The clubs in Germany have had the chances to take a look at their performances during the Hinrunde and the transfer window during January has offered them the chance to strengthen their squads where needed. But, which players are set to have the biggest impact after arriving at their new clubs? Our team of editors has gone over all the transfers taking place, and here are each of their top three signings:
Niklas Wildhagen – Editor in Chief
1. Kevin de Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg) – Buying a player of the Belgian’s quality and dishing out this much cash during the winter transfer window is a clear statement of intent from the Klaus Allofs and the club from the city which produces inconspicuous cars. The Wolves are currently building a squad which potentially could challenge for the top 4 over the next few years.
2. Ludovic Obraniak (SV Werder Bremen) – Werder Bremen’s biggest problem so far this season has been the defence if one is going by pure numbers, however, the Green and Whites have left a lot to be desired when it comes to their attacking approach as well. Aaron Hunt has been the only who from time to time could provide the a spark of imagination. Signing the 32 times Polish international might just be one step into the right direction to solve this problem.
3. Ja-Cheol Koo (1. FSV Mainz 05) – The South Korean was unhappy at Wolfsburg and fearing for his chances to play in the upcoming World Cup. Mainz on the other hand side can put the talented midfielder to good use. Coach Thomas Tuchel went even as far as saying that their new acquisition could go straight into the team and strengthen on the pitch. Seems to be a perfect match!
Aleix Gwilliam – Editor
1. Andrés Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen): Able to play at left-back at left wing-back, Guardado is most definitely an improvement on current left-back Sebastian Boenisch, especially coming in on a free loan that will only see die Werkself pay part of his wages. Guardado has a peach of a left foot that is capable of scoring stunning long-range goals or producing great assists, which will much improve Bayer’s offensive capabilities on the left and allow Son Heung-Min to move inside with more freedom of movement. His defensive skills aren’t as outstanding but his composure and confidence on the ball more than make up for it.
2. Kevin de Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg): It’s hard not to see past the most expensive Bundesliga transfer in January. Going back to Chelsea was a huge mistake for the Belgian (perhaps misled by the club) and his excellent performances last year for Werder Bremen should increase for Wolfsburg due to the better quality he’ll have around him. With Diego out of the picture, he’ll be the team’s main playmaker and the cornerstone of any success that Wolfsburg may have in the future. Despite the 20m€ fee, Wolfsburg may have pulled one of the biggest Bundesliga transfer coups in recent years.
3. Ola John (HSV): We’ve only seen roughly an hour of football of Ola John in the HSV shirt but it was a highly-encouraging performance. He seems to have all the capabilities that Bert van Marwijk’s team lacked going forward on the wings, such as pace, dribbling and directness. He will improve proportionally to his adaptation and will most likely be a huge impact in the HSV attack as well as providing assists to Pierre-Michel Lasogga. Only on loan from Benfica, if he carries on improving he could be on for a permanent move in the summer.
Gerry Wittmann – Founder
1. Artjoms Rudnevs (Hannover 96): The 25 year striker had his breakout season with Hamburger SV last season, scoring 12 times in 34 matches. During this season’s Ruckrunde, however, he lost his starting position with HSV and appeared only seven times in Bundesliga play without scoring, but his early January loan deal to Hannover has seen a re-birth of the Latvian’s fortunes. By being signed early in the transfer window, Rudnevs had the luxury of a full training camp with new 96er Coach Tayfun Korfut and has come out of the gates like a greyhound for Hannover, scoring the first goal of each of their Ruckrunde matches as the 96ers earned wins over quality adversaries Wolfsburg and Gladbach. Reportedly Hannover is paying 500,000 euros to have Rudnevs for the remainder of the season, and could obtain him permanently for 2,000,000 euros. If he continues producing like he has, both figures are bargains.
2. Andrés Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen): After some off and on negotiations with Valencia CF, Die Werkself finally got their man, Mexican international Guardado. Leverkusen got the coveted midfielder on loan, with the option to buy, from the financially strapped Spanish side late in the transfer window, and Guardado will need time to adapt to a new league, language and culture. But the Mexican brings a wealth of international and club experience in both Mexico and Spain, and at only 27 year of age, has the talent to make Leverkusen fans forget Sidney Sam when he leaves for Schalke this summer.
3. Ja-Cheol Koo (1. FSV Mainz 05): Mainz are 2-0-0 since the arrival of Ja-Cheol Koo, with the newcomer coming off the bench in both games to help Mainz to victory. He opened his Mainz goal-scoring account Saturday with an accurate curling shot against SC Freiburg. Koo had never been able to really establish himself at Wolfsburg, but was outstanding while loaned to FC Augsburg last season and now looks again to perform at a high level for Mainz. Signed to a long-term deal at Mainz, Coach Thomas Tuchel’s squad will benefit not only from the South Korean’s talent but his leadership as captain of his national team squad.
