Schalke: Omar Mascarell had an incredible bounce-back season

Suat Serdar may have been FC Schalke 04’s biggest breakout star in 2019-2020, but don’t overlook the incredible leap Omar Mascarell made last season.

David Wagner’s first season in charge of FC Schalke 04 has to be viewed as a major success, and the new manager mostly succeeded by getting the best out of players who were struggling to reach their potential in 2018-2019.

Defensive midfielder Omar Mascarell was once a highly-touted player. He spent his youth career with Real Madrid and even made a substitute appearance for them in La Liga. But his career at the Santiago Bernabeu never quite took off. After a successful loan spell at Sporting Gijon, Mascarell made his way to the Bundesliga in 2016, signing a three-year deal with Eintracht Frankfurt.

At Eintracht, Mascarell was one of the best defensive midfielders in the league, playing a key role in Niko Kovac‘s system. Per WhoScored.com, he recorded a whopping 3.8 interceptions per game in his first season in Frankfurt in 2016-2017 and never had fewer than 2.2 tackles per game in either season.

Mascarell was so impressive that Real Madrid activated his four million euro buy-back clause from Frankfurt, then subsequently sold the midfielder to Schalke for 10 million euros – a fair price for one of the Bundesliga’s best at the position.

However, Mascarell struggled in 2018-2019. He was one of several players on Die Knappen who looked listless. A top-class Bundesliga player at Frankfurt, Mascarell looked like one of the league’s worst midfielders for the Royal Blues in 2018-2019.

He was run off the pitch in Champions League games and had 1.5 fewer defensive actions per game in 2018-2019 than in 2017-2018. Mascarell also made 20 fewer passes per game and looked far less competent and incisive on the ball.

It looked like Mascarell could be another “bust” midfield signing for Schalke. But in 2019-2020, he returned to being one of the league’s best defensive midfielders, bouncing back in a huge way. In all honesty, he was playing the best football of his career, when considering his composure on the ball and defensive vision.

According to WhoScored.com, Mascarell completed a career-high 85 percent of his passes in 2019-2020, starting attacks from deep and constantly linking up with the team’s top scorers in midfield, Suat Serdar and Amine Harit.

On the defensive end, Mascarell was in a different class from other No. 6’s, even playing as a center back in a back three when asked. He averaged 1.8 tackles per game and 2.7 interceptions per game, leading the Bundesliga in interceptions per game with his highest career output since his breakout 2016-2017 season.

Mascarell also became Schalke’s captain. He was a leader off the pitch and on the ball for the Royal Blues, setting the tone in so many ways. At 27, Mascarell is in the prime of his career and ascending in this leadership role, covering the back four and breathing life into his teammates up the pitch. This has been a bounce-back season to cherish.