Schalke - the club who gave the world Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil and Leroy Sane to name but a few - have been relegated from the Bundesliga for only the fourth time in their history, slipping into the second tier with four games left of a difficult 2020/21 campaign.
bundesliga.com pays tribute to the Royal Blues - seven-time German champions, founding Bundesliga members and the home of one of the finest youth academies in world football…
Winners of six German titles in the pre-war years, and champions again in 1958, Schalke were among 16 founding members of the inaugural Bundesliga in 1963.
Die Knappen finished runners-up twice across their first 18 Bundesliga campaigns, before being relegated for the first time in 1981/82. They won Bundesliga 2 twice as they yo-yoed between Germany's top two tiers in the 1980s, before enjoying the most successful period in their Bundesliga history.
Schalke secured eight top-three finishes between 2000 and 2018, but a maiden Bundesliga title proved elusive. The 2000/01 campaign was as close as they've come: the Royal Blues lost out to Bayern Munich on the final day - in the dying seconds - by a single point.
Watch: Schalke - all you need to know
Schalke’s domestic prowess during the noughties was reflected in back-to-back DFB Cup wins in 2000/01 and 2001/02. They also lifted the trophy in 2010/11, and later that year added the DFL Supercup to their collection.
Europe provided the stage for their biggest triumph, though. In 1996/97, future Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann starred as the Royal Blues beat Inter Milan on penalties in the final of the now defunct UEFA Cup.
Schalke have since enjoyed eight seasons of UEFA Champions League football, reaching the semi-finals in 2010/11.
Huub Stevens masterminded the glory years, the Dutchman’s first of four stints in the Schalke dugout spanning six years from 1996 to 2002.
Fans named him the club’s 'Coach of the Century' in 1999, but the closest he ever came to replicating his stellar maiden spell was in 2011/12 when Schalke finished third in the Bundesliga.
The 67-year-old returned in an interim capacity late in 2018/19 to avert a relegation disaster - Die Knappen dug themselves out of a hole to finish 14th - and took charge for two games in December 2020 following the dismissal of Manuel Baum.
Stevens - currently on the club board in a advisory role - oversaw 142 wins across his 316 competitive matches as coach.
Klaus Fischer briefly patrolled the Schalke touchline in a caretaker capacity in the early 1990s, but his goals for which he is most fondly remembered.
Until recently, the former Germany international forward ranked second in the Bundesliga’s all-time scoring charts on 268 goals across 535 games. A total 182 of those strikes fell in Schalke colours between 1970 and 1981, including a fair few trademark scissor-kicks.
Historically, only Gerd Müller (365) and Robert Lewandowski (271) have hit more Bundesliga goals than 'Mister Fallrückzieher' (Mr. Overhead Kick) - not to be confused with Klaus Fichtel, Schalke’s record Bundesliga appearance-maker (477 games).
Watch: Klaus Fischer - Schalke's record goalscorer
As one of the best-supported clubs in Germany, with roots firmly entrenched in the old coal-mining communities and traditions of Gelsenkirchen, Schalke have a lot to be proud of.
Die Königsblauen will be sorely missed in 2021/22 - even by Ruhrpott neighbours Borussia Dortmund - but their spirit will live on through the extraordinary number of diamonds forged in their vaunted Knappenschmiede academy.
Neuer - the world’s best ever goalkeeper - is Gelsenkirchen born and bred; Bayern teammate Sane made his professional breakthrough at the Veltins-Arena; Özil, Benedikt Höwedes and Julian Draxler were all schooled the Schalke way on their way to helping Germany lift the 2014 FIFA World Cup; Joel Matip won the English Premier League with Liverpool on the back of a formative spell at Schalke; while Juventus’s Weston McKennie has the Royal Blues to thank for his journey from fledgling soccer talent to all-action USMNT star.
Even with the chips down, Schalke have continued to draw on their endless talent reserves.
A great Bundesliga escape proved a bridge too far, but the emergence of compatriot Matthew Hoppe on the first-team scene, as well as more recent academy graduates such as Malick Thiaw, Mehmet Aydin, Can Bozdogan and Kerim Calhanoglu, points to a rosy future.
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