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The Fall of FC Schalke 04: What Went Wrong in the Last Five Years?

Updated: Aug 4, 2023

Roger Hampel


The 2. Bundesliga's commencement presents a shocking reality: the mighty FC Schalke 04, the club that was a Bundesliga runner-up in 2018 and played against Manchester City in the UEFA Champions League in 2019, now finds itself playing second-tier football after suffering two Bundesliga relegations within five years.

So, how did this happen?

Loss of the 'Golden Generation' for Free

The first issue was a management lapse. Between 2016 and 2020, half of Schalke's 'Golden Generation' left the club without generating any income due to a failure in negotiating timely contract extensions. This list includes notable players like Joel Matip (Liverpool), Sead Kolasinac (Arsenal), Max Meyer (Crystal Palace), Leon Goretzka and Alexander Nübel (both to Bayern Munich). The club missed out on a potential income of €120 million from these transfers.

Expensive Flops

To remain competitive, Schalke often purchased players at prices beyond their means. Regrettably, most of these transfers turned out to be flops, with players leaving cheaper for other clubs. This poor strategy led to losses amounting to €91.5 million from unsuccessful transfers. Therefore, poor transfer decisions resulted in a total deficit of €211.5 million.

To put this into perspective, Schalke's losses are almost ten times their record transfer fee. To grasp the scale, imagine Real Madrid, Barcelona, or PSG losing ten times their record transfer fee, which would equate to €1.15 billion, €1.6 billion, and €2.22 billion, respectively.

The Borussia Dortmund Complex

Borussia Dortmund, after years of decline, unexpectedly surged back to prominence, thanks to excellent coaching and scouting. However, Schalke, desperate to match their local rivals, resorted to bigger transfers instead of focusing on long-term development. This approach, coupled with a lack of patience and constant turnover of coaches and directors, led Schalke into a financial quagmire.

Coaching Instability

Schalke's coaching instability in recent years further compounded their problems. The frequent changes hindered consistent strategic development and disrupted team cohesion.

Strategic Errors

Schalke also faltered in their footballing strategy, both in terms of player recruitment and on-pitch tactics. A clear lack of identity or style of play was evident, which ultimately affected their performances.

The Aftermath

These decisions between 2015 and 2021 still strongly affect FC Schalke 04. Despite their promotion from the 2nd Bundesliga in 2022, the club struggled to remain competitive in the Bundesliga, leading to another relegation in 2023.


The case of FC Schalke 04 serves as a stark reminder of the importance of sound financial management and strategic decision-making in football. The repercussions of these mistakes will linger for years, serving as a crucial lesson for other clubs to avoid similar downfalls. The road to recovery will be a long one for Schalke, but it's a journey that must be taken one step at a time.

FC Schalke 04, Bundesliga, German football, football management, financial mismanagement, Borussia Dortmund, football transfers, UEFA Champions League, HSV Hamburg.


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