Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka have had a distinct influence on Schalke’s fortunes this season. Back on course for a top-four finish, the question remains — will Meyer stay on board or follow Goretzka out the door?
The post-match celebrations underlined the importance of Schalke's 2-0 win against Bayer Leverkusen and, just like the Royal Blues' midfield, Meyer and Goretzka were at the heart of them.
Neither player completed the 90 minutes, but neither complained. On a yellow card, Meyer was brought off in the 49th minute as a precautionary measure. "The substitutes needed time to properly warm up,” was Tedesco's rationale. "Furthermore, we were able to see how out opponents were set up after the restart, giving us time to inject new information into the game.”
Goretzka, meanwhile, came off just after the hour mark. "He was complaining of pain,” said Tedesco.
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That both celebrated with their teammates, while unsurprising, does say a lot about the current atmosphere in the Schalke ranks. The game against Leverkusen was ultimately about getting the Champions League ambitions back on track following a dip in form.
"We slid down the standings on the back of a few poor results, but were back fighting fit now,” claimed Guido Burgstaller, who netted a spectacular individual effort to open the scoring.
Yet it's Meyer and Goretzka pulling the strings in midfield which keeps Schalke ticking. Meyer in particular has excelled in a new role, proving to be a multi-faceted and tactically astute holding midfielder, having previously played in the hole behind lone strikers.
He's taken a step backwards in terms of position, but his game has come on leaps and bounds as a result and only the threat of a second booking lent itself to the argument of bringing him off soon after half-time.
Goretzka's painful departure
Contrary to preseason expectations, Meyer has been a more permanent fixture in Schalke's starting lineup, with Goretzka battling injury problems and a dip in form that could be attributed to distracting transfer rumors.
Just three weeks ago, the 23-year-old was met with a cacophony of catcalls, but just as his performance against Leverkusen displayed, he's ready to go the hard yard for Schalke before his summer switch to Munich.
Goretzka is going to leave a gaping hole in the Royal Blues' midfield. Were they to lose Meyer in the same summer under the same circumstances, Schalke would be giving themselves a mighty mountain to climb as they look to remain on course to become a top-four regular once again.
Heidel makes ultimatum
If results like Sunday's in Leverkusen are the priority on the pitch, then Meyer's contract situation is the priority off of it. More light should be shed on his future soon though. Providing sporting director Christian Heidel has his way.
"A decision has to be made soon,” explained Heidel. "If he comes to us three games before the end of the season and tells us he wants to extend his contract, then we won't want him here anymore. We've got to start planning for next season now.”
In the catacombs of the BayArena, Meyer shrugged off the ultimatum and didn't seem sure what was meant by Heidel's comments. At present, it remains unclear where the former Knappenschmiede graduate's future lies.
Nevertheless, Meyer, like Goretzka, will be giving everything they can to ensure Schalke reach their targets come the end of the season and, if the Royal Blues qualify for Europe, you can bet that the midfield duo will be at the heart of those celebrations as well.