Now that celebrations surrounding promotion have died down, FC Schalke sporting director Rouven Schröder begins the task of re-tooling his club for the top German footballing flight.
On Tuesday, Schröder confirmed that Andreas Vindheim and Yaroslav Mikhailov will be returning to their loan clubs. Additionally, the expiring contracts of defender Salif Sané, keeper Martin Fraisl, and midfielder Marc Rzatkowski will not be renewed.
In terms of incoming transfers, the Königsblauen are being linked with sought after Germany U21 international Tom Krauß of Leipzig and keeper Stefan Ortega Moreno of relegated Arminia Bielefeld.
|Rouven Schröder.||Photo: Schalke 04/OneFootball|
Now that they're back in the Bundesliga, priority #1 for FC Schalke 04 is ensuring that they can remain in the top flight for more than one season. There's also the matter of finding a permanent head-coach. In a recent interview with German footballing magazine Kicker, departing interim trainer Mike Büskens tried to deflect questions about how the squad might be improved, yet shared his opinion anyway.
"It wouldn't be right for me to comment as it would be disrespectful to the promoted team that has achieved such great things for the club," Büskens noted, "but it needs to be strengthened in all areas. Of course, reinforcements are needed."
Sporting director Rouven Schröder, the architect of the turnaround that saw die Knappen return quickly to top flight football after just one year, was a bit more blunt in an interview with German sporting tabloid Sport Bild.
"We cannot take everyone with us," Schröder remarked, "there will certainly be some tears, and not ones of joy either. These are tough decisions. That's while it's all the more important that we had talks with all of the guys before they go on vacation."
"We said goodbye to some guys in a dignified manner and expressed our gratitude," Schröder confirmed, "As promotion heroes, they shall always remain a part of Schalke's history."
The Köngisblauen have ten players on contracts set to expire on June 30th. Salif Sané, Martin Fraisl, and Marc Rzatkowski are already confirmed outs. Sport Bild reports that keeper Michael Langer and midfielder Reinhold Ranftl are also headed for the exits. Andreas Vindheim and Yaroslav Mikhailov are headed back to their loan clubs.
That leaves three loan players that Schröder will presumably want to keep. VfB Stuttgart winger Darko Churlinov wants to remain. Talks with the Swabian parent club, which loaned him out without a purchase option, continue. Schröder will reportedly try to keep Korean winger Dong-gyeong Lee too. An automatic purchase clause for the Ulsan Hyundai man was nevertheless not triggered after limited appearances.
Something else will have to be negotiated to keep the 24-year-old Lee. The same likely applies to Japanese center back Ko Itakura. The Man City defender--a high market value prospect--reportedly has a purchase option totaling some €5.5 million; a bit rich for the blood still reeling from the loss of gate revenue brought on by the global pandemic.
There shall undoubtably be some purchases ahead of next season. Sky Germany currently reports that Schröder is interested competing with FC Augsburg for a loan out of hot young German midfield prospect Tom Krauß, currently being shopped by parent club RB Leipzig. The Sky Report notes that the German Red Bulls want to retain the player while securing some loan fees from his new destination.
With Fraisl's release, Schalke are definitely in the market for a new goalkeeper. Transmarkt.us correspondent Manuel Veth currently reports that contract-less former Arminia Bielefeld net-minder Stefan Ortega Moreno is being eyed up as a targeted pickup on a free-transfer. Ortega will almost certainly play for a Bundesliga club next season, with 1. FC Union Berlin and Augsburg reportedly also maintaining interest.
Pretty much any and all players with Bundesliga experience available to Schalke on free transfers after their existing contracts expired will be looked at by the promoted club. Schröder has already picked up two young central defenders (Leo Greiml of Rapid Wien and Ibrahima Cissé of KAA Gent) on frees for next season.