It was an emotional weekend in the Bundesliga, not because of any spectacular results, but more to do with departures. The two clubs occupying third and fourth, Schalke and Gladbach, are coming to terms with losing players next season.
Whilst Gladbach will be saying auf wiedersehen to Roman Neustadter, Dante and Marco Reus, Schalke have to bid farewell to Raul, a man who’s made quite an impression in his two years in Gelsenkirchen.
Signing a month after his 33rd birthday, Felix Magath, the man who brought him over to Gelsenkirchen, has called him the most influential foreigner to play in Germany. This is an exaggeration but you can understand where the-now Wolfsburg coach is coming from.
Raul has only missed one game in the Bundesliga since joining Schalke. During that time, he’s amassed 28 goals along with 11 assists. Add to that the Bundesliga Goal of the Year in 2011 (an extraordinary chip over Michael Rensing) and it is little wonder the Spaniard was overcome with emotion such was the send off he was given after Schalke’s victory over Hertha Berlin on Saturday.
Teammates bowed to the Spaniard when celebrating his obligatory goal against Hertha. That in itself isn’t much of an achievement such has been the form of Otto Rehhagel’s side. Schalke’s 4-0 victory means they will go straight into the Champions League group stages – without Raul however. Saturday’s win pushed them out of reach of fourth placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. They were held to a goalless draw at home by Augsburg.
Gladbach have somewhat limped over the line in securing a place in the 4th Round Qualifying of the Champions League in 2012-2013. That said Lucien Favre’s side deserve credit for their performance over the course of the season, going from relegation play-off survivors to Champions League qualifiers. The problem for Gladbach is that three key players who helped to make this possible depart this summer.
Roman Neustadter, Dante and Marco Reus have all played their final game for the Foals at Borussia Park. They’ll move to the three sides above them in the table. Neustadter’s departure to Schalke has gone slightly under the radar, a bit like the player himself, whose contribution has been underestimated.
Dante and Reus meanwhile are off to Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Dante has been part of the second best defence in the Bundesliga this season whilst Reus is the most high profile departure. With 16 goals and 11 assists, he’s certainly one of the players of the season in the Bundesliga. It’s not too surprising that Dortmund were so keen to get a former trainee of theirs back at the club.
At Gladbach though will come Lucien Favre’s greatest test. It would be most impressive if he can build a side which can compete in the Champions League and most importantly in the Bundesliga.
Schalke are better equipped to deal with the departure of Raul than Gladbach with their leavers. Nevertheless, it’s overlooked that last season they finished 13th in the Bundesliga, only four points ahead of Gladbach in the Relegation Play-Off position. The Royal Blues excellent run to the Champions League Semi Finals and their DFB-Pokal win helped erase memories of the league campaign though.
Memories of Raul will arguably remain for longer although it’s odd to see that Schalke have decided to retire his shirt number for an indefinite period, after all he’s only been there two years. Still, Schalke must move on.
They have the squad to cope with Raul’s departure whilst Gladbach are going to have to rebuild. It would be a shame from a neutral perspective to see the Foals flutter away into the ether after the great work done by Lucien Favre so far.
But for now, both clubs can be thankful for what Reus, Dante, Neustadter and Raul have given to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke respectively.
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Matchday 33 Results:
Bayer Leverkusen 1-0 Hannover
Bayern Munich 2-0 Stuttgart
Freiburg 4-1 Cologne
Gladbach 0-0 Augsburg
Hamburg 0-0 Mainz
Hoffenheim 2-3 Nuremberg
Kaiserslautern 2-5 Borussia Dortmund
Schalke 4-0 Hertha Berlin
Wolfsburg 3-1 Werder Bremen
|2||FC Bayern Munich||33||22||4||7||73:21||+52||70||CL*|
|3||FC Schalke 04||33||19||4||10||71:42||+29||61||CL*|
|4||Borussia Mönchengladbach||33||16||9||8||46:24||+22||57||CL* Qual.|
|5||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||33||14||9||10||48:43||+5||51||EL*|
|6||VfB Stuttgart||33||14||8||11||60:44||+16||50||EL* Qual.|
|7||Hannover 96||33||11||12||10||39:44||-5||45||EL* Qual.|
|9||SV Werder Bremen||33||11||9||13||47:55||-8||42|
|10||1. FC Nuremberg||33||12||6||15||37:45||-8||42|
|13||1. FSV Mainz 05||33||9||12||12||47:48||-1||39|
|16||1. FC Köln||33||8||6||19||38:71||-33||30||Play-offs|
|17||Hertha BSC Berlin||33||6||10||17||35:63||-28||28||Relegation|
|18||1. FC Kaiserslautern||33||4||11||18||23:52||-29||23||Relegation|
Table thanks to Official Bundesliga Website