One of my favourite German footballing terms is ‘Leistungsträger’. It is difficult to translate easily into English, but it is someone, who through their own performance is decisive in the whole performance of the team and contributes heavily to the overall success. Perhaps a real-life example would be better than a direct translation? Okay, Weston McKennie.
And this particular Leistungsträger looks poised to move on this summer from Schalke as the perfect storm of circumstances gather in Gelsenkirchen to take the US midfielder off to pastures new (much to the Königsblauen’s dismay).
After joining the Ruhr club back in August 2016 as an 18-year-old the Texas native spent less than a year in the youth academy before his talent led to him being moved up to the first team with a Bundesliga debut following in May 2017.
Since then the US international has made himself an indispensable cog in the Schalke line-up so much so that this season in particular the now 21-year-old has carried the team on occasions, pushed them forward in the darkest of times and been a rare beacon of light in an otherwise dismal Rückrunde.
McKennie has scored three goals this season in 28 appearances and provided one assist, but his contribution can’t be overestimated. He was the club’s best passer achieving 85% of successful passes from open play, he won 285 duels putting him 3rd at the club behind only Daniel Caligiuri and Bastian Oczipka, and he committed the most fouls on the team (34) showing just how much work he had to get through.
At times this season he has acted as the team’s fireman- rushing all over the pitch covering a number of positions and putting out the many fires in the Königsblauen ranks. He has been fielded as a central attacking midfielder, a holding midfielder and even as an emergency centre back by coach David Wagner.
Back in May in an interview with DAZN the midfielder admitted that he saw his long-term future in England saying, “For me, the next goal is England. It has always been my dream to play there”, adding that he’d want a team that “fights for Europe- Champions League or Europa League.”
Sadly, that isn’t the case at Schalke right now (nor for the foreseeable future) so that England dream might be coming true sooner rather than later. The perilous financial situation at the Veltins Area is also a ‘push factor’ for McKennie this summer. Schalke’s finances were not in rude health before the corona virus pandemic, but their woes have only worsened as a result and selling valuable assets like the American is seen as a real option to ease their burden. According to a report by the Sueddeutsche Zeitung the club, will also introduce an internal salary cap.
“A departure [for McKennie] cannot be ruled out,” Schalke sporting executive Jochen Schneider said on Wednesday. “I can’t say it 100% right now. It’s a fact that Weston prolonged his contract through to 2024 last year.”
Reports claim that both Newcastle United and Everton (as well as two unnamed clubs) are preparing to offer Schalke the €25 million it would cost to prise the player away from Gelsenkirchen. Hertha Berlin have also been linked, but the Premier League looks the more likely destination.
It is clear that Weston McKennie has outgrown Schalke and that the club can’t match his lofty ambitions. The club are in desperate need of cash, which the Premier League clubs mentioned are more than willing to part with.
This season has been a nightmare for Schalke, the clouds of gloom are hovering over the Veltins Arena and it seems they are about to lose their ‘Leistungsträger’.