Schalke 04’s attempts to develop their notoriously gifted individuals into a team that could compete for the Bundesliga title have proved unsuccessful, but the club is always hovering around the top spots and they are regular Champions League attendees.
The club remains devilishly consistent, and although they haven’t won the domestic title since 1958, their impressive production line of young talents continue to help them remain one of Germany’s most successful and efficient teams.
Schalke’s philosophy aims to develop players from their academy, and slowly integrate them into the first-team set-up.
The problem that Schalke have is holding on to their academy products, and while they normally receive a handsome fee for their services, they’re unable to develop into true Bundesliga title challengers.
They do continue to be tricky opposition in Europe, while their football is ruthless and effective (much like how the club is run).
So what would the team look like if they hadn’t cashed in on their excellent youngsters and other top European talents? Well, it would look extremely good.
In fact, Max Meyer has become the latest player to leave the club for free, but so good is their talent pool that he doesn’t even warrant a place in the side.
It is without question one of the fiercest XIs that we’ve put together, and would undoubtedly challenge Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Current club: Bayern Munich
Games played for Schalke: 156
Manuel Neuer joined Schalke at the age of five and stayed at the club for just under 20 years. One of the German side’s most successful youth products, the German goalkeeper has developed into one of the finest shot-stoppers in world football.
After winning the 2010-11 DFB-Pokal trophy with his boyhood club, he signed for Bayern Munich despite talk of a move to England.
He left Schalke after playing over 200 games for the club and has gone on to win six Bundesliga titles, the 2012/13 Champions League and the 2014 Fifa World Cup with Germany. His form has dipped slightly of late, but it’s difficult to think of a better goalkeeper in the modern era.
Current club: Bayern Munich
Games played for Schalke: 153
After learning his trade in his homeland of Brazil, Rafinha was noticed by Schalke’s scouts while playing in the 2005 Fifa World Youth Championships. His performances attracted the attention of a number of European clubs, but he signed for the German outfit in 2005.
The attacking full-back went on to play 198 games for Schalke and developed into a very capable defender, before surprisingly signing for Genoa in 2010.
A number of excellent performances in Serie A saw German giants Bayern Munich make a bid for him, and he signed for the club the following season, linking up with former Schalke team-mate Neuer.
Centre-back: Joel Matip
Current club: Liverpool
Games played for Schalke: 194
The Cameroonian progressed through Schalke’s youth system before becoming a mainstay of the side, even featuring in every single minute of their 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign.
Despite his affection for the club, Matip opted to wind down his contract and left to join Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool in the summer of 2016.
Centre-back: Benedikt Howedes
Current club: Lokomotiv Moscow
Games played for Schalke: 335
Benedikt Howedes joined Schalke at the age of 13 and came through the ranks at the club before stepping up to the first team at 19 in 2007.
Over the past decade, Howedes became a hallmark of the Schalke defence, mostly at centre back, but he could also fill in at left back. This versatility saw him break into the German national team and he was part of their 2014 World Cup-winning squad as a result.
Howedes is now at Lokomotiv Moscow at the age of 30 where he has a four-year contract after leaving Schalke this summer. He started life in Russia well by scoring the winner on his Lokomotiv debut. This move came after an unsuccessful spell on loan at Juventus in the 2017-18 season.
Howedes returned to the VELTINS-Arena to play against Schalke for the first time in the Champions League this season but lost 1-0.
Left Back: Sead Kolasinac
Current club: Arsenal
Games played for Schalke: 123
A full international for Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kolasinac was much-travelled in his youth taking in stints at Kalsruher, Hoffenheim and Stuttgart before eventually pitching up at Schalke.
Capable of playing in the middle of defence or even in midfield, Kolasinac became an important squad member for the side over the past couple of years and attracted the attention of major clubs elsewhere on the continent. He joined Arsenal on a free transfer in the summer of 2017 after making the Bundesliga Team of the Season.
Fortune has not particularly favoured Kolasinac since his Schalke exit. His game time has been inconsistent at Arsenal and, while Schalke are playing Champions League football this season, the same cannot be said for their former left-back.
Central midfield: Leon Goretzka
Current club: Bayern Munich
Games played for Schalke: 147
Midway through last season, Bayern Munich confirmed versatile midfielder Leon Goretzka would be joining the German champions in the summer of 2018.
The fact every European club worth their salt, most notably Barcelona, attempted to convince Goretzka to sign stands as a testament to the 23-year-old Germany international’s ability.
He has started life well at Bayern Munich scoring six Bundesliga goals in 17 games so far this season. His first ever Bundesliga brace came in a 3-1 win over Hoffenheim in January.
Central midfield: Ivan Rakitic
Current club: Barcelona
Games played for Schalke: 135
Once again Ivan Rakitic was picked out by Schalke’s scouts despite a vast array of clubs monitoring his progress.
After a number of fine performances, while playing for Basel in Switzerland, the German club signed him in 2007. Their faith was repaid as the box-to-box midfielder went on to score 16 goals and notch 29 assists in his 135 appearances.
His impressive midfield displays helped Schalke continue to qualify for the Champions League, so it was a surprise that he moved to Sevilla in 2011.
Rakitic continued to be successful in La Liga and earned his big move to Barcelona in 2014, where he’s become one of the best playmakers in world football.
Right Wing: Julian Draxler
Current club: PSG
Games played for Schalke: 119
One of Schalke’s most successful academy products, Julian Draxler signed for the club when he was just eight years old and burst onto the scene in 2011.
The creative midfielder – who turned 25 in September – made 170 appearances for the German side and wowed their supporters with his outstanding balance, tricks and passing ability.
Draxler developed a number of admirers during his time at the Veltins-Arena, including constant interest from English clubs and Borussia Dortmund, but he surprisingly moved to fellow Bundesliga rivals Wolfsburg in 2015.
Nowadays, Draxler is turning out for PSG in France, though not as a regular starter in the Parisians’ outrageously talented attacking XI.
No.10: Mesut Ozil
Current club: Arsenal
Games played for Schalke: 39
Ozil moved to Schalke’s youth academy in 2005 and was swiftly handed a senior contract one year later. The playmaker only spent two years at the club after falling out with the Schalke management, moving to Werder Bremen.
He still picked up five assists in his 39 appearances, and Schalke may have regretted letting the German leave so soon as he’s now one of Europe’s finest midfielders – on his day.
Despite his ability, Ozil currently seems to be at odds with current Arsenal manager Unai Emery and isn’t getting consistent game time at The Emirates.
Left Wing: Leroy Sane
Current club: Manchester City
Games played for Schalke: 57
Leroy Sane is just 22 years old, but he played 57 games for Schalke and scored his first goal for Germany recently.
Another product of the club’s excellent youth academy, he – alongside Max Meyer and Geis – was one of Schalke’s current crop of exciting young stars before making his move to Manchester City in 2016. Sane is one of the most promising young attacking players in European football.
Striker: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Current club: Ajax
Games played for Schalke: 240
A true central striker, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar simply scored goals. The Dutch forward signed for Schalke in 2010 after a disjointed few years at Real Madrid and AC Milan.
At the Veltins-Arena he found a home and established himself – like he’d done previously during his time at Ajax before his move to the Bernabeu – as a first-class striker.
He went on to play over 200 games for Schalke and scored 126 goals before returning to his first club, Ajax, in the summer of 2017.