While many of us have been busy preparing for and celebrating the holidays, three Bundesliga clubs have made moves to bolster their hopes during the second half of the 2011-2012 season.
Wolfsburg Sign Jiráček
Felix Magath officially began his winter break buying spree at Wolfsburg with the recent announcement of the signing of Victoria Pizen midfielder Petr Jiráček. The Czech international inked a four and a half-year contract with the Volkswagen club for an undisclosed transfer fee.
Jiráček, 25, has played both central and left midfield for Viktoria Pizen, scoring eleven goals in 100 matches with the club. The midfielder also played in all six of Pizen’s Group H Champions League games this fall, a group that included Barcelona and AC Milan. Jiráček represented the Czech Republic five times in 2011, helping his nation secure a spot in the 2012 Euros by scoring the only goal in the Czech’s 1-0 playoff victory November 15 against Montenegro.
“I am delighted that we have been able to sign a player who has experience in the Champions League and internationally,” Magath said. “Jiracek is a versatile midfielder. His effort and willingness to run – qualities that we need for a better second half of the season – are his defining factors.”
Jiráček is happy to be joining the top German league. “To play in the Bundesliga is a huge step for me and it has always been my goal,” he said. “After visiting Wolfsburg and talking with Felix Magath, I was immediately convinced that they are the right club for me. It is a dream to play for Wolfsburg in the Bundesliga.”
Wolfsburg entered winter break with 20 points on six victories and two draws, while losing nine league matches.
Obasi on Loan at Schalke
Schalke have obtained on loan Nigerian striker Chinedu Obasi from Hoffenheim for the remainder of the current campaign with the option of making the deal permanent. Obasi will also be eligible to help the Royal Blues in their Europa League campaign in 2012.
The Nigerian joined Hoffenheim in 2007 after playing in Norway for Lyn Oslo, where he scored 14 goals in 29 matches and was named the August 2006 Norwegian Premier League Player of the Month. The 6’2″ forward helped Hoffenheim gain promotion from 2. Bundesliga in his first season with the club, scoring 12 goals in 2007-2008, and was part of the devasting attacking trio of himself, Vedad Ibisevic and Demba Ba that took the top-tier by storm during the first half of Hoffenheim’s inaugural Bundesliga season. Obasi has scored 13 goals in 65 Bundesliga matches, although he had yet to net in 844 minutes at Hoffenheim during the recently ended Hinrunde, and his recent disciplinary-related suspension from Hoffenheim’s first team by Coach Holger Stanislawski created his availability to go on loan.
The 25 year-old Obasi has also represented Nigerian on 18 occasions, scoring four goals, and was a member of the Nigerian 2008 Silver medalist Olympic team while also helping Nigeria earn a bronze medal at the 2010 Africa Cup of Nations.
Michael Skibbe Named Hertha Berlin Coach
Veteran Bundesliga coach Michael Skibbe was named head man at Hertha Berlin a few days before Christmas, replacing the dismissed Markus Babbel. Skibbe was currently employed coaching Turkish SuperLig side Eskişehirspor, where he had taken over in July. Skibbe had led the Turkish club to fourth place in the table, with 30 points in 17 matches, trailing only traditional Turkish powerhouse teams Galatasaray, Fenerbahce and Besiktas at the end of the first half of the 2011-2012 SuperLig campaign.
Skibbe has been the head coach at Bundesliga sides Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and. most recently, Eintracht Frankfurt. Last season at Frankfurt he led the team to a surprising 7th place Hinrunde finish before the wheels fell off following winter break as the Eagles couldn’t score a goal and Skibbe was sacked in favor of Christoph Daum in March. He takes over a team that has performed very brightly at times in their bounceback season in the Bundesliga, but has failed to achieve consistency and is currently 11th in the league table, although still alive in the DFB Pokal competition. Babbel was dismissed abruptly after ongoing controversy with team officials.
Skibbe, 46, is a native of Gelsenkirchen. In 290 matches as a head coach both in Germany and Turkey (he also coached at Galatasaray), Skibbe has compiled a record of 126 wins, 68 draws and 96 losses.
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