Chelsea nightmare behind him, Franco Di Santo signs for Schalke

Thinking about the strikers to grace the Stamford Bridge turf in the blue of Chelsea over the years, it has been a mixed bag.

For every Didier Drogba or Diego Costa there has been a Mateja Kežman or Andriy Shevchenko, with Argentine forward Franco Di Santo certainly fitting into the second category.

The South American poacher spent two years on the West London club’s books, making eight Premier League appearances and failing to hit the net in a forgettable spell.

A loan spell at Blackburn was underwhelming, while finding his feet to some degree at Wigan suggested that Di Santo had found his level.

However, since leaving English football to embark on a new challenge in Germany, Di Santo has finally started to live up to his potential as a striker who can constantly score goals at the top level.

The 26-year-old moved to Werder Bremen in 2013 and has steadily proven himself in the Bundesliga due to being able to play on a more regular basis.

The Weserstadion faithful have had little to cheer in recent campaigns, but Di Santo’s performances in the last 12 months have certainly been a rare reason for optimism.

After finding his feet in the debut 2013-14 campaign and netting four goals in the German top flight, the Argentine was much more lethal last term.

Thirteen goals in 25 outings for Di Santo is an impressive return, especially given that Die Werderaner have been a lower-half-of the-table outfit in back-to-back campaigns.

Even during his time in England, the Argentine’s hold-up play was a standout feature of his game.

This has seemingly improved even further, with Di Santo’s technique, link-up play and movement off the ball making him a respected striker in the Bundesliga.

Over recent years, Di Santo has been included in the Argentine national set-up, making three appearances for the Albiceleste since making his debut in late 2012.

Given the incredible calibre of strikers available to Argentina, inclusion alongside the likes of Sergio Agüero, Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuaín should be a source of pride for the former Chelsea man.

As the 2015-16 campaign approaches, a new opportunity awaits for the 26-year-old.

Franco Di SantoSchalke have met the forward’s release clause and clearly see the South American attacker as a player that can help the club get back into the Champions League qualification berths.

It has been a tumultuous time at the Gelsenkirchen club of late, with Roberto Di Matteo leaving the club and speculation that prodigious talent Julian Draxler could well be sold in the off-season to Juventus.

For Schalke, breaking into the top four next season will be a big ask given that Bayern Munich have dominance over proceedings and the likes of Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are all drastically improved. Local rivals Dortmund will be firmly in the mix also, surely.

Looking at Schalke’s attack and Di Santo’s potential involvement, the South American will need to be at his best to avoid prolonged periods on the bench.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar remains an important member to the Ruhr Valley outfit’s side, even if his goalscoring exploits dried up to some degree last season.

Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting matched the Dutchman’s 2014-15 tally of nine goals in his first campaign at the club, with the Cameroonian proving that he can be effective as an attacking asset.

However, with Schalke only scoring 42 goals in their 34 league games last season, the lowest in the top half of the table, it is clear that the Gelsenkirchen outfit are in need of firepower.

For Di Santo, playing in blue again is an opportunity to banish negative memories from his time at Chelsea and continue his building reputation in the German game.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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