Schalke 04 is having a disastrous start to its 2016-17 Bundesliga season, and if you believe German newspaper Bild, on-loan Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb is right in the thick of it.
After hyping Bentaleb upon his arrival from Spurs this summer along with former Hotspur Benji Stambouli, Schalke has opened the season with five consecutive league losses. Bentaleb appears to be one of a group of Schalke players that Bild is singling out for poor play and poor attitude.
It’s difficult for us to get a clear picture of what’s been going on in the paper, since a lot of the articles are behind a paywall. Sport Witness, however, has a pretty good summary of what’s been said and implied.
In brief, after the disastrous start Bild has published a list of what it calls “Schalke Slackers,” and many of them are young players: Bentaleb, Stambouli, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Baba Rahman, Franco Di Santo, Leon Goretzka, and former Spurs targets Breel Embolo and Max Meyer were all singled out for criticism.
Of that list, Bild has gone in particularly hard on Bentaleb, accusing him of using Schalke as a “springboard” for a future transfer, calling him “arrogant,” and questioning both his attitude and commitment to the club.
Sport Witness questions Bild’s motives somewhat, especially in light of the sheer number of players singled out.
If this was just Tottenham owned Bentaleb, or even just Bentaleb and former Tottenham player Stambouli, then there may be a case for believing the players have a complete lack of character, don’t respect Schalke and are lazy. However, the number of players named looks like a concentrated effort to shift blame...
[Bentaleb has] had suggestions of attitude thrown at him before, but to expect such a young footballer, who hasn’t played regularly for a long time, to move to a new club and league and automatically be a saviour and leader is ridiculous.
But honestly, Bentaleb has not been good thus far this season. He was singled out for this intercepted pass that led to a Hoffenheim goal in Schalke’s recent 2-1 loss, a pass that Bild called “hair raising.”
It’s rare that a single player can be labelled at fault for a goal, and there’s plenty of bad defending to go around in this clip. You could even argue that this particular example is more a good interception than a bad pass. That said, it’s not the first mistake Nabil has made at Schalke this season, and it’s also not hard for Spurs fans to remember a number of “hospital balls” from Bentaleb during his Tottenham tenure.
Schalke have played 5 games so far this season, Bentaleb has already made 3 errors leading to a goal conceded for his team in barely 4 games— Matthew (@MTTRDDN) September 25, 2016
It’s difficult to know right now how much of this is accurate, and how much of it is German media overreaction to a horrific start for Schalke. Obviously, it’s not the first time we’ve heard Nabil be accused of arrogance, and there are strong indications that his departure from Spurs had as much to do with not getting along with Mauricio Pochettino as it did with his Tottenham performances.
We also don’t know whether this will have any impact on the conditions of his loan. There’s reportedly an option to buy clause of £16.1m in Nabil’s loan contract, but we don’t know what the specifics are or whether Schalke are able to back out of that deal. There’s even been speculation that Schalke could back out completely and return Bentaleb to Spurs, though there doesn’t seem to be much evidence for that.
What we do know is that Schalke is a dumpster fire right now, and unfortunately Bentaleb is smack in the middle of it. Part of me suspects that this furor isn’t anything that a few league wins won’t help to tamp down, but as long as Schalke continue to play like relegation candidates, the more we’re likely going to hear about Nabil. The knives are already out, and it’s starting to look like BanterLad is going to be a scapegoat.