Schalke must build on last season’s success

Just one year ago, Domenico Tedesco is a name that only a small minority had heard of. Now, he’s one of the most respected coaches in German football having guided Schalke to a runners-up place to Bayern Munich in his first year, bringing Champions League football back to the VELTINS-Arena where it’s been absent since the 2014/15 season and so the praise that the 32-year-old Italian has received has certainly been merited.

Succeeding Markus Weinzierl, who was in charge at Schalke for just one season, Tedesco has taken charge of a side that were boring to watch to a group of young and hungry players mixed with experience that could potentially challenge Bayern Munich for the title.

Thriving on younger players, Tedesco showed faith in the likes of 21-year-old Thilo Kehrer – who has recently joined Paris Saint-Germain for €37 million with just one year remaining on his contract – who became an integral cog in Schalke’s defence, alongside the experienced Naldo, who proved to be a remarkable signing despite being in his mid-30s. Besides Kehrer, Tedesco also relied upon Weston McKennie (19), Amine Harit (21) and Breel Embolo (21), all of whom played a substantial role in Schalke’s 2017/18 runners-up campaign.

And with the signings of Hamza Mendyl (20) from Lille for €7 million and Suat Serdar (21) from Mainz, Tedesco clearly has an emphasis on youth heading into the 2018/19 campaign. Even with the departures of Max Meyer to Crystal Palace and Leon Goretzka to Bayern Munich on free transfers, Schalke’s recruitment team have put them in good position with the signing’s of Salif Sane – arguably the Bundesliga’s best central defender last season, Omar Mascarell and Mark Uth, who was the highest scoring German last campaign. A mix of youth and experience promises for an exciting Schalke.

It’s clear that sporting director Christian Heidel see’s worth in Tedesco and is fully backing the Italian tactician, who finished top of his class ahead of Hoffenheim’s Nagelsmann. The 32-year-old signed a contract extension with the Royal Blues this week which will see him remain at the club until 2022, unless a potential suitor pays a substantial compensation fee.

“I’ve always said that I feel completely at home here,” Tedesco told Schalke’s official website. “I love working with this team, it’s so much fun because they’re always ready to take the next step so that we can develop on a sporting level.

“The same goes for the work with the board, the support from the committee and the employees of the club. They all motivate us a lot, to play for the fans, who support this club and the team so brilliantly. I’m therefore really looking forward to being part of the Royal Blue family for the coming years.”

Heidel added: “Continuity is an important fundamental for the goals we’ve set ourselves in the coming years, particularly when it comes to the manager, who from a sporting perspective is the most important man at the football club for me.”

A return to Champions League football was the first goal for Schalke under the guidance of Tedesco and they did that with relative ease. Just four defeats in the Rückrunde contributed to Schalke’s strong finish and despite finding themselves 21 points champions Bayern Munich on Matchday 34, there’s that feeling that maybe, just maybe, this season could provide an upset, like that of Stuttgart in 2007, Wolfsburg in 2009 and Borussia Dortmund in 2011.

Bayern Munich certainly don’t look their strongest despite their 5-0 demolition of Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFL Supercup, the curtain raiser to football in Germany. A narrow 1-0 win against fourth-tier side SV Drochtersen/Assel in the DFB Pokal first round followed and even with arguably Bayern’s strongest XI starting, Kovac’s side looked far from promising while a Hoffenheim win on Friday night against the reigning champions could well set the tone for Bayern’s campaign.

Along with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund (Lucien Favre) and RB Leipzig (Ralf Rangnick) have new head coaches at the helm following poor displays last campaign under Peter Bosz/Peter Stöger and Ralph Hasenhüttl respectively and so, Schalke’s continuity may just play into their favour for the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign.

They’ve built the foundations, now it’s time for Heidel and Tedesco to grow them into an elite force once again.

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