Hamburg’s Continual Sale of young Stars is Cause for their Demise

There was a time when Hamburger SV were at the top of not only the German landscape, but all of Europe as well. Hamburg won the Bundesliga and CL in the 1982/83 season, after winning the league in the previous season as well. But these days, HSV are a far cry from where they used to be, with relegation battles and hopes for a mid-table finish being the new norm in Hamburg. There are a lot of causes for this decline, but the main reason is that they’ve sold young players far too quickly. Some players were sold by HSV to other leagues, many were sold to other German clubs,  but all of the young stars sold too early would be in the red-shorts’ first team today.

Players Sold Abroad

Since there have been so many young talents sold by HSV in recent seasons, let’s start with the ones who they sold abroad. This list includes Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany, Turkey international Gökhan Töre, World Cup winner and German international Shkodran Mustafi, and Bosnia international Muhamed Bešić. All of these players are high quality players with a lot of talent and physical ability who would certainly get into the Hamburg side of today, and they were all sold at an early age for different reasons.

hsvFirst let’s start with Kompany, who has had the best career of any player in this category so far. The Belgian is one of the world’s best central defenders when fit, and he has the honors to show for it, since his move to Manchester City, for a stunning price of only 6 million pounds,

Kompany has been the heart and soul of the Citizens during their rise to elite status in England.

He’s won the Premier League title twice, an FA cup, two league cups and the community shield. And then as an individual, he won the Premier League and City player of the year in 2010/11 while being named to the team of the year 3 times. He won the player of the year two seasons after being sold for (once again only 6 million), and when a player who wins that award costs less than 10 million pounds, you know that you messed up severely.

But besides the Belgian, the Köln-born Töre’s sale is as mystifying as Kompany’s. He came to HSV from the Chelsea youth ranks in 2011 following the move of Chelsea Sporting Director Frank Arnesen to the same role at Hamburg. Töre created 6 assists in his first Bundesliga Hinrunde and had his first callup from Turkey’s national team coach, the renowned Guus Hiddink.  A meniscus injury curtailed much of his Ruckrunde, and after the season ended the teenager was sold to Rubin Kazan for a profit.  Although he played little in Russia, he was loaned and eventually sold to Beşiktaş, where he’s been a solid performer and been involved in European play every season, and he’s still only 24 years-old.   Letting a player like him get away to turn a profit would be a risky gamble for a consistently successful club, and it’s even worse for a side that’s struggled like Hamburg.

The next one on the list is Mustafi, who as previously stated won the World Cup in 2014, and has become a fixture in Joachim Low’s squad. Mustafi has also been one of the La Liga’s best defenders for Valencia with a 7.37 match rating this season, and the German has a lot of Champions League experience as well. Mustafi is one of the best central defenders in the world, and he would certainly anchor the Hamburg defense.

The last player in this list is Everton’s young Bosnian Muhamed Bešić, who is a great young talent on his own right. At only 23, Bešić is wanted by bigger clubs after making his international debut on 2010, while he was still on Hamburg. After featuring in the 2014 World Cup, and seeing his role increase on Everton, he is certainly a young midfielder that Hamburg would love to have these days.

All of these players would be in the first team for HSV, and if they had Kompany, Mustafi and Bešić , they would have a great defensive side that would certainly be much better than what they have now. That center-back combination might be the best outside of Munich and Dortmund in the Bundesliga, but it now can only be a wistful thought for Hamburg supporters.

Stars Sold to Other Bundesliga Clubs

Now if you are a Hamburg supporter who has managed to get to this point, you might want to cringe when you read the names they’ve given to their rivals. The young stars they have sold include Germany’s newest international Jonathan Tah, Sidney Sam, Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Levin Öztunalı, Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Heung-Min Son (now in England with Spurs), Alexander Meier, and Andre Hahn. All of these players, who are now either rising prospects or established Bundesliga stars were sold by Hamburg at a young age.


The most startling of all of these names has to be Jonathan Tah, who has been in terrific form for most of the season. The 20-year-old defender was born in Hamburg and has risen through the ranks at Die Rothosen. Tah was supposed to be a key player for them, especially after a successful loan spell at Fortuna Düsseldorf in the 2. Bundesliga. But instead, he was sold for 7.5 million euros to Leverkusen in the summer. In the short period of time since then, the price of gaining Tah’s signature is rising quickly (he’s now valued at 10 million euros).  The fact that Hamburg let go of a hometown kid for that little is stunning. Tah is better than any defender in Hamburg at the moment, and he would certainly get into the first team with his impressive size, strength and potential.

