New Schalke coach Domenico Tedesco has begun shaping his squad for the Bundesliga season ahead as he bids to revive the dozing Ruhr Valley giants.
Schalke will not play European football in the 2017/18 season for the first time in eight campaigns following the travails of the previous year. Markus Weinzierl's first season in charge proved to also be his last at the VELTINS-Arena as the team struggled to cope with the demands of a two-pronged European and domestic challenge.
Cue Tedesco, fresh from saving Erzgebirge Aue from the 3. Liga in a spectacular, short-term stint, now the man, at 31, to give the Royal Blues a regal touch once again.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Holger Badstuber, Dennis Aogo and Sead Kolasinac are all among the summer departures from Gelsenkirchen, taking with them a wealth of experience and talent.
But Schalke have moved to reinforce their squad with the arrival of Pablo Insua, while the return to full fitness after serious injuries of Breel Embolo, who played only the first seven matches of last season, and Coke, who featured in just the last eight, means Tedesco is upbeat.
"I must say I find the current squad to be of good quality. We have a good core, which we want to add to when we get the chance. It's important that the current players know that we want to build with them," he told kicker recently.
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"It's always necessary to strengthen a squad, even a good one. But the player has to be one that takes us forward. We are looking at a lot of players, also because a lot of good preparation work had been done. This all happens in parallel, because there is no other way to do it."
Tedesco's multi-tasking skills are being sorely tested as pre-season training began this week, giving both the new boss and his new charges a first opportunity to make acquaintance. A classmate of Hoffenheim boss Julian Nagelsmann, who at 29 is the only top-flight coach in Germany younger than him, Tedesco has a clear vision of where and how he wants to make improvements.
"The boys are going to have to move a lot in the first weeks, we're talking about building fundamental stamina. Getting to know each other will need to be given some time too.
"When we get into tactics, I'll start with the relationships in defence, compactness and the division of space. After all, it's the basics, how you go into a tackle or how a back line works," he said, adding he wants to seal the cracks in a defence that conceded 40 times last term while keeping his team on the front foot.
"We want to keep clean sheets, without shutting up shop or sitting too deep."
Preparations will be hampered to a certain extent by the absences of Leon Goretzka and Max Meyer, two key members of Tedesco's squad given time to recharge their fatigued bodies after FIFA Confederations Cup and U21 EURO triumphs respectively.
Tedesco has already made contact with the pair, however, while he has impressed those who have had the opportunity to meet him face-to-face for the first time this week.
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"He's highly motivated, just like us. I've enjoyed the sessions so far. What I like is Domenico's communicative nature on the field. He speaks to us a lot and can also speak lots of different languages. That's a good thing for players who don't understand every word of German," explained veteran centre-back Naldo, who is almost exactly three years older than his new boss.
"For me it's not a problem. Respect is not a question of age. Domenico Tedesco imposes himself with his whole demeanour. He has a plan and trusts in every individual. I'm looking forward to working with him. What's important is we all work together to try and get the best for Schalke."
The former Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg man, who has played over 300 Bundesliga games, is determined his second season at Schalke will not be a carbon copy of his first.
"We will give everything. But just talking about it doesn't change anything. We need to work, work, work and take it one step at a time."