Schalke 04's dream XI if they never sold their best players, featuring Ozil and Neuer

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Schalke 04 are having something of a torrid time in the Bundesliga right now.

As German football made a trail-blazing return to action on May 16 amidst the coronavirus pandemic, Schalke made headlines for all the wrong reasons during the Revierderby.

The Gelsenkirchen-based side were put to the sword 4-0 by their bitter rivals Borussia Dortmund for the world to see and followed that up with a convincing 3-0 defeat at home to Augsburg this week.

It's an unfortunate situation that leaves Schalke stewing in the middle regions of the Bundesliga table, a rather disappointing eighth, which contrasts with their history of European qualification.

Schalke have never been too far from the Champions League over the last decade - famously reaching the semi-finals in 2010 - and countless world-class players have donned their blue jersey.

If Schalke never sold their best players

So, in a time where Schalke fans don't have much to cheer about, we decided to imagine a world where they never sold their best players and wonder: what would their starting XI look like?

It's an exercise that's been done for numerous clubs such as Benfica, Ajax and Valencia, but we're inclined to think Schalke might have the best team of the bunch.

With World Cup winners aplenty as well as future Barcelona and Real Madrid players, you can check out the XI we decided upon to celebrate Schalke's rich history of top footballing stars:

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GK - Manuel Neuer

Yeh, we're starting big. Neuer is the closest a goalkeeper has ever come to winning the Ballon d'Or in the last 10 years and has gone on to become an absolute colossus at Bayern Munich, winning the Champions League in 2013.

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RB - Rafinha

Speaking of moving to Bayern... Rafinha won every trophy under the sun after swapping Schalke for Germany's dominant force, making over 250 appearances for the club, before moving back to his native Brazil with Flamengo last summer.

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CB - Joel Matip

What a free signing Matip has proven to be for Liverpool, playing an integral role in one of the Premier League's greatest ever defences alongside Virgil van Dijk and all just four years on from leaving the Veltins Arena.

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CB - Benedikt Howedes

Howedes might not seem like the biggest name on paper and, yes, he is creeping into his thirties, but lest we forget that he was a regular fixture in the starting XI of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup.

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LB - Sead Kolasinac

Another player who has gone on to make his name in the Premier League, Kolasinac has been a decent servant for Arsenal and has established himself as a fans' favourite for his combative style. Still, one of the weaker areas of the team.

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RM - Julian Draxler

An absolute baller in his pomp with Schalke, Draxler remains one of Germany's finest forwards and has gone on to win a bucketful of trophies with Paris Saint-Germain across 137 matches, scoring 20 times. 

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CM - Ivan Rakitic

Rakitic seems to be on the way down with Barcelona this season, but what a career the Croatian has enjoyed since leaving Schalke from winning the treble in 2015 to reaching a World Cup final with his underdog nation.

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CM - Leon Goretzka

Eleven goals across 25 caps for Germany is a stellar record for a midfielder before we say anything else and a further 67 outings for Bayern Munich shows Goretzka is finding his feet with the European giants.

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LM - Leroy Sane

Sane looks set to return to Germany this summer, but - you guessed it - Bayern appear to be the destination for one of world football's hottest prospects who has bagged seven trophies and scored 39 goals with Manchester City.

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CAM - Mesut Ozil

While it might have been a quiet few seasons for Ozil at Arsenal recently, there's no denying that he's one of the sport's most talented midfielders and utterly unplayable on his day. Did we mention he won the World Cup, too?

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ST - Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

Yes, we know, a slightly underwhelming climax after such a stacked midfielder, but Huntelaar was a truly lethal forward in his prime with Real Madrid and continues to tick over at Ajax with almost a half century of goals in three seasons.

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Strength in depth

Talent, talent, everywhere.

Ok, it goes without saying that certain players in the team are getting on a bit, but we think a midfield of Ozil and Rakitic would still do a pretty handsome job in the Bundesliga.

Neuer remains one of the best goalkeepers in the world, Matip would be rock solid at the back and perhaps the only major weakness would be Huntelaar, 36, leading the line alone. 

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But it's that dense midfield and such a tightly-backed defensive five that would make this hypothetical Schalke team such a formidable force in Germany and in Europe.

What David Wagner would do to just have two or three of these stars in his team right now.

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