It is hardly any gain saying that football is a money game these days. The beautiful game has become one that’s more of finances, than it is aesthetics. Sponsorships, and sponsorships, and television deals dominate the picture. And as such, football is more art than economics.
That is not to say the following is about money in the game, but rather it’s the economic analogy that’s to be borrowed.
Specifically, to be used in Schalke’s 2018/19 season, which seems to have hit marginal return from last term. After the previous campaign’s comfortable second-place finish, which was a boon for the club, which had struggled in the previous three seasons, and young manager Domenico Tedesco.
But this season has been anything but, with Die Konigsblauen languishing in the lower reaches of the Bundesliga. There was a Champions League last 16 appearance (which ended with the 10-2 humiliation at the hands of Manchester City), but this campaign has been an utter disappointment, and only the failures of the sides below them have prevented them from being in a serious relegation fight.
The misery of this season has already led to the departure of Tedesco, and former manager Huub Stevens has been brought back, until the end of the season.
A 5-2 defeat at home to Hoffenheim last weekend left Stevens’ side tracking for their second-worst ever season in the German top flight.
But this coming weekend looks to provide an opportunity to add a bit of gloss on a dismal season. Schalke visit bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund this weekend, with their Ruhr counterparts chasing the title, one point behind leaders Bayern Munich with four games left. And for Schalke, this represents an opportunity to strike a dagger into their rivals’ hearts, and derail their title challenge.
This scenario is also quite a mirror of the 2006/07 season. Back then, league leaders Schalke, chasing a first Bundesliga title since 1958, visited a struggling Borussia Dortmund. But it was the Black and Yellow side who came out victorious, knocking Schalke off the top the table, with the Miners never to find their way back there. Stuttgart emerged as champions that year, and Schalke still await their Bundesliga crown in 61 years.
This time, the team from Gelsenkirchen are looking over their shoulder more than upwards, six points separate them from Stuttgart (would you believe) and what is the relegation/promotion play-off spot. Victory this weekend will by no means wipe a red ledger that is this season, if Schalke win the rest of their games they won’t even finish in the top half.
But this derby always something, and still means something more this weekend. A win to scupper their rivals’ title hopes and leave them crestfallen on their home soil. It’s just about the only real silver lining that can come from the dark cloud of 2018/19.