This was the weekend when Dortmund "reached for the stars" (Kicker) and came away as masters of the (German football) universe. Jürgen Klopp's men are nailed on – or perhaps that should be glued on – for the Bundesliga title after beating Freiburg 3-0 at home while second-placed Leverkusen reverted to type and caved in like a badly baked Passover sponge cake. Their eight-point lead could permit them to celebrate as early as Easter Sunday.

This turn of events would, under normal circumstances, be a cue for collective depression at Schalke. But not even their bitter rivals' impending Meisterschaft can seriously diminish the good times felt in Gelsenkirchen at the moment. After an inauspicious start, plenty of relegation worries and Felix Magath's enforced departure, Schalke have suddenly found themselves on the verge of greatness, with a cup final and a Champions League semi-final against Manchester United to look forward to. "There's a tremendous buzz, a sense of euphoria in the city," said Süddeutsche Zeitung's Philipp Selldorf.

On Saturday the Royal Blues pulled off an impressive PR coup, too, by stealing plenty of headlines in the hour of their arch-enemy's triumph. Schalke's 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen (Sandro Wagner scoring on 59 minutes, Edu equalising on 63) was hardly back-page material. The Schalke coach Ralf Rangnick had made a lot of changes to give fringe players a run-out and conserve energy for the Champions League. Having 36 players in your squad – Magath's wheeling and dealing had been on a epic scale – was for once welcome.

The game came alive only in the last 30 minutes or so, and the result confirmed what everyone pretty much knew before: Schalke, sitting comfortably in mid-table, will not try too hard in their final league games and Bremen, almost safe in mid-table, are happy to see out this rotten season with as little fuss as possible.

Yet all the headlines were dominated by a Schalke player afterwards, and Dortmund had to play second fiddle to a story that is likely to rumble on considerably longer than Leverkusen's half-hearted title challenge: Manuel Neuer confirmed he had made "a decision". But taking a leaf from floppy-haired Kloppo's book, who has turned not talking about the championship into a kind of warped art form this season, the Schalke keeper would not then say what decision he has made. "The important people know" was all the 25-year-old was prepared to say.

In fairness, all the important people – and a few others – have known for a quite a while. As early as last autumn, Munich was wash with rumours that the Germany goalkeeper had agreed to join Bayern at the end of the season.

Schalke's recent successes may have put one or two doubts into the former Schalke ultra but neither a long walk with his chairman Clemens Tönnies nor the kind of offer one can't refuse (€21m over three years, according to Bild, but denied by the club) could change his mind. Neuer's statement seems to have been designed to dampen speculation about him staying and to manage the expectations of the fans, who will certainly be sad to lose the man described as "Schalke's face" by Magath.

Only the upcoming games against United and Schalke's trip to Munich in two weeks time have stopped Neuer being more concrete. But in Bavaria, they are nevertheless happy. "We know which way this is going," said the sporting director Christian Nerlinger. "The question is now whether we can find a quick solution."

That should not be too difficult. Neuer's contract expires in 2012, so Schalke's hands are tied. If it is between losing him for nothing in 12 months or selling to the kind of club who do not mind paying well over the odds for players that the president Uli Hoeness has fallen in love with – and it is, in this case – then the outcome is clear. Schalke want €20m and will probably settle at €15m plus bonus payments. The three-year search for a suitably blond and brash successor to Oliver Kahn will finally come to an end at the Allianz Arena.

Kahn thinks stadium protests by some hardcore Munich supporters against Neuer in recent weeks – the crowd disliked his strong Schalke loyalties – will soon be forgotten: "It takes a couple of training session and a saved penalty, and everyone's on your side," said the former goalkeeper. "Around 75-80% of fans would say it makes sense to get him, because he's on his way to become absolute world class."

The German tabloid tz seems to think that the centre-back Benedikt Höwedes, arguably Schalke's most impressive performer alongside Raúl and Neuer this season, may join the goalkeeper at Bayern. If that is true, Schalke can add another €20m to the €80m they will make from both selling Neuer and reaching the latter stages in Europe​. Not bad for a club who were flirting with insolvency not long ago; good enough, in fact, to disregard any fun those pesky Black and Yellows might be having 30 miles to the east.

Talking points

There were banners in support of the embattled Uli Hoeness in the Allianz Arena and the stadium magazine ran a 12-page Mr Bayern eulogy that positively reeked of subtlety, like a vintage issue of Pravda. Fan protest and counter-protest were soon forgotten, however, as Leverkusen, ostensibly intent on upping the pressure on Dortmund, turned up "wearing Pampers", as their former general manager Reiner Calmund would have put it. A series of calamitous mistakes saw Bayer and the returning Michael Ballack go down 4-0 before half-time, with Mario Gomez stumbling in a hat-trick. The second half felt like a friendly. The final score was 5-1. The win helped Bayern leapfrog Hannover (fourth after a 0-0 draw at Hamburg) and the caretaker manager Andries Jonker to a great start.

Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger called it "a nightmare of rare pain" for Bayer "against a team that was far as away from glamour as farmers' theatre is from opera". A bit unkind to farmers' theatre perhaps, but essentially true.

Jupp Heynckes, who was in the unenviable position of taking on his future charges, cut an embarrassed figure. "We made unbelievable mistakes," said the 65-year-old. The Bayern target Arturo Vidal in particular put in the sort of performance that will have really pleased Hoeness and Co: he gave the ball away before the second goal and never did anything noteworthy afterwards. Job well done, Arturo, the contract's in the post. Bayer now have a six-point lead on Bayern to squander before Heynckes is off.

Köln, meanwhile, are doing a kind of Blackpool, minus Ian Holloway's fruity metaphors (and on much higher wages). Lukas Podolski et al seemed clear of danger not long ago but have now slumped to three defeats in four. They're only six points away from the relegation zone and falling double quick. A 3-1 defeat at home to Stuttgart has exposed the fault lines in a volatile dressing room. "Every day it's a challenge to make this team into a unit," said the manager Frank Schaefer. His own future is clouded in mystery, too. Köln's sporting director Volker Finke, accused of interfering in training sessions in some reports, has revealed that "religious reasons" are stopping Schaefer from committing to next season. Puzzling.

"Churchill used to say: Never give up," said Christoph Daum after Eintracht Frankfurt's defeat at Hoffenheim, who have signed the St Pauli coach Holger Stanislawski for next season. It's a noble sentiment from the well-read Daum who would, of course, never dream of leaving a sinking ship (or two, or three, or four) before exhausting all possible avenues first.

Daum is not the only "magician who's lost his magic powers" (Rheinpost), though. The Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath was busy stressing the allure of the second division ("I can't see anything bad about working in Bundesliga 2") following a 2‑2 draw with St Pauli that leaves the 2009 champions third from bottom. Knowing Magath, this is probably true. Rebuilding the side by getting rid of three quarters of the squad and shipping in industrial quantities of even more obscure pros would be right up his street.

Results: Mainz 1-0 Gladbach, Wolfsburg 2-2 St Pauli, Hoffenheim 1-0 Frankfurt, Hamburg 0-0 Hannover, Köln 1-3 Stuttgart, Kaiserslautern 0-2 Nürnberg, Bremen 1-1 Schalke, Bayern 5-1 Leverkusen, Dortmund 3-0 Freiburg.

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