Freiburg’s Next Trick: Adapting to a Future without Rosenthal and Kruse

Last week it was announced that SC Freiburg midfielder Jan Rosenthal would be moving at the end of the season on a free transfer to Eintracht Frankfurt, signing a 3 year deal. While the move hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, it surely is a major setback that may hamper the Black Forest club in their quest for a European place this season, and could also see them in the relegation battle in the future.

To understand the significance of the absence of the Freiburg midfielder in the future, we need to look closer at the player. Rosenthal’s main position is listed as an attacking midfielder on both whoscored.com and transfermarkt.co.uk. However to date this season, he has been deployed almost exclusively as a striker, netting 4 goals and 3 assists for the Breisgau club that currently resides in the 8th berth in the Bundesliga table and also have notably booked a place in the DFB Pokal semifinals.  Rosenthal, a former German U-21, arrived at the club in July 2010 from Hannover 96, with Freiburg paying just under half a million Euros for his services. Through 62 games the midfielder, who turns 27 in April, has 11 goals and 4 assists.

To make matters worse for the Brazilians of Breisgau, the club will play next season without Max Kruse, who has come to an agreement on a four-year contract with Borussia Mönchengladbach. This season Kruse has featured in 30 matches, leading the team in both goals and assists with 8 each. While listed as a midfielder, 18 of his league appearances have been as a forward. The versatile Kruse, arrived at Freiburg last summer from St. Pauli for €750,000. Kruse has a release clause in his contract and will cost the Foals €2.5 million

According to transfermarkt.co.uk, the players have a combined current market value of €6.5 million, which is roughly 12% of the total value of Freiburg’s players. Not only is it a tough blow to lose the contributions of these two influential players, but even more galling is that Freiburg will receive much less than their financial value in return.  The club earns nothing from Rosenthal’s departure, and while the club is getting a return of €2.5 million on the Kruse deal, that’s still one million less than his current market value.

Others might suggest that Freiburg can overcome these loses, much like they did when Papiss Demba Cisse left the club for Newcastle. But there are profound differences in the two situations.  Freiburg received  €10.5 million from the English club for Cisse, still short of the €12.0 million he was valued at during the time, but a respectable amount. Moreover, Cisse’s sale occurred during the time when the club was threatened with relegation, whereas now they sit comfortably in mid-table and harbor aspirations greater than mere Bundesliga survival.

At the same time, Cisse went to the Premier League, leaving Germany altogether, while the two new departures will be moving over to rivals challenging Freiburg for spots in the top half of the table. Losing players of this quality is certainly a setback, as it will take time to blood in new players. For the club to take that next step and qualify for Europe they need stronger players who are capable of taking over games for their club.  Looking at their success this season, both Kruse and Rosenthal are those players, and replacing them will take time and money.

The upcoming run-in for Freiburg gives them a chance to improve on their European hopes, as they face the 3 teams around them, Gladbach, Hamburg, and Hannover in the next three weeks. Additionally,  Stuttgart’s indifferent current form gives Christian Streich’s club hope of reaching the DFB Pokal final, so Europe is attainable this season, but to do that Streich must keep his team focused on the goal at hand. Rosenthal and Kruse typically play a large role in the Freiburg attack, but that might need to be changed.

For Freiburg to reach the European spots through the league they’ll need to pass Mönchengladbach, Frankfurt, or both, putting the future departures in a tough spot of helping their current squad and potentially hurting their future team. It would be natural for players to have reservations about that, and by giving those players a strategic rest in certain games you could start to give future players opportunities and prepare for the future.

Header courtesy of Uwe Anspach/AFP Photo

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Andrew Smith

Born in Indiana, Andrew is a 27-year-old Social Studies teacher who has traveled to Germany on multiple occasions. He enjoys learning more of the tactical side of the game and can be followed on Twitter at andsmith_46.

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