Signs of excitement
The squad has seen excellent process long before the start of the season and the first competitive match of the 2019/20 campaign is a derby – just two weeks before training starts, and the sun seems to be shining on Bruchweg.
A sixth new signing, a highly exciting contract extension and a derby clash in the first round of the DFB-Pokal as the icing on the cake - recent Mainz news has given Zerofiver fans a lot of surprises in the last few days. If anything, it provides a huge amount of anticipation for the 2019/20 season, which Mainz will begin training for on the 30th of June.
For the first time in over seven years the season will begin on the second weekend in August (fixtures to be announced soon). The draw on Saturday evening gave Mainz fans cause for excitement, as it was decided that the Zerofivers will face rivals 1. FC Kaiserslautern for the first time since February 2012. Head coach Sandro Schwarz described the task against the third division side as a “great destiny”, while sporting director Rouven Schröder confidently added that he wanted to do justice as the role of favourites when the teams clash. The game will demand everything from Mainz, a fact that should already be understood, but at the same time it will be a great way for the coaches to break in the team before what will now be the eleventh successive Bundesliga season for Mainz.
Only one vacant position
The seemingly destined DFB-Pokal fixture was but a side note in comparison to what had been happening in the days prior. On Thursday, Schröder secured transfer number six with Ronaël Pierre-Gabriel, having already signed Dong-Won Ji, Omer Hanin, Cyrill Akono, Jonathan Meier and Edimilson Fernandes. While Hanin and Akono will likely gain match practice with the U23 squad in the Regionalliga Südwest initially, the first team squad is looking great 13 days ahead of the reunion at the Bruchweg. However, it isn’t out of the question that further additions or departures will take place before the end of the transfer window on the 2nd of September. Aside from an unclaimed position in central defence following the retirement of Niko Bungert, almost all positions now have two candidates in the Mainz squad, which should ensure a further leap in quality over the next 12 months.
A determined attitude
Schröder gave a clear signal that Mainz are simply aiming to strengthen positions rather than prepare for departures just about 24 hours after the Gabriel signature. As the rumours were starting to pop up surrounding the future of Jean-Philipp Mateta, Schröder managed to quash any queries when he secured the 21-year-old striker’s signature for a contract extension, adding another year at the club for the Frenchman, who scored 14 goals in 34 games last season. This was seen as a very strong statement of intent from the Zerofivers. The young forward is now with his national team at the U21 European Championship (along with four other Mainz players – Moussa Niakhaté, Florian Müller, Levin Öztunali and Aaron Martín – the most players from a Bundesliga team), so while potential buyers may be interested, the contract extension from 2022 to 2023 sends a strong message: just look, don’t touch! The Mainz first team seems more dazzling than ever, but not just because of the prospect of many more goals, joyful play and goal-hungry strikers – after all, there are more than just three reasons to get excited for next season.
“It’s important that we are determined. We want to set up the squad so that we are always in control of our structure and work as a singular unit. We decided we will do that ourselves, with or without transfers. At the same time, however, we want to inspire the players, tell them to continue their journeys with us. To persuade the player, even if he has other thoughts, to take the next step with us,” said Schröder at the start of June, and now it seems his words have been followed by action: “We are far from finished. Mainz 05 is a process that is never completed. Getting that upswing in the last few weeks before the new season is a big challenge.”