With the 50th Bundesliga season just days away, Bundesliga clubs are still fine tuning their squads and making adjustments where needed. With most transfers out of the way already, here are some of the best moves made by clubs in the league ahead of the 2012/13 season, players who might not have stolen the headlines but who could turn out to be the best bargain buys of the season.
Felipe (Hannover 96 – 2.5 million)
Emmanuel Pogatetz has been at the heart of Mirko Slomka’s reformed and successful Hannover defense in the last two years, making his departure this summer a possibly worrying one for the club. Although Karim Haggui filled in admirably towards the end of the season and Mario Eggimann is a reliable option both are getting older and the club could again be competing on three different fronts. Ironically enough that is also where Hannover picked up Pogatetz’s long term replacement, Felipe, after the Brazilian centerback left a lasting impression on Slomka in their Europa League fixture last season. At 2.5 million Euros, Felipe could be a steal. The 25 year old distinguished himself as one of the best defenders in the Belgian league and possesses good technique and ability on the ball. He will also give Slomka options across different competitions and allow him to continue to evolve the team’s style.
Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen – 5m Euros)
Wollscheid was acquired last November by Bayer Leverkusen, with his actual move from Nürnberg to come after the 2011/2012 season ended. The 23 year-old already has over 50 games experience with Der Club, and was ranked 3rd best among central defenders in the Bundesliga by kicker following the 2010/2011 season and is still considered one of the biggest defensive talents in the country. His cost to Leverkusen of 5 million euros wasn’t cheap (especially considering that Wollscheid came to Nürnberg on a free transfer from Saarbrucken), but his insertion into Leverkusen’s backline should rachet down the goals allowed by Die Werkself, which have been 44 in each of the last two seasons, 20 more than the top three Bundesliga sides allowed last season. Wollscheid’s positional sense, strength in the air, ability to avoid conceding fouls and help in the attack (5 goals while at Der Club) make him a top transfer value. And at 23 he is only going to get better and still some time from reaching his peak.
Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg – Free Transfer)
Signed to a two-year contract on a free transfer from Bayern München, the 32 year-old Olic missed much of the 2011/2012 because of injury, but was a bright influence on the Bavarians when he returned to action late in the season. The Croatian international is a winner, having played on six domestic title teams during his career in Croatia, Russia and Germany. Olic has played more than 190 matches in all competitions for German clubs, scoring 71 times, a DFB Cup winner and twice a runner-up in the Champions League. Coach Felix Magath feels that Olic will raise the level quality of the club because of his determination and willingness to run and get stuck in. Olic scored three goals in Wolfsburg’s 5-0 win August 19 in its Pokal opener against Mecklenburg side FC Schönberg.
Chinedu Ede (Mainz 05 – 1.2m Euros)
The Berlin born 25-year-old might just be the perfect fit for Thomas Tuchel and Mainz. The attacking midfielder and striker is rather flexible and is able to play in every position in the attack, making him ideal for a manager who likes to change it up more than most others in the league. Ede has so far managed to score 1 goal in 19 Bundesliga matches for Hertha, and 11 goals in 104 2. Bundesliga matches for MSV Duisburg and Union Berlin, and impressed Mainz manager Christian Heidel during last season’s 2. Bundesliga season. Amongst Ede’s strong sides are his dribbling, his speed and his good eye for the movement developing in front of him. Mainz have once again managed to secure the services of an exciting 2. Bundesliga player, who has the potential to make an impact in the Bundesliga.
Timo Gebhart (F.C. Nürnberg – 2.5m Euros)
The “problem child” of German football never quite lived up to his potential at Stuttgart. Gebhart excelled at all youth levels with the national team before making the jump into professional football but despite showing glimpses of that talent he never quite managed to hold on to a starting spot at Stuttgart and was deemed expendable by Bruno Labbadia this summer. Nürnberg coach Dieter Hecking is hoping to make Stuttgart’s loss their gain. Hecking is known for his good work with young players and with the return of Daniel Didavi to Stuttgart after his loan spell, a slot opened up at the club for the creative and dynamic Gebhart. The real question is whether Hecking can do what four managers couldn’t at Stuttgart, and that is to get the best out of him consistently while taming his notorious temperament and indiscipline.
