The winter break is rolling along, and we’re now less than two weeks until the Ruckrunde kickoff, kicking off with the massive Friday showdown between Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayern Munich on January 20. Teams are in camp, transfers and injuries occur, and Bayer Leverkusen’s Coach Robin Dutt recently received the club’s dreaded vote of confidence.
Bundesliga cellar dwellers SC Freiburg have made a move to bolster the league’s worst defense by acquiring Ligue 2 central defender Fallou Diagne, 22, from Metz. The native of Dakar joined Metz in 2007 and became a regular last season, appearing in 35 matches, and has featured in 16 fixtures in the first half of the current season, scoring five goals in the last year and a half. He joins the Breisgua-Brazilians on a 500,000 euro fee. Freiburg and their new coach, Christian Streich, hope to replicate the success with Diagne that they’ve experienced acquiring his former Metz teammate, Pappis Demba Cisse, who is also from Senegal.
Borussia Monchengladbach have acquired the services of midfielder Alexander Ring, 20, on loan from HJK Helsinki through the summer of 2013, at which time the Foals will have the option to purchase Ring’s contract. The 5’8″ Finn came up in the Bayer Leverkusen youth system and has played 60 games for HJK and its reserve team, scoring 11 times. Ring started in Helsinki’s two Europa League matches against Schalke this fall that prompted the signing by Schalke of Helsinki teammate Teemu Pukki, and it will be very interesting to see if Ring can have the impact that Pukki has had in Gelsenkirchen. Ring also has earned 6 caps for Finland.
VfL Wolfsburg continue being by far the most active German club in this winter’s transfer window, adding seven new players. The latest two additions in the Volkswagen city are striker Ibrahim Sissoko,20, and 24 year-old Brazilian defender Felipe Aliste Lopes. Both have most recently played in the Portuguese Premier League, Sissoko for Academica and Lopes from CD Nacional. Lopes was acquired for 2.8 million euros on a contract that runs through June, 2015. The 6-foot central defender made 87 league appearances since 2007 with Nacional after beginning his career in Brazil with Guarani. Sissoko is a native of the Ivory Coast who played in 12 Portuguese matches for Academica this fall. Coming to Wolfsburg on a 1.5 million euro fee, he is also under contract through June, 2015. To help reduce the size of their roster, Wolfsburg have loaned Danish international midfielder Thomas Kahlenberg to Ligue 1 side Evian Thonon Gaillard. The 28 year-old’s contract with Wolfsburg expires in July.
Meanwhile, VfB Stuttgart have extended the contract of club leading scorer Martin Harnik through June, 2016. Team sporting director Fredi Bobic commented on the importance of the 24 year-old Austrian international to the success of Stuttgart. “Martin’s one of our most important goalgetters and does a great job in an attacking midfield role as well. He’s come on well during his time at VfB and is very popular both within the team and with the fans. Martin has a strong personality and a lot of potential to get even better. He creates a lot of chances for himself and just has to learn to be a bit more clinical with them. At VfB Stuttgart, he has the opportunity to keep maturing as a player.”
At Werder Bremen’s training camp in Belek, Turkey, Brazilian defender Naldo ended speculation of his leaving Bremen by announcing his future commitment to the team on Sunday. “I’m going to stay with Werder. I’m fully focused on Werder and want to get Bremen back into the Champions League. I was flattered by the interest from Brazil, but as of right now I’m only thinking about Werder,” stated the defender. “Klaus (sporting director Klaus Allofs) is happy with me and the fact I’m putting in good performances. I feel at home in Bremen. My family are happy here. My agent agrees that this was the best decision,” explained the defender with a smile on his face. “He’s going to come over to Germany within the next month to talk to Klaus himself. Why shouldn’t he then take the opportunity to talk about a contract extension?”
Schalke’s star striker, Raul, hopes to extend his contract in Gelsenkirchen. The 34 year-old former Real Madrid hero stated at a press conference in Doha that “I hope I can carry on playing with Schalke because I am very happy here,”We are very happy here – very happy [living] in Dusseldorf and with Schalke. I am optimistic that we will reach an agreement. At the moment, there is absolutely no reason not to extend my contract with Schalke.”
Another Bundesliga star, Michael Ballack, will not re-sign with Leverkusen following the expiration of his contract in June. “I signed on here for two years and it was clear for both parties from the very beginning that it was only planned for this period of time,” Ballack said. ”I then intended to do something different.’ Ballack has not ruled out continuing his playing career next season, possibly in China, although even a site such as sportsbook review may yet to have an insight to where Ballack will end up next summer — but personally I expect him to continue playing based on his current form.
Training Camp Injuries
While the happy Naldo may be unable to train in Belek due to his balky knee, Bayer Leverkusen received unpleasant news that the injury suffered by Sidney Sam will keep him sidelined. A torn upper thigh muscle was confimed by MRI examination, and team physio Dr. Karl-Heinrich Dittmar expects Sam to miss several weeks of training. On the positive side, defender Stefan Reinartz was given the all clear to resume play after problems with tendons below his knee.
A distressing injury occurred in Nurnberg’s training camp to short-term loanee Omar Gonzalez, 23. The 6’5″ Mexican-American defender has played a vital role for the MLS champion LA Galaxy since 2009, but his chance to show his talents for Der Club ended as he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee following a camp collision with American international Timothy Chandler. Gonzalez will undergo surgery back in Los Angeles, and was considered a potential replacement for Nurnberg defender Philipp Wollscheid, who joins Leverkusen in June. ”
That’s really bitter for Omar,” Martin Bender, the chief operating officer for Nurnberg, said. “He wanted to show us what he is capable of and we had great hopes for him. The important thing is for Omar to get healthy again. In the 24 hours he spent with us we got to know him as an interesting personality and player. We wish him all the best.” Gonzalez will be sidelined for at least six months, putting his MLS season on hold and delaying his opportunity in the Bundesliga. Nurnberg hopes to bring him back, and Coach Dieter Hecking remarked that “In only a day, we could see he is a good person and player. Everyone at the club wishes him the best recovery.” As does the staff of the Bundesliga Fanatic.
Dutt Receives Vote of Confidence
Bayer Leverkusen Wolfgang Holzhauser has given embattled first-year Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt a vote of confidence, with expectations that Die Werkself obtain a top four finish in the Bundesliga table this season.
“When I say that the coach is assured of his job, I don’t mean that only in the mid-term but also long-term,” Holzhauser told sport1.de. “Of course we know that questions are always going to be asked of the coach when the success is not quite how you would imagine it, but we made a good choice with Robin Dutt
“We knew that the year after Jupp Heynckes would be a tough one. Let’s not also forget that we have had a lot of injury misfortune.
“All things considered, we are satisfied with Robin Dutt’s work, even if we don’t have the amount of points that we had imagined at this stage of the season, but we expect to make up for that in the second half of the season.”