Manuel Veth –
Sporting Director Christian Heidel and head coach Domenico Tedesco continue to advance the Schalke 04 project. After announcing the winter transfers of Cedric Teuchert and Marko Pjaca Schalke announced on Tuesday the signing of highly sought-after German forward Mark Uth from Hoffenheim on a free transfer for next summer.
Described by Christian Heidel as “currently the most dangerous German forward in the Bundesliga” and an interesting “option, who will further improve our attack in the summer.” Mark Uth, whose contract is going to expire in the summer, had offers from various offers from other Bundesliga clubs—Borussia Mönchengladbach and Dortmund were reportedly interested.
It is interesting, however, how fate sometimes plays out. Last season Mark Uth pushed for a transfer to 1.FC Köln. Born in Cologne Uth wanted to return home and Köln targeted Uth to replace forward Anthony Modeste, who had left the club for the Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian. But Hoffenheim remained adamant that they did not want to lose another star after Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy had left the club for Bayern München.
Mark Uth – Better than Timo Werner?
Instead, 1899 sporting director Alexander Rosen hoped that he could convince Mark Uth to extend his contract. But with every goal, Uth scored his market value increased. At the end of the first half of the season, Uth had scored nine goals and two assists in 16 Bundesliga games. The goal scoring rate means that Uth is currently ranked ahead of Germany’s most talented forward Timo Werner—Werner is ranked just behind Uth with eight goals in 15 games—and that Uth became almost unaffordable for Hoffenheim, who had until the very end fought to extend the forward’s contract.
Heidel is therefore right that Uth is currently the best ranked German forward in the league. Given that Timo Werner, however, has struggled with fitness for much of the first half of the season and still managed to score eight goals in 15 games the statement is right on paper only. At the same time Schalke, still have managed to sign the real deal and perhaps a forward, who will have an outside chance to represent the German national team at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia next summer.
There are good reasons to believe that the forward could convince Bundestrainer Joachim Löw that he is in fact good enough to be part of die Mannschaft that want to defend their World Cup title in Russia next summer. His nine goals this season included goals scored against Bayern München, RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund. Uth was also the only Hoffenheim player showing that he was ready to play UEFA Champions League football by scoring two goals in Hoffenheim’s failed attempt to qualify for the UEFA Champions League against Liverpool.
Scoring against the big boys will be one major factor another factor is his flexibility. Uth is not the classic forward, but instead can play various positions in a front three or in a front two and is also capable of operating as a single forward. It is that ability that will add to his World Cup chances.
It was also something that made him attractive to Schalke. Die Knappen, in fact, now have one of the deepest attacking lineups in the Bundesliga. Mark Uth will join the above-mentioned Teuchert, Breel Embolo, Franco di Santo and Guido Burgstaller in what could become a scary attacking formation for any Bundesliga side that will face Schalke next season. The strength in depth will also help Schalke for when the club returns to Europe next season. Currently second, die Knappen are on course to return to the UEFA Champions League and will, therefore, require plenty of attacking power to be competitive in Europe’s premium competition right away.
With Mark Uth’s transfer Schalke might have very well completed their attacking purchases for next season—Pjaca signed till the summer might see his stay continued if things go well in the Rückrunde. Looking at their squad Christian Heidel and Domenico Tedesco now have plenty of time to identify other gaps in the team and fill them with significant signings that will further grow the Schalke project, which is currently on course to challenge the status quo in German football.
Mark Uth Transfer is Another Blow for Julian Nagelsmann
Further south in Hoffenheim, however, the transfer is another major blow for young head coach Julian Nagelsmann. The 30-year-old already had to deal with the departures of Süle, Rudy and Wagner in recent months. Mark Uth’s exit is now the next blow and shows the limits of the Hoffenheim project, which although supported by SAP founder Dietmar Hopp, was never supposed to become a Bundesliga, title challenger. Instead, Hopp has always envisioned a club in the region that can be self-supported through shrewd transfers.
It is now up to Nagelsmann and sporting director Rosen to orchestra the next rebuild in the Rhine-Neckar region of Germany. But the question is how long Nagelsmann will have the patience to continue working at a club that will always lose its best players to bigger clubs in the chain foodchain?
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and social media editor at Bundesliga.com. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which will be available in print soon. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.