Gelsenkirchen – Following the disappointment of missing out on a UEFA Champions League spot last season, this summer was inevitably going to be one of change at FC Schalke 04 as the club set about making amends.
In came Andre Breitenreiter as head coach to replace the departed Roberto Di Matteo, while several first team squad members were allowed to leave, including Christian Fuchs, Chinedu Obasi, Tranquillo Barnetta and Kyriakos Papadopoulos.
Yet despite the upheaval, the mood is one of optimism in the Royal Blues camp as they prepare for an assault on silverware in 2015/16. The arrival of Breitenreiter has undoubtedly contributed to the buoyant atmosphere, but the marquee signing of defensive midfielder Johannes Geis from 1. FSV Mainz 05 has equally played a big part.
The 21-year-old’s form last season turned him into one of the most coveted young players on the European stage, and he was part of the Germany team that participated at the UEFA U-21 European Championship in Czech Republic last month. Composed on the ball and possessing a superb range of passing, Geis is also a dead-ball specialist with a knack of taking devastating free-kicks, as VfB Stuttgart and Eintracht Frankfurt, among others, discovered last season.
'I made the right decision coming here'
And now he is eager to showcase those very attributes at the Veltins Arena. “Schalke really made a lot of effort to sign me,” Geis explained in an interview with Schalke04.de. “[Sporting director] Horst Heldt and Andre Breitenreiter worked very hard and persuaded me to come. Now I’m here and I want to help the team.”
Geis will get the chance to do so in a number of friendlies before the Bundesliga restart next month, with warm-up games against KS Lechia Gdansk (22 July), FC Porto (27 July) and FC Twente (2 August) next on the calendar. It is a task the youngster is relishing: “My first impressions have already confirmed to me that I made the right decision coming here. I liked the first training sessions and the coach is great. I’m looking forward to having a fantastic time at Schalke.”
Given the club’s lofty ambitions, only trophies will do to make that hope a reality. Nevertheless, Geis is conscious of the fact it will take time. “First and foremost we want to play good football again,” he said. “Any fans who watch our training can see that there's a lot of passion here. All the players really want to achieve something. And we’ve got a lot of quality.”
Geis is undoubtedly among that number, and he is aware of his own strengths: “I’m good at opening the game up and I can play a quick pass forward. I sort of see myself as a stabilising hand in midfield. My aim is to shoulder responsibility here and I need to work hard to make that happen.” That will be music to Schalke fans’ ears.