Travis Timmons – Editor
1. Kevin de Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg): I don’t care if we are sounding like a broken tape player, or that I’m not being original for this pick. You can’t ignore the de Bruyne signing. Big news. Last season, us Bundesliga lovers swooned over de Bruyne’s slick and deadly play in Bremen’s attack (err, he was their attack) and were sad to see another fantastic Bundesliga talent lost to “greener pastures.” Not anymore. He’s back, and debuted immediately in VfL’s starting eleven as the central attacking midfielder – a testament to the 22 year old’s “with-it-ness.” This signing sends a message to the rest of the Bundesliga: VfL are going for it – right here, right now. Although I suspect it will be at least a few until de Bruyne play cohesively in the midfield with his new teammates, he’s talented enough to figure things out quickly. Hats off to the Wolves for grabbing an assist-maker, “key passes” god, and scorer.
2. Artoms Rudnevs (Hannover 96): Hannover’s loan signing of Rudnevs makes my list simply for the paltry cost, only 300,000 €. A stunning bargain for a player of Rudnevs’ accomplishments (100 goals in 221 appearances) in Latvia, Poland, and the Bundesliga’s Hamburger SV. With this loan deal, H96 immediately adds a pacy striker, who beelines toward the goal, like iron filings drawn to a magnet. This move alone could both help Hannover legitimately contends for a Europa slot and begin picking up more points of the road, as the menace created by direct strikers like Rudnevs are invaluable at home and away. Kudos to H96.
3. Ondrej Petrák (1.FC Nürnberg): I’m going out on a limb here. Call it the “obscure indie band ” pick of the lot. Hear me out. Der Club lost both Timm Klose (centerback) and Timmy Simons (defensive midfielder) from last season’s mildly successful club. This season, 1.FCN have mostly drawn and lost their way through the Hinrunde; they leaked goals, while blue chipper Mike Frantz struggled to take other in Simons position as the lone holding midfielder in Nürnberg’s 4-1-4-1 formation. Although Frantz finally seems to be settling in, 1.FCN added another option in the defensive midfield, but also at centerback. In his debut, Petrák started at centerback along with Javier Pinola, who was shifted over from leftback. Petrák, a Czech U21 international signed from Slavia Prague on a 3 year deal, adds valuable versatility. He can become a “modern” passing centerback in the Hummels/Dante mold with the ability to penetrate into the midfield, thanks to his experience as a defensive midfielder. As Der Club look to surge out of the relegation zone (on the heels of back-to-back), Petrák’s play in the defensive half will certainly be a key element of the turnaround. Well played by Der Club.
Cristian Nyari – Editor-In-Chief
1. Kevin de Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg): As several of my colleagues said, the most high profile transfer in January could also turn out to be one of the best in a long time for the Wolves. De Bruyne and Wolfsburg might have gotten off to a slow start but there is no doubting his and the squad’s quality and Europe is a realistic target. De Bruyne was one of the league’s standout players during his loan spell at Bremen and he is one of the few players in the league who has the ability to take over a game on his own. If Dieter Hecking can give him the support he lacked at Bremen De Bruyne will undoubtedly be one of the league’s elite performers.
2. Ja-Cheol Koo (1. FSV Mainz 05): This one was a bit under the radar but there is a reason Mainz and their coach Thomas Tuchel have tried to sign the South Korean three times already. Wolfsburg’s bloated squad meant Koo was finally allowed to leave and Tuchel could not be happier. In the versatile 24-year-old, Mainz have a player tailor-made for Tuchel’s high pressing, constantly changing and exciting team. Koo’s performances at Wolfsburg often went under the radar but he was an important performer in each game, as he also proved in his loan spell at Augsburg last season where he was integral in the club’s turnaround to beat the drop. With an aging squad and lots of expected turnover, Koo could become a key part in Mainz’s future.
3. Andrés Guardado (Bayer Leverkusen): This was a close call between the Mexican and Augsburg’s Dong-Won Ji but Guardado’s arrival is significant for several reasons. For one, it seems to finally solve the long-standing left-back issue for Leverkusen. Several players have been rotated in and out of the role but Guardado should make it his own and give the team a much needed balance on that side. Two, it brings to the Bundesliga and Leverkusen one of the most marketable Mexican footballers in the last decade, a player with 99 caps for his country and a great reputation for the national team. Finally, Guardado is just a great player to watch and fits the excitement, pace and technical characteristics of the Bundesliga perfectly.
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