Schalke 04 are widely regarded as one of the greatest teams in the German game alongside the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, but have had spectacular falls in the past few seasons. They are one of the best supported teams in their country and take great pride in their footballing pedigree, with seven Bundesliga titles and a UEFA Cup to their name, but they are a far cry from the club they once were and have won just five titles. Last 70 First Division matches.
Schalke 04 are bottom of the Bundesliga standings after winning just twice all season and look solidly poised for an immediate return to the second division after being promoted at the end of the previous season. Their recent history has seen them fall down the pecking order in German football and has included a number of painful twists and turns, including their fair share of financial turmoil and an unexpected sponsorship crisis triggered by the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine.
The club’s fortunes began to slip when they lost 10-2 on aggregate to Manchester City in the Champions League in 2019, which saw then-manager Domenico Tedesco pay for his job two days later. David Wagner was then appointed as their new boss on a long-term contract but failed to stem the slide, as Schalke 04 went on to set a new club record of 16 league matches without a win between January and June 2020.
They have also been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and have faced bankruptcy due to high debt levels and lower revenues caused by restrictions imposed to combat the virus. Schalke eventually decided on a salary cap of £2.2m a year, which hindered their efforts in the transfer market to add to their problems on and off the field.
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Schalke had the worst possible start to the 2020/21 season, losing 8-0 and 4-0 to Bayern Munich and Leipzig respectively along with a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Werder Bremen. Wagner was sacked just two days into the game averaging 1.08 points per game and was replaced by Manuel Böhm, although the writing was already on the wall for the club as it stared down the abyss of relegation.
Baum was unable to turn things around, leading to his sacking after 10 games in charge as Schalke went on to appoint three more permanent coaches before confirming their inevitable relegation in April after losing 1-0 to Arminia Bielefeld, sparking riots of anger. Supporters. Just when it looked like things couldn’t get any worse, they finally did when Schalke 04 went into a sponsorship crisis following the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.
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The club terminated its long-standing agreement with Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, further straining their financial situation, before hastily announcing housing company Vivawest as their new main sponsor until the end of that season. Their fortunes on the pitch finally began to improve, although they quickly adapted to life in the German second tier before earning promotion at the first attempt by winning the league under the stewardship of Mike Buskens.
Since then, Schalke have struggled to get back into Bundesliga level, and look poised for another painful relegation despite current manager Thomas Reis’ best efforts to smooth the transition. It remains to be seen if they will be able to pull off a great escape over the coming weeks and months, but it seems unlikely given their poor recent flight record and their huge safety gap, which currently stands at a daunting seven points.
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