Dreams become reality
“Runners-up, runners-up,” rang around the Schalke dressing room after the full-time whistle in Augsburg on Saturday afternoon. The players danced and, alongside mineral water and electrolyte drinks, beers were consumed. Pizza boxes and several bottles of champagne were in the corner – a further clue that something special took place. FC Schalke 04 are back in the Champions League.
“I’m delighted that I have the chance to play against the best teams and players on the continent,” said Naldo, who has had a phenomenal season and played every minute.
“At the start of the season, it was a dream. From matchday to matchday, the Champions League goal became more and more attainable,” said Leon Goretzka. “Now, we’ve done it. I’m proud of our team’s performance.” Celebrations were also ongoing in the stands at full-time. As not only was Champions League football confirmed, but second place was also secured to which was the icing on the cake.
I’m already looking forward to European nights.
A key part of the win in the WWK Arena was Thilo Kehrer but he doesn’t see it that way. “I was involved in both goals,” said the U21 European Championship holder: “However, it was a team effort.” He also added: “It was very important that I scored as, before the game, the assistant coach said he’s cut my hair if I didn’t score.”
Christian Heidel who has seen Europa League football while at Schalke and Mainz can hardly wait for Schalke’s first Champions League game. “It’s new territory for me. I’m already excited for European nights,” said the sporting director. “Reaching the Champions League is a testament to the whole team and Domenico Tedesco. We had goals but we’ve topped them. Second behind Bayern – you can’t do better than that right now. In the DFB-Pokal, we missed the final by a hair’s breadth”, said Heidel. He added: “I’m certain that we’re just getting started. Our development is far from over!”
Naldo is of the same viewpoint. “In pre-season I had a great feeling about Domenico Tedesco,” recalls the defender. The coach himself distances himself from the success. He praised the team for their work day-in, day out and their desire to improve. “They’ve been rewarded!” said the 32-year-old. The head coach also focused on rewarding the fans who have supported the team from the get-go.
Schalke’s season will come to a close against Eintracht Frankfurt at home as the Knappen seek to put in a big performance before the season ends. Goretzka: “We want to celebrate with the fans once again. The best way to do that is win. Additionally, we want revenge after the DFB-Pokal semi-final loss.”