If Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool were rattled by Brentford’s physicality and directness in Monday night’s defeat, then they are unlikely to appreciate what is coming down the track: a new No9, known as one of the quickest players in Europe, whose favourite pastimes away from football include playing basketball instead.
Kevin Schade was linked with a move to Anfield soon after his emergence at German side Freiburg, but this week joined Brentford, initially on a six-month loan deal that will become permanent for around £21million in the summer.
It is the third time in little more than six months that the Bees have agreed a club-record transfer, albeit with only fractional increases each time and perhaps unsurprisingly, given the west London club is only just getting used to the novelty of operating with a Premier League budget.
Despite their increasing spend, it is notable how reliant Thomas Frank remains on the core group of players that won promotion to the Premier League back in 2021. Schade is the 13th senior player to sign for the Bees since their Play-off Final victory over Swansea, but eight of the XI that started this week’s win over Liverpool were veterans of the Championship side, the same number as started in the victory at Manchester City before Christmas, while it was nine for the Boxing Day draw against Tottenham.
Those statistics are testament to the club’s sensational recruitment while in the second tier, but also evidence of how difficult improving upon a settled, synchronised team can be. Injuries have played a part in diminishing Aaron Hickey and Kristoffer Ajer’s recent involvement, while Christian Eriksen has been and gone. Some, like Keane Lewis-Potter, have time to come good but others — Frank Onyenka, Mikel Damsgaard — have so far been major disappointments.
Schade is no banker, either. The 21-year-old has started just once in the Bundesliga this term for high-flying Freiburg, having struggled with an abdominal injury either side of the summer. He has played only 37 games across the course of his senior career, scoring six times and assisting four goals. His arrival is a gamble based on potential rather than back catalogue.
To that end, Frank called it a “typical Brentford signing”, a precocious, unexposed quantity with, the club believe, significant upside. The Brentford model involves a degree of acceptable risk, the price they must pay for landing the most talented young players before their development attracts the attention of bigger fish. Look, for instance, at the sums involved in negotiations for Mykhailo Mudryk — who Brentford targeted in the summer — now that the Shakhtar Donetsk winger has run riot in the Champions League.
Despite his new shirt number, Schade has spent most of his career as a pacy winger, but is seen as capable of playing across the forward line, a virtual necessity at Brentford, where Frank often prefers to play with a dynamic front-two, rather than orthodox wide men. It was notable, too, to hear the Dane talk of his latest prodigy having “big potential to be a fine goalscorer”, an area where the Bees must be contingency planning for the possibility that Ivan Toney could be banned if found guilty by an FA investigation into alleged betting breaches.
Schade has declared himself “ready to go” ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup tie against West Ham, but, given he has not played a competitive game since the Bundesliga paused for the World Cup in November, it remains to be seen whether Frank will throw his new man in so quickly.
Once he gets going, however, few are likely to keep up.