Besides Tah, the sale of Öztunalı is surprising in it’s own right. Being a hometown kid, and the grandson of Hamburg icon Uwe Seeler, you would’ve expected him to play for Hamburg at some point. But rising through their youth ranks,  the 20 year-old was sold to Leverkusen before ever making a senior appearance. Öztunalı would likely be in the first team as well, at the least in the rotation. as he’s already earned over 50 Bundesliga appearances with Die Werkself and Werder Bremen while a teenager. Losing him is embarrassing, and these continued firesales of young talent have certainly damaged Hamburg’s image among fans.

The next few players they sold became key players for Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen, players that once again HSV gave up on at an early age. Sam and Choupo-Moting were both let go before ever establishing themselves in the first team. Sam only made 4 senior appearances, before being loaned to Kaiserslautern and subsequently sold to Leverkusen. He has since become a German international, and although his career trajectory has flattened recently at Schalke, the quality he demonstrated the first years after leaving HSV were sorely missed by the north German club.

The story is the same for Choupo-Moting, who made 23 senior appearances and was then loaned to 1. FC Nürnberg before being sold to Mainz. With the Carnival club, he had multiple 10 goal seasons before going to Gelsenkirchen. After those impressive seasons, the striker who was born in the greater Hamburg area and now has 33 caps for Cameroon would be a premier player for Hamburg, who certainly lack goalscorers.

Besides the two Schalke players, former Leverkusen star Son and current star Çalhanoğlu are certainly players they would like back. Son now resides in England, but the South Korean became an international during his Hamburg days in 2010. After moving to Leverkusen for only 10 million, Son became a star and was shipped to Tottenham for 30 million, triple the price that Bayer bought him for. If HSV had been able to hold onto him for a little bit longer, they would’ve received much more than they did. Son would be the best player on Hamburg with his pace, skill and reputation.


Just like Son, Çalhanoğlu was terrific during his year with HSV.  He scored 11 goals, with 4 assists, for the red-shorts in 2013/2014 and made his Turkish senior squad debut months after joining the red-shorts, all of which led to a 14.5 million move to (once again) Leverkusen. Ever since the move, he has established himself with Turkey, and just like Tore looks set to start for them in this summer Euros. While he hasn’t always been his best at Bayer, Çalhanoğlu would easily be in the Hamburg first team, and he could be sold for around 30 million this summer. His creativity and set-piece abilities have been missed by Hamburg for sure.  And Hahn, who played for Hamburg’s reserves from 2008-2010, took longer to make a Bundesliga impression than the others, as he was let go on a free transfer after his time at HSV II.  His display at FC Augsburg, though, was impressive enough to earn him a transfer to Borussia Mönchengladbach and European play, although injury has limited his appearances with Die Fohlen since he joined them in the summer of 2014.

Meier had a brief tenure at Hamburg that resembles that of Sam and Choupo-Moting. Meier’s sale has really come back to haunt Hamburg.  After playing in HSV’s youth system, the future Fußballgott Meier started the professional phase of his career with bitter local rivals FC St. Pauli.  Back with HSV, Meier made only 4 red-short senior squad appearances in 2003 before being sold to Eintracht Frankfurt in 2004, where he’s since scored 113 league goals while capturing two Bundesliga scoring titles (one of them in the 2nd division). He’s a legend for Frankfurt and, even at the age of 33, has 12 league goals this season for Die Adler in only 17 matches and is far more lethal than anyone at HSV.

After selling so many star players at a young age, one wonders where Hamburg would be in the table with this group of players. They would certainly be in the top 8, and a European berth would be a reasonable objective every season.  No doubt all clubs make mistakes evaluating talents — it is an imperfect science, and the financial needs of a club are certainly understandable.  But for a club from Germany’s second-largest city, a club with a solid European pedigree and 6 German championships, this continual draining away of talent has unquestionably been a huge reason for their downturn.  

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Alex Lynch

Alex a passionate fan of the Bundesliga and German Football who resides in the United States, who also loves writing and talking about the Bundesliga.