The signing of Real Madrid's legendary striker Raul on Wednesday shows Schalke means business. The Bundesliga club is building a team of youth and experience to challenge for domestic and European honors.
Raul brings prestige and experience to Schalke's title bid
It is unlikely that even the most die-hard of Kevin Kuranyi supporters will feel bitter after Wednesday's announcement that Real Madrid legend Raul is replacing him in the Schalke 04 attack.
Kuranyi, who moved to Dynamo Moscow at the beginning of July, may have been the Bundesliga team's top scorer over the past four seasons but Raul Gonzalez Blanco is Real's all-time goal scoring record holder, netting more times than the great Alfredo di Stefano, and the current top scorer in the history of World Cup winners Spain.
Even if Kuranyi had become Schalke's all-time record goal scorer he would never had achieved the same reverence as Raul had at his former club, let alone across the world. It is unlikely that the departed former Germany international would have been half as loved in Gelsenkirchen if he had spent as many seasons as Raul spent in Madrid. Sixteen campaigns, six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles and 44 international goals tell their own story.
All of which makes Raul's signature on a two-year deal one of the sensations not only of this season but of any season.
It can be argued that Raul's best days are behind him and at 33, he may have a couple more seasons of top flight soccer in his weary legs. But the fact that Schalke have managed to bring such a legend to the Bundesliga when other ageing stars are being enticed to Major League Soccer by America dollars, signals not only the club's intent but the willingness of Raúl not to go quietly into the night.
Madrid legend brings massive European experience to Schalke
Three-time winner Raul knows the Champions League well
There's every chance that Raul could score as many goals in his coming seasons with Schalke as the departed Kuranyi, who averaged around 13 per campaign. If coach Felix Magath can coax that many goals out of him then that would be repayment enough.
But what Raul will bring to Schalke will be worth more than goals. Here is a man who has seen it all and has won nearly everything while doing it. When Schalke's youngsters look up the field, they will see a man who once played in a team with the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Robert Carlos and whose status was not eclipsed by any of them.
As Felix Magath looks to find the magic ingredient to turn Schalke from perennial also-rans into title contenders able to maintain a challenge throughout the season, an alchemist of Raul's experience could be at least part of the spell which turns Schalke's steel into gold.
Pedigree stars brought on board for Champions League push
Magath, who has reportedly been handed a 30 million-euro transfer budget for next season, is looking to blend experience with youth as Schalke look to compete in both the Bundesliga title race and the Champions League this coming season.
A man with experience in both is Christoph Metzelder, another former Real Madrid player, who Magath rescued from a bit-part role at the Santiago Bernabeu at the end of last season.
Metzelder returns to the muddy pitches of the Bundesliga
Metzelder has the benefit of being a vastly experienced Bundesliga and European defender after long service with Borussia Dortmund and the former Germany international stopper will help shore up a defence which will be missing Heiko Westermann who has signed for Hamburg.
Magath is also looking to bring in more experienced players with reports suggesting that 28-year-old Turkish international striker Tuncay Sanli is poised for a move from English Premiership club Stoke City while former Stuttgart defender Andreas Hinkel has been talking about linking up with his former boss after his future at Glasgow Celtic was cast into doubt.
The 28-year-old former German international defender would be a valuable asset, having played in the Champions League with both Stuttgart and Celtic.
Magath targeting hungry youngsters fresh from World Cup
Schalke have also moved quickly to secure a number of young World Cup players with impressive 22-year-old Japan defender Atsuto Uchida joining in a 1.4 million euro deal from J-League outfit Kashima Antlers while pacey Slovakian international forward Erik Jendrisek has joined on a free transfer from Kaiserslautern.
Despite his tender years, Afellay (l.) has experience
Another impressive World Cup star, Holland's impact substitute Ibrahim Afellay, is allegedly on Magath's radar with the Schalke boss looking to beat a number of top European clubs for the 24-year-old PSV Eindhoven flyer's signature. Afellay has Champions League experience with PSV which would come in useful as Schalke return to Europe's top club competition.
If Afellay stays at PSV or is signed by Arsenal or Sevilla, who are also in the frame, Magath could raid his old club Wolfsburg for playmaker Zvjezdan Misimovic. However, the Wolves have categorically refused to entertain any offers for the Bosnian with new coach Steve McClaren keen on keeping both the midfielder and his compatriot Edin Dzeko at the club this season.
Perhaps the most important bit of business involving a World Cup star is the securing of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer as Schalke's No.1. The 24-year-old was linked with a number of clubs from across Europe, most heavily with Manchester United, but the life-long Schalke fan has committed his future to his hometown club – at least for now.
With so many possible incomers targeted for his new look Schalke, Magath has had to make some space in his squad. As well as off-loading Kuranyi, experienced ex-Germany international striker Gerald Asamoah has moved to Bundesliga newcomers St. Pauli on a free transfer where he will be joined by 21-year-old Peru defender Carlos Zambrano who leaves Schalke on a two-year loan deal.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Chuck Penfold