Bundesliga January Transfer Market: Winners and Losers

Here at the Bundesliga Fanatic our staff follows German football with a lot of passion. Our opinions certainly differ from time to time, so when it came to deciding about the best and worst purchases of the January transfer window Cris Nyari and I got together to compare thoughts.  Additionally we will share our perceptions about which club did the best job in the 2011 winter transfer window.

Niklas’ Top 3 January Signings

1. Michael Rensing: The former Bayern man has done a splendid job between the sticks for Köln. His contribution to the success in-form Köln have enjoyed are enormous. In my book the signing that has made the biggest impact. (For the record, I would have said the same before Köln match against Dortmund).

Hajnal a Winner

2. Tamás Hajnal: The Hungarian was unwanted at Dortmund, but has fitted in beautifully at Stuttgart. He has already scored important goals (vs. Frankfurt) and has turned games around after he came off the bench (vs. Gladbach). Hanjal was the playmaker the VfB were missing in the first half of the season.

3. Luiz Gustavo: The former Hoffenheim player was bought to replace Mark van Bommel in midfield, as a back-up central back and a left back. So far this season Gustavo has played at all three positions, and done a splendid job. The youngster is certainly one for the future, and the fans of Bayern Munich will certainly be able to enjoy his contributions to the side for a long time.

Niklas’ Worse 3 January Signings

1. Ali Karimi: The Iranian international had already had a stint in the Bundesliga, but failed to impress the fans of Bayern Munich back then. He is too slow for the Bundesliga, especially at the age of 32. An awful signing. What was Felix Magath thinking?

2. Dieumerci Mbokani: The striker has certainly had his chances from start and as a substitute. He has so far failed to make an impact at Wolfsburg. Mbokani has certainly the potential to become a great player for Wolfsburg, but has still a long way to go. When the man from the Democratic Republic of Congo finds his way, he may turn into one of the best strikers in the league, but he’s nowhere near that point now.

3. Angelos Charisteas: He gives us presence in the air, Felix Magath said when he gave a contract to the unemployed striker. Well, considering the amount of talent Schalke already have upfront, an unnecessary purchase in my book. Furthermore, Charisteas did little for Arles-Avignon in Ligue in 2010 and hasn’t shown his old qualities for years. Another dreadful buy by Facebook friendly Felix Magath.

Winner of the January Transfer Market

FC Köln: The signings of 1. FC Cologne worked wonders for the team. After eight games in 2011 Cologne have taken 14 points, which is one point less than what they took in 17 games in 2010. Michael Rensing in the goal replaced the insecure, and moody Faryd Mondragon, and has secured many points through his saves. Christian Eichner has also added to the stability in defense. Polish winger Peszko has given the Cologne attackers Podolski and Novakovic some much-needed support. All in all, three solid buys that have turned the season around for the Billy Goats.

Cris’s Top 5 January Signings:

1. Slawomir Peszko – (500,000 Euros from Lech Poznan) Köln struggled in the first half of the season and at the pace they were going they were starring relegation in the face.  They had one of the weakest attacks in the league and had trouble putting the ball in the net.  Since the turn of the New Year, Köln have been one of the most in form and dangerous sides in the league, outscoring all but 4 sides in the league and collecting almost as many points than in the entire Hinrunde combined.  The tricky winger from Poland has played a big role in this turnaround, providing a threat from either wing and playing a foil to the revitalized Podolski and Novakovic. His pace and technique have troubled most defenders and played a big part in Köln’s impressive wins over Bayern and Mainz.

Rensing Re-Born

2. Michael Rensing (Free)  Rensing’s career could have taken a huge turn for the worst after his dismissal from Bayern.  Instead, after a couple of months off, the former German youth international has revitalized his career and been part of Köln’s amazing season turnaround.   Köln were conceding goals left and right before the winter break but have turned that around to be one of the best performing sides in 2011. Rensing’s great individual performances against Hoffenheim, Hannover and Dortmund have made him one of the better performing players in the second half of the season.  Most importantly, his presence in the back has been a real catalyst for the rest of the team and has created a real domino effect that has been evident from front to back for the Billy goats.

3. Luiz Gustavo – (17 mil Euros from Hoffenheim) Louis van Gaal has used 14 different backlines this season, an indication of both the injury crisis besetting Bayern as well as the lack of quality in personnel.  Gustavo had been one of the best performers in the first half of the seasons and offers exactly what Bayern needed, a versatile player who is can play at center back, left back and in central midfield but is also capable of the quick passing possession style that Van Gaal emphasizes.  Despite the hefty price tag, since his arrival, Gustavo has been one of Bayern’s best players in the Rückrunde.  When played at LB he provides for Bayern a left sided equivalent of what Lahm provides on the left, giving Ribery the necessary support as well as occupying the opponent’s fullback.  Gustavo was crucial in Bayern’s big win against Inter in the first leg and despite the team’s road bumps it is evident that he is one for the future and will only get better with time.

