It wasn't so long ago that Guido Burgstaller's career was on the decline. However, he has been a pleasant surprise since moving to Schalke, even if he could do nothing to prevent defeat against Ajax in the Europa League.
After the final whistle sounded in the Amsterdam Arena on Thursday night, a downcast Guido Burgstaller headed straight for the dressing room. Schalke's 2-0 defeat in the first leg of their Europa League quarterfinal had a similar effect on his teammates as well. The 27-year-old declined to comment to reporters on the drubbing.
The 2-0 scoreline, on the strength of a brace by Davy Klaasen, actually flattered Schalke on what was a decidedly bad day at the office for Guido Burgstaller and his teammates.
Like the rest of the Royal Blues, Burgstaller hardly won a tackle in what was a desolate performance for the Gelsenkirchen club. Worse for him perhaps was the fact that he was never a threat at goal on this night, which was the Austrian's first really bad game in his three months at Schalke.
Heidel: 'No financial risk'
Everything had seemed to be going Burgstaller's way since the winter break, when Schalke's board member in charge of sport, Christian Heidel, signed the then-top goal scorer in the second division from Nuremburg (14 goals) as a quick fix for Schalke's severely depleted front line.
"We'll give it a try. There is no financial risk for us," Heidel explained back in January. If it didn't work out, he said, there would be no problem finding another taker for the striker, who had several offers to choose from. At the moment, though, neither side has any thoughts of parting ways.
Burgstaller has since made a name for himself at Schalke. He has already scored eight goals - six in the Bundesliga and two in the Europa League - and has become a regular in the starting lineup - ahead of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Franco Di Santo.
"He used his opportunity when others were out due to injury," coach Markus Weinzierl said.
Schalke supporters' kind of player
Burgstaller is now the hard-working, run-for-every-ball sort of player that personifies the Schalke tradition. So this is obviously something that the supporters of the Ruhr district club, who appreciate slide tackles at least as much technical skill, love about him.
"The most important thing is that we win as a team and achieve our goals. Whether I score or not does not matter," Burgstaller said recently. At this point in his career, the striker is quite about his newfound success. His days of being loud are in the past.
A change in thinking
"His time in England with Cardiff obviously led to a change in his thinking. He wanted to change something," Schalke's sporting director, Axel Schuster, told DW.
Before joining Nuremberg in the summer of 2015, Burgstaller hadn't managed to consistently crack the starting 11 during his season at Cardiff. This may well have had to do with the fact that the striker's lifestyle off the pitch did not lend itself to consistently performing at his best. His career looked very much to be on the decline.
Quieter and more focused
"Some players first have to sow their wild oats. They only take the next step when they take a second run at things," Schuster said about the Austrians' late coming-of-age as a footballer. It has become rare for a player to make his Bundesliga debut at the ripe old age of 27. With all of the scouting that goes on these days, not just in Europe all over the world, the trend is towards signing younger, rather than older players in the continent's top divisions.
Burgstaller made his turnaround at the last-possible minute. It was after he signed with Nuremberg that he committee to taking a new, much more professional attitude about his career.
"He is now much more focused and calmer than before. Maybe he prepares himself in a much more professional than before," Schuster said.
Burgstaller is now very much on the right path - and he would do well to take Thursday night's match in Amsterdam as a warning not to veer off of it.