The transfer of goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow from SC Freiburg to Schalke 04 looks increasingly likely with the Gelsenkirchen club paying €8 million. There is little doubt the 28-year-old is a fine keeper, but does the move from the Black Forest to the Ruhr make sense for both the player and the Königsblauen?
Alexander Nübel’s decision to jump ship and take up the lure of Bayern Munich opened a whole can of worms at Schalke in terms of their options for the number one jersey. Initially the club thrust youngster Markus Schubert into the limelight and entrusted him to be their custodian, only for the 22-year-old signed from Dynamo Dresden to show inconsistency and produce a number of glaring errors.
The Freiburg-born keeper doesn’t command the confidence of the coach or perhaps the defenders in front of him and a reliable number one is absolutely necessary for David Wagner going into next season. Schalke’s team next season is likely to be a young one, so having a solid keeper to give them added security is an important part of the squad planning.
Ideally Markus Schubert would have seamlessly replaced Nübel, but that just wasn’t the case. The reaction of Freiburg fans to the loss of Schwolow speaks volumes as to how much he is valued at the Schwarzwald Stadion. He was instrumental in them avoiding relegation in the 2017-18 season and is widely regarded as one of the best German keepers in the Bundesliga.
€8 million for such a player is not extortionate and from the player’s point of view the move can be seen as a clear career progression (even if Freiburg did finish four places and nine points above Schalke). He could become a key part of the regeneration of the Königsblauen and in terms of size, expectation and challenge, Schalke does represent a step up for Schwolow.
Schalke have bigger problems to solve that that of their goalkeeper and spending €8 million with their current financial difficulties seems odd. With players needing to be sold and a wage cap introduced, Schwolow seems a luxury they can do without- especially when they have two keepers perfectly capable of doing the job. Asking for financial help from the state and pleading with fans not to demand their money back on season tickets, while splashing the cash on a goalkeeper seems illogical.
Yes, Markus Schubert didn’t enjoy the best of starts, but he does show much promise and the return of Ralf Fährmann from loan spells with Norwich and Brann in Norway also gives them an experienced keeper more than capable of performing regularly in the Bundesliga.
With the coffers at the Veltins Arena apparently empty, their ability to strengthen in other areas (fullback, striker) is going to be severely limited. The last Freiburg goalkeeper to move to the Ruhrpott was Roman Bürki, but there is absolutely no guarantee that Schwolow will have the same impact.
The signing of Schwolow also spells the end of the line for either Schubert or Fährmann as neither would be content to play third fiddle to the new man between the posts.
In terms of the player himself, is a move from 8th place Freiburg to a crisis club like Schalke a wise move? He is the undisputed number one at the Schwarzwald Arena, playing under a fantastic coach and enjoying the 100% backing of the Breisgau fans. Life at Schalke could get pretty ugly if this season’s Rückrunde is anything to go by.
The grass is not always greener on the other side.