4. Martin Stranzl (800,000 Euros from Spartak Moscow) Gladbach’s season took a serious hit in the light of Dante’s lengthy injury.  The Brazilian’s dynamic on field personality and defensive assuredness was crucial in Gladbach’s campaign to avoid the drop last season.  Few teams have had a more disastrous Hinrunde than Gladbach had this year and that was down largely to their defensive frailty.   Doomed for the drop by press and pundits everywhere, it was crucial for Gladbach to remedy that flaw.  Enter Martin Stranzl, the Austrian veteran slotted into Gladbach’s defense immediately and made a big difference.  Gladbach conceded 29 goals in their first 10 games this season.  In the same period after Stranzl’s arrival, Gladbach have conceded less than half of that (14).  And despite the continued patchy form Gladbach’s form in the second half of the season has been considerably better.  In fact, they have outperformed 9 other sides in the league since the New Year and Stranzl has been a key component in this turnaround.

5. Tamás Hajnal (Free) Hajnal never fit into the long term plans of Klopp at Dortmund and as such the Hungarian playmaker looked for greener pastures and a place to flaunt his Magyar magic.  Stuttgart had been lacking a true playmaker for a while and Hajnal seemed a good fit.  Suffice to say, the Hungarian filled that vacuum rather effectively and despite only playing 6 games for Stuttgart since the winter he has played part in Stuttgart’s best run of form this season.  Hajnal’s strengths have been linking Stuttgart’s attack and getting the best out of their strikers and the more the Hungarian plays the more Stuttgart will benefit from his vision.

Cris’s 3 Worst January Signings:

1. Ali Karimi (Free)  It is difficult to argue against this signing, despite not having much to base this on from a performance stand point.  Karimi was exclusively a Magath signing, brought in to “provide creativity”, and as such will likely not get much playing time from new trainer Ragnick.  The 32 year old Iranian has not played a single minute since arriving in Gelsenkirchen and it hard to believe he will get more than that for the remainder of the season.  Functionally speaking it is also a transfer that lacks common sense considering his previous failure with Bayern and the fact that Schalke do not play with a playmaker in the first place.

2. Patrick Helmes (8 mil from Leverkusen) One of the more high profile transfers during the winter.  For Wolfsburg, the price tag may not be so inflated, especially in light of Dzeko’s sale to Manchester City, but for most teams in the league that would constitute a record signing, which brings a long with it a certain level of expectation.  Helmes has been struggling with on and off injuries for the better part of a year and right off the bat seemed like a risky signing in that sense.  Helmes can be a valuable player when in form but with Wolfsburg’s volatile environment one must question the move for such a streaky player.  He has appeared for Wolfsburg only 4 times so far, scoring only 1 goal and losing each game.  It appears that Dieter Hoeness made a quite impulsive purchase here and took a gamble on a player meant to turn their season around but instead has been watching most of it continue in the same vein from the sidelines.

3. Ryan Babel (7 mil from Liverpool) The much maligned Dutch attacking all-rounder looked for a change of scenery to revive his stagnating career but much like he left Liverpool he has continued in the same mediocore form at Hoffenheim.  Babel has featured in 8 of Hoffenheim’s 10 matches in the Hinrunde and has failed to either make or score a goal.  In fact, Hoffenheim’s form dropped severely in the second half of the season.  Hoffenheim scored 21 goals in their first 10 games of the season and only managed 9 in the same amount so far.  Babel was brought in to add to the goal scoring, not take away from it.

Winner of the January transfer market:

1 FC. Köln – The Billy Goats not only spent wisely, they planned brilliantly as well.  Instead of spending for spending sake, they pursued players who fit the system and addressed key issues.  They added an attacking edge to their game that has seen them climb the table quite quickly and as a result have gotten the best out of key players like Podolski and Novakovic.  The duo always had the potential to be one of the best in the league but needed adequate support and Köln did well to put that in place for them.

Losers of the January transfer market:

VfL Wolfsburg – Their moves in January stands as a firm example of spending for spending’s sake.  Unlike Köln, their policy appeared to center around pursuing players with a wallet and not with a footballing strategy.  Wolfsburg created a striker congestion problem for themselves with up to 5-6 strikers competing at times for a single spot on the field.  While players like Tuncay and Helmes can be quality performers Wolfsburg’s biggest problems lay in their defense, an issue they ignored altogether in January.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.


  1. He still struggles with the pace of the league in some periods. Having seen him in four games, I agree that he has definitely the potential.

    He has a very good first touch, and he finds the right pass on many occasions, but he has to think quicker in the future.

  2. I agree with your choices for the most part but one player who is perhaps overlooked is VfB Stuttgart’s Shinji Okazaki. He’s started 5 Bundesliga games since coming over after the Asian Cup and VfB are 3-1-1 in league play since he joined the starting lineup. No goals or assists yet but they will come. Probably doesn’t deserve top mention yet, but may be a real find for the future. He scored 42 goals in the J League and 21 for Japan’s national team and is only 24 y/o…..

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