In 2011, Bundesliga strugglers Schalke upset all the odds to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League, where they faced Manchester United.
The 2010-11 season was a strange one for Schalke. They struggled in the league and sacked Felix Magath as manager in March, suggesting he had ‘lost the team’ – but he had just guided the side to the Champions League quarter-finals and the final of the DFB-Pokal.
Ralf Rangnick took over and continued the good work away from the league as Schalke saw off Duisburg in the domestic cup final and beat Inter Milan 5-2 in the San Siro on their way to the semi-final of Europe’s premier competition.
12 years on, a perilous financial situation means the club are facing the threat of relegation from Germany’s second tier into the 3. Liga and thus the very real prospect of extinction. It’s been a frighteningly quick downfall brought on by bad fortune and even worse management from the top down.
Harking back to the glory days of 2011, we’ve looked back at the team that started the 2-1 second-leg victory over Inter to see what they’re up to nowadays.
You might have heard of him. Just turned 24, Neuer was in his final season at Schalke. With Manchester United also lurking, he chose Bayern Munich, where he went on to establish himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world.
Now 37, his best days might’ve passed him by, but he’s still capable of some pretty extraordinary things – even after recovering from a self-inflicted broken leg which left his employers pretty angry.
Uchida is apparently very popular in his homeland, where he earned the nickname “Japanese Beckham”. Such was his popularity that Schalke launched a website and Twitter account in Japanese.
The full-back also voiced the character Uschi in a Pokémon movie.
He retired in 2020 and has since tried his hand at coaching, working with Japan’s under-19 side. We still think the Pokémon side hustle is way cooler.
— Japan Entertainment News (@Jpoplovers) June 20, 2014
Signed from Olympiacos the previous summer aged just 18, Papadopoulos was considered one of the hot prospects in Europe, and his defensive displays caught the attention of a number of clubs during his first two seasons at Schalke before injury saw him miss more than a year.
After spending the majority of the 2010s in German football, Papadopoulos has enjoyed a nomadic 2020s, playing in Croatia, Saudi Arabia and Romania. He’s currently back in Greece with Lamia.
After three years with Real Madrid, Metzelder chose to return to his native Germany in 2010, rejoining Schalke, where he had spent some of his youth career.
Injury forced him to retire aged 32. In 2021, he was sentenced to a 10-month suspended prison sentence for owning and distributing child pornography.
Still playing for Liverpool, Matip remains a world class defender on his day, but cannot stay fit for the life of him.
Considering they signed him from Schalke for free, though, it’s been pretty outstanding business for the Reds. An exceptional servant thus far.
— FC Schalke 04 (@s04_en) February 23, 2018
Schalke proved to be the last club that the Ghanaian full-back would play for, but in 2016 he did host a Netflix obstacle course show called ‘Ultimate Beastmaster’.
Swings and roundabouts.
Technically the fourth centre-back in Schalke’s line-up for the match, Howedes played as a midfielder as Rangnick looked to completely shut up shop with a three-goal lead from the first leg. Not that this shackled the huge figure, as he raced forward with nine minutes to play to rattle home and put the icing on the cake.
You’d be forgiven for forgetting that he spent a season on loan at Juventus in 2017-18, before joining Lokomotiv Moscow in 2018 and eventually retiring in 2020.
He’s spent the last few years plugging away on coaching courses. Expect him on a touchline near you imminently.
José Manuel Jurado (Lukas Schmitz 86′)
If you’re thinking “the name kind of rings a bell” that’s because he spent a year with Watford before returning to his homeland and joining Espanyol with manager Quique Sanchez Flores.
Schmitz, whose introduction meant that by the end of the game Schalke had seven defenders on the pitch, was last seen playing for Dutch outfit VVV-Venlo in 2021.
Alexander Baumjohann (Julian Draxler 73′)
Now 37, attacking midfielder Baumjohann moved to Brazil in 2016, where his wife was born. Because Brazil wasn’t hot enough, though, he moved to Australia in 2018 and now works as a football executive for Sydney FC, where he ended his playing career in 2021.
Just 17 at the time, Draxler made an impressive 24 appearances in all competitions during this season. In the most unsurprising turn of events possible, Draxler these days kicks a ball around a pitch in Qatar for Al Ahli. He never made that move to Arsenal, despite being linked seemingly every transfer window.
The striker moved to Schalke along with Metzelder as his illustrious Real Madrid career drew to a close.
But he wasn’t done, as he netted 19 goals in all competitions, including five in the Champions League, and the opener in this particular match. He also provided the assist for Howedes’ goal. Legend.
He’s currently in charge of Real Madrid Castilla and his daughter plays for the club’s under-15 side. We bet his finishing is still just as outrageous.
Edu (Angelos Charisteas 77′)
A nomadic career has taken Edu through homeland Brazil, Germany, Japan, China and South Korea, where he was last spotted playing for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors.
Equally nomadic was Greek forward Charisteas, who is more noteworthy for his international achievements than his club records – he became his country’s second-highest goalscorer of all time as he netted 25 times in 88 caps, including the winner in the Euro 2004 final.
Since 2019, he’s been balancing work as a sporting director for Aris alongside a career in regional politics, working in both Greece and Central Macedonia.