Olivier Occean (Eintracht Frankfurt – 1.3m Euros)
The Canadian 30-year-old has taken the impressive step from Germany 3. Liga and into the Bundesliga within only two years. After a scout had seen a compilation of Occean’s goals on YouTube, the former Lillestrøm player arrived at Kickers Offenbach in 2010, managing an impressive 16 goals in 30 matches in his first ever season in Germany. Occean’s efforts were noticed by the ambitions 2nd tier side Greuther Fürth, where he and his partner Christopher Nöthe teamed up to become one of the most effective striking forces in last season’s 2. Bundesliga. The pair scored an impressive 30 goals out of Greuther’s 73 goals. Occean alone was responsible for 17 goals (a legue high last year). Occean has taken both the 3. Liga and the 2. Bundesliga by storm. Now he wants to find out what he can do in Germany’s highest tier. The Canadian’s movement, and his body strength made him one of the most dangerous striker’s in the 2. Bundesliga. Eintracht managing to get one of their relegation fight rivals biggest assets might be one of the wisest transfers of the summer transfer window.
Axel Bellinghausen (Fortuna Düsseldorf – Free Transfer)
Bellinghausen returns to Düsseldorf on a free transfer, having begun his professional career with F95 in 2001 and playing in 88 league matches before leaving for Kaiserslautern in 2005. The 29 year-old from Siegburg helped FC Augsburg gain promotion two seasons ago and contributed to their rise to safety last season. The midfielder’s workrate and technique were some of the most impressive in the league last year. Bellinghausen is no stranger to relegation battles and his performance this season will be instrumental in Düsseldorf’s chances to avoid the drop.
Paul Scharner (Hamburger SV – Free Transfer)
A quite controversial player who is not shy to speak his mind when he wants to, Scharner may not have been the most glamorous signing of the summer but could turn out be one of the most valuable for Thorsten Fink and Hamburg. The former Wigan and West Brom defender is known for his high workrate, unyielding passion and threat on set pieces. He is also known for his eccentric hair styles but above all, he should bring some much needed focus, determination and leadership to a struggling Hamburg side still caught in the turmoils of transition. The 32 year old Austrian can play anywhere across the backline as well as in midfield if needed. Character has been a phrase tossed around quite a bit in German football as of late but if there is one thing Scharner is not short on, it’s that.
Takashi Inui (Eintracht Frankfurt – 1.05m Euros)
The Bundesliga has gradually established a reputation as a honing ground for a new talented generation of Japanese footballers. Takashi Inui is another in what is becoming a long line of technical creative players that have adapted well to and excelled in German football. Unlike the Kagawas, Okazakis and Sakais, Inui has been honing that craft in the 2. Bundesliga with VfL Bochum since his move from Cerezo Osaka in 2011 but has in the last year established himself as one of the better playmakers in Germany’s second tier. Inui was signed by Eintracht coach Armin Veh to get the most out of their strikers and keep the club in the Bundesliga after gaining promotion last season. The Japanese playmaker is reminiscent of Kagawa in style; quick on the ball, good in tight spaces and sharp with his passing.
Theodor Gebre Selassie (Werder Bremen – 1.8m Euros)
The Czech right back stood out at the 2012 Euros in Poland and Ukraine due to his speed, technical skill and his fine delivery of crosses into the box. Gebre Selassie is the son of an Ethopian immigrant, and was born in Třebíč on December 24th in 1986. A somewhat media shy man, the right back preferred to let his feet do the talking every time he faced skepticism and racism from the Czech public. The former Slovan Liberec and Slavia Prague player noted in an interview with the Guardian that the problem of racism within Czech football still existed, but that it was gradually receding. His cool and confident manner fits perfectly with the way Thomas Schaaf likes to conduct his business. The Czech right back has arrived in Bremen to bring some stability at the right back position. Thomas Schaaf has high hopes for Werder’s new man on the right, stating that Selassie’s runs up and down the right flank is something that Werder were lacking last season.