The 3:0 loss suffered by 1. FC Köln at the hands of FC Kaiserslautern last Friday has had more repercussions than just removing Köln from their place among the top three less than a week after achieving the position for the first time all season.
As much as fans of the Effzeh would likely prefer to wish it were not so, failure to gain the direct return to the Bundesliga is likely to cost the club one of their best young talents, as the talents of Christian Clemens may have simply proven themselves to be too large to be contained in the second league.
Despite the club remaining only two points behind Kaiserslautern for the relegation-playoff spot, the decisive loss at Kaiserslautern seems to have sent a signal to top-tier teams. With VfL Wolfsburg, FC Schalke 04, and SV Werder Bremen all reportedly sniffing around the 21-year-old midfielder, the Billy Goats may need to utilize Clemens’ talents to catapult back into third place and win promotion over the next two months, or face the prospect of needing to replace his productivity in order to compete for a top-three spot in the 2013-14 season.
After a relatively slow start this season under new coach Holger Stanislawski, Clemens has seemingly found the form that made him one of the few bright spots in the dour 2012-13 season that ended in the club’s relegation. Clemens has scored four goals in Köln’s last eleven league matches, while assisting on four others. Additionally, Clemens has come through for his team in moments of need, scoring late goals against both FC Erzgebirge Aue and FSV Frankfurt to dramatically alter the apparent result and providing needed lift in the right spots during the 15-game unbeaten streak that allowed Köln to challenge for promotion.
Bundesliga clubs were not the only ones taking notice, it would seem, as Clemens earned his first call-up to Germany’s under-21 national club in March.
Clemens’ current contract runs through June 2014, but reportedly contains a buy-out clause (2.5 million Euro) that could, along with the prospect of losing a valuable player for nothing next summer, force 1. FC Köln’s hand in the wake of a failed promotion chase, especially considering the continually perilous state of the club finances.
Though Clemens himself has been relatively tight-lipped on the topic of a transfer, a representative of Clemens confirmed to “Sport Bild” the interest of Bundesliga clubs and that Clemens aspires to play in the Bundesliga.
Any of the three teams reportedly inquiring at this point would seem to be able to fulfill that goal for Clemens in the coming season.
Schalke could be particularly appealing as they are in a strong position to be playing in Europe next year, as well as having already secured enough points to assure they will remain in the Bundesliga next season. The return of Ibrahim Afellay to FC Barcelona upon the expiration of his loan this summer would open a roster spot for a midfielder with left wing responsibilities, a role in which Clemens has shined.
Though Wolfsburg and Bremen are not currently under threat of relegation, nor is either club likely to achieve a spot in Europe for next season.
Having hired Dieter Hecking over the winter break, Wolfsburg could be looking at redefining their squad under his leadership, potentially opening an opportunity for a young, talented player to become a key part to an emerging project.
The situation in Bremen is yet a little more cloudy. Thomas Schaaf’s tenure as manager has not been openly threatened, but since general manager Klaus Allofs departed Bremen for Wolfsburg, rumors of an impending change in sideline leadership have swirled regularly, growing more vigorous as the on-field results have disappointed. Bremen has not won any of their last seven matches and find themselves in 14th place, just 7 points above the relegation zone. Even assuming Bremen does at enough to retain the class, big changes could be ahead for the club.