Fulham Benefits from German Imports

From a Bundesliga fans’ perspective,  one may sometimes become furious if a succession of star players departs to another league., but is there an alternative market for the player that is unwanted or surplus to requirements? The ex-Hamburg coach Martin Jol, for instance, has had success signing several players from Germany for his Fulham team; players who were more easily accessible than highly rated, and Jol’s club has skilfully benefitted from these additions in a short-term spell.

Jol, who was hired to lead Fulham in July, 2011, began bringing in Bundesliga players last season with Stuttgart’s Pavel Pogrebnyak, who scored five goals in his first three appearances, while during his next nine games he only managed to score one goal, mirroring the Russian striker’s career at Stuttgart.

It was essentially a poker game between Jol and Pogrebnyak: the 57 year-old Dutch coach needed swift short-term fix by filling in the void in attack, while the towering striker himself required match fitness and had deviously took the opportunity to play himself into a transfer move; he ended up signing a four-year deal at Reading. One could argue that Jol benefited the most in his quest to find short-term value in the Bundesliga.

Although Pogrebnyak had other intentions, you can’t argue with the impact on Sascha Riether’s current loan spell, as the humble right-back has warmed to the heart of Fulham fans with his exuberant and tireless efforts across the byline. It was a shrewd capture from Jol, particularly by bringing the best out of Riether’s ability, which wasn’t the case during his time at Köln. It’s only a matter of time before that option to purchase will triggered.

Similar praises can be drawn concerning Fulham’s acquisition of Ashkan Dejagah, who seems to be peaking late in his career, was not a bad signing for €2.5m from Wolfsburg. His work ethic and contribution to the team bodes well with fans, not to mention, he offers genuine pace which is rarity in Jol’s current squad selection.

Continuing with Jol’s Bundesliga signings, there was a sense of inevitability that along with two past teammates, who have become key squad members at Fulham, comes an equal measure that would make an opposite impact. Jol was reunited with Mladen Petrić and signed Mickaël Tavares (remember him?) on a free transfer merely to add depth in the squad. Tavares didn’t play a single minute and bizarrely left in January, as the striker Petrić had slipped down pecking order ever since the former Bayer Leverkusen star Dimitar Berbatov joined.

Although Jol was in control at Hamburg for one season, his sale of players late in August was scarily alike to Fulham last summer. The difference was the transfer funds: he was allowed to spend relatively big and construct a team with high ambitions at Hamburg, while at Fulham, Jol has a restricted transfer budget, which has inevitably reduced his pool of targets; supposedly located in his trustworthy leagues of Holland, Germany and England.

Jol’s Bundesliga signings have fixed and solved temporary problems, but he should continue with the search for value and particularly use similar stable clubs as an example on how to build a young exiting squad with the intention to buy-to-sell and continue that cycle. Successful models of how to construct a team while overachieving relative to budget constraints can be found at Bundesliga clubs such as Freiburg, Mainz, Hannover or even Armin Veh’s Eintracht Frankfurt — all interesting clubs with legitimate shots of earning European berths for next season..

In the same month when Fulham loaned Pogrebnyak, Hannover went for the vice-versa approach with their acquisition of Mame Diouf from Manchester United. The long-term viewpoint benefits Mirko Slomka’s team because he can make a fortune of a player with growing confidence. These are one of the examples of why Bundesliga clubs are leading the way for smooth transfer deals. Jol should continue the relation.

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Mani lives in London. He currently writes about Fulham and is a club editor at pickourteam.com. Elsewhere, he's keen to contribute his thoughts on Bundesliga football and enjoys following big matches around Europe. You can follow him on twitter @_mani11.

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