Football exists for the sake of the transfer market, right? If you doubt me, our page view metrics certainly seem to support this claim. Bet you’ll never guess what the Bundesliga Fanatic‘s most popular article of all is (based on page views). Here, give it a click. And this transfer didn’t even happen.
Shame on y’all. (And Prem-Gooners, whose message boards sent you there.)
So let’s stick with transfers that actually happened. As in already happened through this summer.
It’s time to round up the priciest transfers both in and out of the Bundesliga thus far.
Why bother, you ask? (A question of my own heart!) Well, these transfers and the funds involved illustrate dynamics at play not only within the Bundesliga, but also within Euro football, especially the disproportionate weight of all that Premier League TV money.
Remember, this is supposed to be the summer in which the Premier League overspends for everything.
Below, I’ve listed the 10 “Biggest” Transfers, according to Transfermarkt.com, based both on transfer fee and player market value. (O Transfermarkt, how many children, oblations, and sacrifices do I owe you for your bounteous data?) Basically, this list reveals the Bundesliga’s 10 priciest transfers (both into the league and out of the league) so far for this summer.
Ready for our first surprise?
1. Granit Xhaka
From: Borussia Mönchengladbach
To: Arsenal (Premier League)
Price: 45 million €
Comments: Lol, Premier League and Arsenal. I mean, we’ve loved our Mr. Xhaka these past seasons in the Bundesliga, but 45 million €? Behold Prem League Over-Payment, Exhibit #1. Although Xhaka will definitely boost Arsenal’s midfield, he’s not deserving of the priciest transfer label, given some of the other names on this list. Hell, Xhaka might not even be the best holding midfielder on this page. (Christoph Kramer, anyone?) After a slightly underwhelming Euro 2016 performance from Xhaka, Gooners are probably already thinking that Arsene’s messed it all again. Patience, patience. Holding midfielders are the fine wine of football. Let ’em breath. Sniff for the varietals. Just ignore the price.
2. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
From: Borussia Dortmund
To: Manchester United (Premier League)
Price: 42 million €
Comments: Ouch. As an BVB partisan, this one hurts emotionally. I fell in love with “Mkhi” last season. The Armenian central attacking midfielder was the Bundesliga’s best player last seasons. His 11 goals, 15 assists, and 2.7 key passes (per match) were the fodder of greatness and will be impossible to replace on a one-for-one basis this upcoming season. Gulp. But did Man U and – by extension – the Prem League overpay for him? I don’t think so. Mkhitaryan is at his career summit and can provide the motoring creativity Man U sorely lack. More importantly, how will BVB replace him? A partial answer to this question lies below. Finally, if you’re keeping track of this list, so far 87 million € of Premier League money traveled to the Bundesliga. This number will grow by this article’s end.
3. Mats Hummels
From: Borussia Dortmund
To: Bayern Munich
Price: 38 million €
Comments: Sure, ouch for us BVBers. On the bright side, this transfer and Mkhitaryan’s net 80 million € for Dortmund. But football is not banking. It’s a game requiring footballers. And Hummels is a seasoned world class footballer. Speaking of footballers, BVB’s captain joins the supreme lord Jerome Boateng in Bayern’s back line, which is also Jogi Löw’s pairing of choice for the national team. This transfer is good for Germany. I’ll take one for the team. However, I’m wondering how Hummels’ deep runs and long ground ball style will square with Boateng’s already established prominent passing role and Ancelotti’s tactics. Regardless, enjoy your home-coming, Mats.
4. Renato Sanches
From: Benfica (Liga NOS)
To: Bayern Munich
Price: 35 million €
Comments: Sizzling. Sanches is packed with potential. He’s a physical ball-winning holding winner, who can spring for blazing runs and dribbles on the attack. A festival of a deep-lying play maker. Plus, he can score the odd golazo. I’m ready to declare that Johnnes Geis is already the poor man’s Sanches. But that price. It’s high for a player with Sanches’ rawness (e.g. his somewhat clumsy ball winning and unpredictable first touch), yet Benfica must know they were sitting on an explosive talent and made Bayern pay dearly for him. Thinking lineups and tactics, Sanches will surely be Arturo Vidal’s midfield partner (an Ancelotti 4-2-3-1 in the work, anybody?). Talk about yellow card city, not to mention sore opponent hips, legs, and ankles. Yes, Bayern overpaid (according to Transfermarkt’s estimate by 15 million €), but what’s the Bundesliga’s Premier League Riches equivalent side going to do?
5. Ilkay Gündogan
From: Borussia Dortmund
To: Manchester City (Premier League)
Price: 27 million €
Comments: Such a move was bound to happen once “Illy” got healthy after his missed season. We always knew BVB was a stepping stone to bigger things for the German international midfielder. However, so many questions dog Gündogan, such as simply “Will Gündogan be able to play another full season of top shelf football?” Not a trivial inquiry by any means, given Illy’s ill-fated injury woes. Three seasons ago, this transfer would sound about right. However, today it’s a major dice roller for Pep Guardiola and Man City. There’s no telling which Gündogan the powder blue is getting. Yet BVB is losing a major, major piece of their system. When healthy, Gündogan controls the midfield like few in world football with his smarts and technical mastery, like instantly changing the direction of play or always picking out the most dangerous pass. At least this transfer makes 108 million € in profits for BVB this summer. No, really.
