Bundesliga: Schalke thrashed in Wolfsburg as Ralf Rangnick links cause confusion | Sports | German football and major international sports news | DW | 13.03.2021

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Bundesliga: Schalke thrashed in Wolfsburg as Ralf Rangnick links cause confusion

Schalke's miserable season continued on Saturday with another heavy defeat. Ahead of the loss to Wolfsburg, reports that Ralf Rangnick could be set to return as sporting director caused controversy within the club.

Schalke's Shkodran Mustafi scores an own goal against Wolfsburg

Shkodran Mustafi scores an own goal to begin a miserable afternoon for him and Schalke

Wolfsburg 5-0 Schalke, Volkswagen Arena
(Mustafi o.g. 31', Weghorst 51', Baku 58', Brekalo 64', Philipp 79')

Such is the chaos that has once again engulfed Schalke this weekend that Shkodran Mustafi's miserable afternoon in Wolfsburg will likely slip under the radar.

With half an hour played, the World Cup winning former Arsenal defender inadvertently headed teammate Malick Thiaw's attempted clearance past his own goalkeeper to put Wolfsburg ahead.

Shortly after half-time, with the hosts having already doubled their lead through the unstoppable Wout Weghorst, the slapstick defending continued as Mustafi lost possession on the edge of his own box. Weghorst squared to Ridle Baku and it was 3-0. Six minutes later, Josep Brekalo made it four. Maximilian Philipp later made it five as theWolves remain third in the Bundesliga.

Schalke, on the other hand, have failed to win any of their last ten games since ending their almost record-equaling winless run against Hoffenheim in January, and are edging inexorably towards a first relegation since 1988.

This latest humiliation doesn't change much in that regard, nor is there anything that Dimitrios Grammozis, Schalke's fifth head coach of a miserable season, can realistically do about it. The sacking of director of sport Jochen Schneider in February signaled that, for all intents and purposes, Schalke are now planning for the second division.

Ralf Rangnick celebrating Schalke's German Cup win with fans in 2011

Past glories: Ralf Rangnick won the German Cup with Schalke in 2011. Could he set to return to the club as director of sport?


Rangnick to return to Schalke?

But it's precisely those future plans which were responsible for the latest drama in Gelsenkirchen this weekend as reports emerged that Ralf Rangnick was being lined up as director of sport with responsibility for overseeing a long-overdue general rebuild at the club.

Rangnick, most recently of RB Leipzig and Hoffenheim, had been talked about as a potential successor to German national team coach Joachim Löw this week, but local media group Funke and tabloid BILD both reported on Friday evening that he was prepared to return to Schalke, where he had two previous spells as head coach, as the sporting figurehead of a consortium of local business people and investors.

Later on Friday night, however, Schalke's supervisory board released a statement denying reports of a "pre-agreement" with Rangnick, following a reportedly ill-tempered board meeting.

According to Sportbild, the "secret group of Schalke supporters from local business and politics" who have contacted Rangnick are the preferred solution of supervisory board member Professor Stefan Gesenhues.

Writing in broadsheet Süddeutsche Zeitung, seasoned Schalke reporter Philipp Selldorf added that the group includes "wealthy friends of the club," "currently active sponsors" and "former club employees," not a "fickle sheikh" or a "morally questionable investor," nor, crucially, anybody linked to former Schalke chief Clemens Tönnies.

Schalke players Suat Serdar and Sead Kolasinac walk off the pitch after defeat to Wolfsburg

Royal Blues: sorry Schalke are heading for the second division

Internal disagreements

However, Gesenhues' proposal reportedly caused anger among other board members who accused him of "treachery" and "conspiracy." They would appear to support supervisory board chairman Dr. Jens Buchta's preferred candidate for director of sport, current RB Leipzig sporting director Markus Krösche.

The alleged opposition to the proposed investor group has caused consternation among Schalke supporters, almost 20,000 of whom had signed a petition by Saturday evening calling for Rangnick's appointment.

The 62-year-old led Schalke to second in the Bundesliga as head coach in 2005, and to the Champions League semifinal in 2011 before suffering from burnout. He has since proved at both Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig that, given the necessary autonomy and financial backing within streamlined decision-making structures, he can effectively rebuild a football club from scratch.

Rangnick, who has been the subject of varying degrees of interest from AC Milan, Manchester United and Chelsea in recent years, has also gone on record recently stating that he would be keen to apply his methods to a "traditional club."

As Selldorf writes in the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "a special connection remains" between Rangnick and Schalke albeit one "dictated more by emotion than by reason." It would nevertheless be "bizarre, were the supervisory board to prevent a return." Indeed, all the more bizarre because six of the eleven remaining supervisory board members are due to step down this summer anyway.

Whatever happens, no-one in Gelsenkirchen appears to be talking about the 5-0 defeat to Wolfsburg anyway. Perhaps the biggest winner at Schalke this weekend will be Shkodran Mustafi after all.