Manchester City vs Schalke: How the Bundesliga side would look if they kept their best players, including Ozil, Sane, Rakitic and Neuer

20 Feb

Manchester City host Schalke in the Champions League tonight for the second leg of their round of 16 tie.

The Premier League side claimed a 3-2 comeback win against the Germans in their first encounter giving themselves a huge advantage.

Leroy Sane’s brilliant free-kick was decisive in the first leg.

Schalke one of the most frugal sides in the Bundesliga and obvious underdogs against one of the richest clubs in the world.

When Germany won the World Cup in 2014, there were four members of the Schalke youth academy waiting to get their hands on the prestigious gold trophy.

Known as the Knappenschmiede, the Schalke youth academy is one of the finest in world football and places an emphasis on educating youth players on and off the field before making the jump into the first team.

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In fact, the Knappenschmiede have a close collaboration with Berger Feld Comprehensive, one of the DFB’s elite football schools, which is close to the VELTINS-Arena.

In order to see just how good the youth system at Schalke is, one needs to simply look at a starting XI of players composed of stars sold by the club in recent years.

Packed with world-class talent, it makes you wonder just how far the club could have gone if they had kept their star graduates,

Check out the XI by scrolling down!

Goalkeeper – Manuel Neuer

Appearances for Schalke – 156

After joining the club at age five, Neuer went on to captain Schalke before developing into one of the best goalkeepers in the world.

Although there were rumours of a move to the Premier League, Neuer joined Bayern Munich in 2011 after helping Schalke win the DFB-Pokal trophy.

A revolutionary keeper who helped pave the way for ‘sweeper-keepers’, the 32-year-old is a Champions League and World Cup winner.

Right-back – Rafinha

Appearances for Schalke – 153

At the 2005 FIFA World Youth Championships, Schalke spotted the Brazilian rampaging down the flanks.

Despite interest from plenty of European clubs, Rafinha joined Schalke and developed into a dependable full-back.

A surprise move to Genoa in 2010 followed, but he joined up with former teammate Neuer in Bavaria the following season.

Centre-back – Joel Matip

Appearances for Schalke – 194

The Cameroon international may not be the main defender at Liverpool these days, but he is still a polished defender.

A firm fan favourite, Matip played in every minute of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign for the west German side.

The lure of England and the chance to work with Jurgen Klopp proved irresistible and he left on a free in 2016.

Centre-back – Benedikt Howedes

Appearances for Schalke – 335

After joining the club as a 13-year-old, Howedes went on to make his debut for Schalke in 2007 at the age of just 19.

Able to fill in at left-back, Howedes became a mainstay of the Schalke backline and he made his way into the Germany squad for their 2014 triumph in Brazil.

After an unsuccessful loan spell in Juventus last season, the 30-year-old is now plying his trade with Lokomotiv Moscow.

Left-back – Sead Kolasinac

Appearances for Schalke – 123

Arsenal fans may be surprised to see their inconsistent left-back fit seamlessly into this side.

But, make no mistake about it, the Bosnia and Herzegovina defender was a beast during his days in Germany.

Able to play at the heart of defence or as a wing-back, Kolasinac was named in the Bundesliga Team of the Year in 2017 before joining the Gunners on a free.

Central midfield – Ivan Rakitic

Appearances for Schalke – 135

Although not technically an academy graduate, Rakitic joined Schlake from Basel as a teenager and developed into one of the most promising midfielders in Europe.

Signed in 2007, the box-to-box midfielder helped the German side get into the Champions League before a move to Sevilla in January 2011.

From there, Spanish giants Barcelona snapped him up and he has since gone on to fulfil his potential in Catalonia.

Central midfield – Leon Goretzka

Appearances for Schalke – 147

Another German star to join Bayern Munich, Goretzka rejcted the advances of some of Europe’s biggest clubs (most noticeably Barcelona) to sign for Bayern midway through last season.

The 23-year-old has started life in Munich well, scoring six Bundesliga goals in 17 games so far this season.

Left winger – Max Meyer

Appearances for Schalke – 146

After joining Schalke in 2009, Meyer progressed through the ranks at breakneck speed and, after an impressive season with the Under-19’s, was promoted to the senior squad.

Despite his early promise, his career threatened to enter a rut before a move from attacking midfield to a deep-lying role reinvigorated the youngster in the 2017-18 season.

Like Ozil, a falling out with the hierarchy at Schalke prompted him to move as his contract ran out and he is now at Crystal Palace.

Right winger – Julian Draxler

Appearances for Schalke – 119

Perhaps one of the most talented and exciting players to graduate from the prestigious Knappenschmiede, Draxler wowed supporters at the VELTINS-Arena with his skills.

Direct, pacy and with an eye for goal, the German had the ability to play anywhere across the midfield and ex-Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger even talked about moving him into a striking role in the same way he transformed Thierry Henry.

Although he made a surprising move to Wolfsburg, Draxler is now a squad member at Paris Saint-Germain behind the likes of Kylian Mbappe and Neymar.

No. 10 – Mesut Ozil

Appearances for Schalke – 39

After joining the Knappenschmiede in 2005, Ozil was rewarded with a senior contract just a year later.

He left somewhat acrimoniously to join Wolfsburg after a falling out with the Schalke management, but announced himself to the world with a tremendous showing at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Blessed with an incredible eye for a pass, the 30-year-old moved to Real Madrid and then to Arsenal.

Forward – Leroy Sane

Appearances for Schalke – 57

One of the most deadly attackers in Europe, Sane is still only 23-years-old and is already first choice for Manchester City.

The winger made the move in 2016 and was one of former Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola’s first signings at the Etihad.

Just imagine how good this side would have been!