Thankfully, the rumors linking FC Schalke 04 to goalkeepers have died down, so we can focus on a much more important question at the position.
Alexander Nübel will depart FC Schalke 04 for Bayern Munich on a free transfer after quietly struggling with his consistency in 2019-2020. Although Nübel was the captain and has the potential to be a world-class player, Schalke have a younger and, based on his play last season, significantly better keeper in Markus Schubert.
While Schubert should get the first chance at starting in goal in 2020-2021 as the potential future of the club, Schalke have another starting-caliber keeper in the squad. In fact, Ralf Fährmann used to be one of the team’s biggest stars, one of the Bundesliga’s best keepers, and the captain.
Fährmann was one of a number of players who struggled during the doomed 2018-2019 season, and he didn’t get any chance to redeem himself at Norwich in 2019-2020 before signing a loan deal with a smaller club. He’ll be back at Schalke for the 2020-2021 season and hungry to prove he’s still one of the best in the business.
The Royal Blues should give Schubert every opportunity to start, but it’s fair to wonder if Schalke fans could see a familiar face back between the sticks at some point. Not only does Fährmann have the experience advantage, but his past numbers are incredible.
In 2013-2014, Fährmann first broke out as a star in the Bundesliga and posted a career year in his first season with at least 15 Bundesliga starts. The Schalke keeper was, statistically speaking, the second-best keeper in the league behind Manuel Neuer. Only Neuer had a higher save percentage and fewer goals allowed per 90 minutes, and Fährmann had him beat with a clean sheet in exactly half of his games.
While Fährmann wasn’t quite as brilliant in 2014-2015, he still had a save percentage over 77 percent. In 2017-2018 when Schalke finished second in the Bundesliga, Fährmann was fifth in the league in save percentage, fourth in clean sheet percentage, and third with 1.10 goals allowed per 90 minutes.
It all bottomed out for the star keeper in 2018-2019, and Fährmann, unlike several other Schalke players, never got a chance to bounce back under David Wagner.
At 31 years old, Fährmann is still in the prime of his career as a goalkeeper, and given what he accomplished early in his career, specifically in 2013-2014, he has the ability to be a top keeper in this league. He’s shown that quality before, and there’s no reason for him not to get back to that level in the right environment. And based on how well Schalke bounced back in 2019-2020 under Wagner, he should be in an environment conducive to success.
Schubert is going to be a great keeper in his own right, but don’t forget about Fährmann, who only needs one opportunity to remind Bundesliga fans why he was once regarded as one of the league’s best.