Borussia-Park’s entry door has received its fair share of usage this week as Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Sport Director Max Eberl has been busy at work bolstering his club’s defensive ranks, ensuring seventeen year old English full back Mandela Egbo and eighteen year old Swiss centre back Nico Elvedi will link up with the club in the new season, coming from Crystal Palace and FC Zürich respectively.
Both Egbo and Elvedi are, naturally, exciting signings. It’s not just that two talented young players will be playing for the club in the coming years, but the signing of the two indicates the club’s increasing influence throughout the European game, and further consolidates Borussia’s standing as an attractive option for young players wishing to receive their first big break in football. The signings also signify an exciting development in the club’s transfer policy, as the club begins to invest in long-term prospects to improve the team in the future, rather than right away. So what, exactly, should we expect of Egbo and Elvedi in the short and long-term?
Mandela Egbo, who has signed for the club for the nominal fee of around €300,000, has taken the somewhat unusual step for an English player of his age and upped sticks from his comfortable surroundings of London, a city in which he was born and has played his entire youth career thus far, in favour of a switch to European football. The last English player to play in the Bundesliga was Michael Mancienne, and since then only one other English player has made a similar step – England youth defender Danny Collinge joined VfB Stuttgart last summer.
In that sense, Egbo, who is the same age as Collinge, could prove somewhat of a trailblazer for future English youth players. With a bright future seemingly ahead; he won the U17 European Championships last year and has since represented England U18s; Egbo turned down a professional contract at Selhurst Park in order to further his career in Germany. A brave step.
Eberl has stated that Egbo’s immediate future lies with Borussia’s U23 squad, which last year won the Regionalliga West. At the age of 17, and given his lack of first team experience in England too, this isn’t particularly surprising, but nonetheless the youngster will be hoping to prove himself well enough to win a first team squad space in the next few years. With a contract which runs until 2019, time is certainly on his side to do just that.
Nico Elvedi will already be familiar to Borussia Mönchengladbach fans with an excellent memory given that he has actually already played at his new home ground before, losing 3-0 with previous club FC Zürich, who are also the former club of new coach Lucien Favre and future teammates Raffael and Josip Drmic.
A year Egbo’s senior, and having made 26 professional appearance (five in the Europa League), Elvedi will be an immediate candidate for the first team – challenging much more established players such as Stranzl, Jantschke, Dominguez and Brouwers for some playing time – while also perhaps turning out for Borussia’s U23s every now and then too.
A fee of €4m has been reported, but for a player who has been described as Switzerland’s best young defensive prospect, able to play at not just his main position of centre back but also in defensive midfield and at full back if needed, and having the experience of captaining his country at youth level, it could just be worth it for a player who, in a few years, could be at the top of his game. It’ll certainly be easier than usual for Elvedi to settle into the squad given the number of compatriots at Borussia-Park; with Elvedi joining Sommer, Xhaka and Drmic, the club are one short of a top class 5-a-side team, complete with a manager.
Altogether, though, both signings show an exciting shift in transfer policy at Borussia-Park to one which will help ensure a quality team for the club in the future. Borussia have a very stable defence, one of the best in the league if looking at clean sheets and amount of goals conceded, but with the aging figures of Martin Stranzl and Roel Brouwers playing important roles this season it’s certainly important that the club begin to look towards bringing in future stalwarts.
In years gone by, this might have been achieved by signing a ready-made replacement; however, the recognition that veterans Stranzl and Brouwers are still playing at a very high level and obviously have something to give could perhaps help ease the burden on the young signings of Egbo and Elvedi in their early stint at Borussia-Park. Additionally, these signings also mean that the club only have to splash out a relatively small amount of cash for what could become a pair of future fixtures of the starting XI. There has been reported interest in Matthias Ginter this summer – he’ll stay in Dortmund for the meanwhile – but with a loan of 19-year old Danish defender Andreas Christensen, currently of Chelsea, also reportedly in the works, Eberl is quite clearly attempting to add youth to a currently experienced set-up, to add cover for now and bolster the younger players’ experience in the longer term.
Both Egbo and Elvedi have deals at Borussia-Park which run until 2019 – the same is the case for the likes of Xhaka, Herrmann, Sommer and Drmic, while Stindl and Hazard are contracted until 2020 – and so the clear strategy at Borussia-Park is to now build on the success of the past few years, which has seen the club shift from relegation scraps to European nights.