Schalke are arguably the biggest club never to have won the Bundesliga title, which is an even bigger surprise given the talent the club has boasted in its ranks over the years.
bundesliga.com has trawled the annals of the Royal Blues’ rich history to select an all-time XI that is a match for anyone.
In a decade with Schalke, Lehmann left his mark on the club, edging Manuel Neuer out of this team on legacy. A strong character — he once stormed out of a game and travelled home by public transport after being substituted at half-time — the former Germany international is remembered best for being able to have a decisive influence on games, notably saving Ivan Zamarano’s opening spot-kick in the 1996/97 UEFA Cup final shoot-out. Add that to his late header to salvage a point in the Revierderby with Borussia Dortmund in December ’97, and Lehmann’s legend with the Royal Blues is complete.
Watch: Lehmann's top 5 saves!
When Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Franz Beckenbauer pointed out "the superstar was the team." Still, Der Kaiser highlighted the contribution of Höwedes, who "suprised me the most." The performances of their hero in Brazil would not have stunned any Schalke fan, used to the metronomic consistency of the man who captained their side for six years until his departure for Juventus in summer 2017. Whether he played at right-back, centre-back or even in defensive midfield, Höwedes was as reliable and constant as the support supplied by the Royal Blue faithful. "I go as a player," Höwedes wrote to those sad to see him leave for Turin. "But I stay as a fan."
Watch: Thanks for the memories, Benedikt!
The Brazilian had initially struggled to settle into life during five years at Stuttgart. He had learned German by the time he arrived in Gelsenkirchen, but would have endeared himself to the fans anyway. His passionate performances that allied no-nonsense defending with a surprisingly sharp nose for goal showed he spoke their language. A member of the side that reached the 2005/06 UEFA Cup semi-finals, Bordon came desperately close to becoming the first Schalke captain to lift the Bundesliga title in 2006/07 only for a derby defeat to Dortmund in the season’s penultimate encounter to allow Stuttgart to sneak ahead to claim the Meisterschale.
Schalke fans love one of their own, and the Gelsenkirchen-born Thon is a pure Royal Blue-blood. In two spells at the club, he established his own reputation as a stylish midfielder and sweeper, playing a key role just in front of Lehmann against a dangerous Inter side in the 96/97 UEFA Cup final, Schalke’s all-time Bundesliga appearance maker. The 1990 FIFA World Cup winner also suffered the heartbreak of missing out on the 2000/01 Bundesliga title in the final seconds of the season to Bayern Munich where he had won a trio of Meisterschale during his six-year absence from his hometown club.
Not quite a one-club man, but Fichtel no doubt gave the best years — and more — of his career to Schalke. Aged 20 when he joined, he was 43-and-a-half when he pulled on their shirt for the last time in May 1988, making him the oldest player ever to have featured in the Bundesliga. The full-back — nicknamed 'The Fir' — returned to his first love after a four-year spell at Werder Bremen left him pining for a swansong in Gelsenkirchen where he played the last of his 552 Bundesliga matches, putting him currently fourth on the top-flight’s all-time appearances chart.
Born in Ghana, grew up in Germany, a god in Gelsenkirchen, whose aura and achievements brought 60,000 to pay tribute at his testimonial. Incredibly, Asamoah’s career might have been over before he arrived at Schalke when a minor heart problem was diagnosed aged 19. Schalke, like his former club Hannover, bought a defibrilator for Asamoah, who actually later used it to save the life of a coach who suffered a heart attack. He himself — fortunately — never needed it as he became the definition of a fan favourite with his lung-bursting, never-know-when-you’re-beaten displays week in, week out, bringing with them four Bundesliga runners-up finishes and back-to-back DFB Cups. The first African-born Germany international, Asamoah was part of the squad that finished World Cup runners-up in 2002 and third in 2006.
Whisper it quietly, but this Schalke legend started his career at — yes, you’ve guessed it… After four years in the yellow-and-black of Dortmund, Schalke got the best out of a tireless, dogged midfielder, who — with 88 goals — is the club’s fourth-top scorer of all-time. His game embodied the 'Eurofighter' spirit that brought the 1996/97 UEFA Cup to Germany. "I had looked him in the eye beforehand," explained then-assistant coach Hubert Neu prior to Anderbrügge, who had come off the bench in extra-time, confidently netting Schalke’s opening shoot-out spot-kick. "That readiness, that focus, you don’t forget the impact of a face like that!"
Wilmots is Belgian, but the Schalke faithful recognised a kindred spirit in the warrior-like midfielder. Nicknamed ‘The Bulldog of Dongelberg’ in his native country, Wilmots was christened 'Willi, das Kampfschwein' (the Battle Pig) in his adopted home where the former Belgium international spent six of the last seven years of his career across two spells. For all his combative qualities, Wilmots will never have to buy a drink or dinner in Gelsenkirchen for as long as he lives courtesy of the goal that gave Schalke a 1-0 win in the first leg of the 96/97 UEFA Cup final while — better still — he netted the decisive, trophy-clinching penalty in the shoot-out.
"Obscene" is probably the best word to describe Fischer’s goals-to-game ratio for Schalke, which works out as one strike every 1.5 league matches. Sixth on the Bundesliga’s all-time appearance makers’ list, Fischer is second-only to Gerd Müller among the German top-flight’s most potent goalscorers, the majority of which he struck in Royal Blue. Only four of those were from overhead kicks, but Fischer still holds a reputation for being a scorer of spectacular goals as well as being a spectacular goalscorer. "You can’t do it when your opponent is too close otherwise the whistle will go," he explained. "The rest is a question of technique and courage." Simple, eh?
When the former Netherlands international arrived in Gelsenkirchen, his career was at a crossroads after difficult spells at Real Madrid and AC Milan. It did not take long to see he had taken the right path. A DFB Cup winner in his first season, the former and current Ajax forward ended the 2011/12 campaign as the Bundesliga’s leading scorer with 29, matching the peerless Fischer’s single-season club record of 1975/76. "Schalke has been my biggest labour of love," 'The Hunter' explained after his final appearance for the club. "Schalke is my club. It gets under your skin, and never goes away."
Watch: Klass-Jan Huntelaar's top 5 Bundesliga goals
He was only in Gelsenkirchen for two years, but what an impact. Is it any surprise? The legendary Raul, Real Madrid icon, had his pick of clubs when he left the Spanish capital, and he decided to move to Schalke. Some magical moments followed as he shone and made others shine, notably Huntelaar and Julian Draxler. Incredibly, for all the six La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions Leagues he won with Madrid, he still wrote a little bit of personal history with the Royal Blues: their 2010/11 DFB Cup win was the first domestic cup success of Raul’s career.
Watch: Raul's top 5 Bundesliga goals
Could there have been anyone else to guide this team? The Dutchman has collected a commonwealth of clubs during his coaching career, including Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne, but he has never spent longer at one club — or been more successful — than his first spell at Schalke. The 1996/97 UEFA Cup win he masterminded was the highlight, but had Patrik Andersson not scored for Bayern in the dying throes of the 2000/01 season, Stevens would also have gone down in Schalke history as their first Bundesliga title-winning coach. His second spell was not as fruitful, but did not do anything to dislodge him from the special place he has in Schalke fans’ hearts.