One of the oldest and most popular clubs in German top-flight, FC Schalke 04 have a long-standing illustrious history of 116 years.
Within that period, the club have won the Bundesliga title on six occasions, combined with a tally of five German cups, one DFL Supercup and one UEFA Cup as well.
Most of their success stemmed from their famed youth academy which has produced various gems of the modern game, and over the years, Schalke have garnered a reputation of being a feeder club, having sold various of its star players to bigger clubs.
The revenue generated has helped the club identity the next set of talents, even though it comes at a cost, as they are regularly shorn of their most exciting players.
However, ever wondered how the Royal Blues could have lined up with all of their prodigies?
Here’s how the current Schalke team would look like if they didn’t sell their star players:
Manuel Neuer (Goalkeeper)
One of the most prominent names to have emerged from Schalke’s youth academy is German World Cup winner, Manuel Neuer. The goalkeeper played for the Royal Blues between 2006-11, amassing 203 appearances for his boyhood club before departing for Bayern Munich.
Neuer, who would go on to become a mainstay in the Bavarians’ success, however, has credited Schalke immensely for helping him become the elite talent that he is.
Just like Neuer, Rafinha also tasted incredible success after swapping the blue of Schalke for the red of Bayern after five years at the Veltins-Arena between 2005 and 2010, playing 198 games for the Royal Blues, before joining the most successful club in Germany.
After spending eight years with the Bavarians, Rafinha left the Allianz arena at the end of last season to return to his native Brazil with Flamengo.
Thilo Kehrer (Centre-back)
Another home-grown talent, Thilo Kehrer spent two years with the Bundesliga club’s first team, between 2016-18, before departing for Paris Saint Germain.
Capable of playing both as a centre-back and a wing-back, the 23-year-old racked up 59 appearances in the famous blue-shirt of Schalke and has been a success at the Parc des Princes as well.
Joel Matip (Centre-back)
Liverpool’s acquisition of Joel Matip on a free-transfer shows the Reds’ excellent recruitment strategy in recent years. But before becoming a Premier League at Anfield, Matip honed his craft with the Royal Blues from 2009-16.
He made 258 appearances for the German club and later joined the Reds, and played his part in their recent Champions League and Premier League triumphs.
Sead Kolasinac (Left-back)
Just like plenty of others on this list, Sead Kolasinac began his professional career with Schalke and impressed for the first team immensely between 2012-17 before Arsenal came calling.
He turned out in the famous old blue jersey 123 times and has since become a prominent figure at the Emirates as well.
Ivan Rakitic (Central-midfielder)
The Croatian midfielder played for the Royal Blues for four years between 2007-11 before joining Sevilla where he would go on to become a world-renowned entity.
Ivan Rakitic joined Barcelona in 2014 after a fruitful spell at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, and since then, he’s been ever-present for the Blaugrana.
Although his future at the club is under scrutiny now, with Sevilla interested in buying back their former midfield general.
Leon Goretzka (Central-midfielder)
Leon Goretzka began his career with Vfl Bochum and after just one season with his boyhood club, Schalke signed him in 2013. Later, he would go on to marshall their midfield for five years until 2018, when Goretzka joined Bayern.
In total, the German playmaker made 147 appearances for the Royal Blues, and since then, he’s been a vital player for the Bavarians as well, playing a key role in their eighth consecutive Bundesliga triumph earlier this season.
Leroy Sane (Right-winger)
Another player who rose to prominence via Schalke’s youth academy, Leroy Sane tormented Bundesliga defences in the famous blue jersey for two years between 2014-16 before leaving to join Manchester City.
Under Pep Guardiola’s tutelage, Sane took his game to another level altogether, and now he’s joined forces with Bayern, making a blockbuster move worth €49m.
Mesut Ozil (Attacking-midfielder)
After starring for the Royal Blues’ youth teams, Mesut Ozil made his first-team bow in 2006 and impressed so much that Werder Bremen signed him just two years later.
Later, Ozil’s stellar performances at the 2010 World Cup earned him a move to Real Madrid but he lasted only three years at the Spanish capital and joined Arsenal in 2013. He’s been a key figure for the Gunners’ ever since.
Julian Draxler (Left-winger)
Julian Draxler also graduated from Schalke’s youth academy and spent four years with the senior team before joining Wolfsburg in a big-money move in 2015.
After just one year at the Volkswagen Arena, Paris Saint-Germain snapped him up. However, Draxler’s time with the Parisians hasn’t been impressive at all, given he’s been a benchwarmer for a majority of that period.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Striker)
After underwhelming spells with AC Milan and Real Madrid, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar joined Schalke in 2010 to revive his career and he did exactly that, becoming the club’s top goalscorer in UEFA competitions in his seven-year spell at the Veltins Arena.
The veteran striker left the Bundesliga club in 2017 for a second spell with Ajax, and even at the age of 36, he’s scoring goals for fun.
Here’s how Schalke could have lined up if they didn’t sell their star players:
All stats courtesy: Transfermarkt