be completed. Schalke, as a result, are now in danger of potentially losing two leaders rather than one. It is more than doubtful that Goretzka will be enticed to stay with the royal blues just because he is offered the captaincy.
Finally, there are already signs that the Höwedes situation has done damage to the squad hierarchy. Schalke started well into the season beating RB Leipzig on matchday 1. But on matchday 2 Schalke disappointed against Hannover 96 showing signs that Tedesco may have plenty of work cut out for himself to reform the club.
With a mountain of work ahead of him opening a can of worms by ostracising the club’s biggest personality is a strange move to open his tenure at Schalke. Whether it will work remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain with Höwedes off to Schalke the focus is now 100% on Tedesco.
Manuel Veth is a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He is also a holder of a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.