6. Breel Embolo
From: FC Basel (Super League)
To: Schalke 04
Price: 27 million €
Comments: This name should sound familiar from the 2016 Euros. Embolo featured regularly for Switzerland. The 19 year old attacking midfielder / central forward is a dribbling maestro. In 90 matches, he scored 31 goals and 22 assists for talent-making factory FC Basel in Switzerland. Did I mention he plays central forward? You know, that rarest of positions, which helps explain his 27 million € price tag. Aside the from the usual maturing needed for a player of his age, Embolo already possesses a dangerous sense of timing his runs (Johnnes Geis is watering his own mouth right now). Your Klaus Huntelaar replacement has arrived, S04 faithful. And possibly your Leroy Sane replacement as well. Two birds with one stone! Nevertheless, the Bundesliga’s talent pool certainly enlarged itself with Embolo’s arrival.
7. Kevin Volland
From: 1899 Hoffenheim
To: Bayer Leverkusen
Price: 20 million €
Comments: Honestly, I had no idea Volland transferred till I wrote this piece. I supposed it’s time – spectulation about Volland’s transfer from Hoffenheim started about 3 seasons ago after all. Leverkusen played a pretty € for a player who’s underperformed for back-to-back seasons now. (16 goals and 17 assists for Volland during his last two seasons at Hoffenheim.) Presumably, boss Roger Schmidt envisions at Chicharito / Volland partner atop in his 4-4-2 shape. Sorry, Kieß. I get the sense that Volland will be well-suited to Schmidt’s pressing set up, plus this son-of-a-hockey-player has the type of stocky physique for winning balls and angling in on achingly straight lines into the opponent’s box.
8. Joel Matip
From: Schalke 04
To: Liverpool FC (Premier League)
Price: Free Transfer (18 million € “market value”)
Comments: A sneakily significant transfer, errrr free deal. Schalke’s best defender and leader is off to join Jürgen Klopp’s Liverpool. Only 24, Matip has years of top notch football left in him. Besides his defensive accomplishments, Matip also scored 3 goals and assisted on 3 more for S04. Moreover, Matip, along with keeper Ralf Fährmann, led his team in minutes played last season (3,060 minutes). Matip’s transfer is a massive loss for Schalke both in terms of replacing his skills and the lost money. Transfermarkt estimates Matip’s market value at 18 million €; however, as some have argued, there really is no such thing as a proper transfer “market” right now with somewhat anchored price expectations. Instead, rocketing revenue streams from the likes of gaudy TV rights have upended expectations. There simply is raw supply and demand in which those with money (e.g. Premier League clubs) essentially “overpay” for players. Going back to Matip, it’s likely Schalke could’ve earned much more than 18 million € for their stalwart centerback. After all, aside from central forwards, centerbacks are football’s rarest fine good.
9. Ousmane Dembélé
From: Rennes (Ligue 1)
To: Borussia Dortmund
Price: 15 million €
Comments: Because BVB isn’t a bank, some of that 108 million € in transfer profits had to spent somehow. Enter French teenager Ousmane Dembélé, an attacking midfielder slated to take over Mkhitaryan’s role. Although he favored the right attacking midfield slightly more at Rennes, you will find all over the central attacking midfield in videos. He’s eerily similar to Mkhitaryan in many clips. With long legs, Dembélé can run past and around defenders. He had 12 goals and 5 assists through 29 matches with Rennes. The darling of French football, Dembélé was feted by many clubs, choosing BVB as his new home. In this light, the 15 million € price tag a decent deal, given the competition for Dembélé’s signature. However, contrasted with the likes of Sanches and Embolo on this list, Dembélé is relatively inexperienced with a single Ligue 1 season under his belt. So he’s green. But we all know what Thomas Tuchel tends to do with green youngsters.
10. Naby Keïta
From: RB Salzburg (Austrian Bundesliga)
To: RB Leipzig
Price: 15 million €
Comments: Oh, hello there RB Leipzig. You’ve found yourself a nice little central midfielder, haven’t you? Guinean Naby Keïta, 21, is shipped up the Red Bull-run stream to the eastern German Bundesliga newbies. Keïta thrives in flowing open play, especially counters when his speed, passing vision, and tidy finishing can thrive. Given the likelyhood that other Bundesliga clubs won’t be parking the bus every week against Leipzig, Keïta could have a monster season for the RBs. In 81 matches, he managed to score 20 goals with 11 assists for RB Salzburg, so he comes to Leipzig already seasoned. With Keïta being added, RB Leipzig’s attack will be wonderful. And 15 million € seems like a nice price for Keïta, given what clubs could demand of money-bloated RB Leipzig. God only knows how business deals work between these RB-owned clubs. I’m putting my fingers in my ears.
Christoph Kramer (from Leverkusen to Gladbach for 15 million €), Raphaël Guerreiro (from FC Lorient to BVB for 12 million €), Marc Barta (from Barcelona to BVB for 8 million €), Sebastian Rode (from Bayern Munich to BVB for 12 million €), Timo Werner (from Werder Bremen to RB Leipig for 10 million €), Jeffrey Bruma (from PSV to VfL Wolfsburg for 11.5 million €), Daniel Didavi (from VfB Stuttgart to VfL Wolfsburg for free transfer – 7 million “market value”), Loris Karius (from Mainz 05 to Liverpool FC for 6.2 million €), Emre Mor (from Nordsjaelland to BVB for 7 million €), Jannik Vestergaard (from Werder Bremen to Gladbach for 12.5 million €), Pierre-Emile Højbjerg (from Bayern Munich to Southampton for 15 million €).
With these honorable mentions accounted for, it’s time to update our Premier League euros-spent-in-the Bundesliga tally: 135.2 million €.
I don’t know what to make of this number and how to square it with my expectations. I mean, I can’t tell if it sounds lower or higher than I expected. Clearly, some over-spending has happened (e.g. for Xhaka, Gündogan, and Højbjerg), but these buyers are mostly the usual suspects, except for Southampton. In other words, it’s not as if the likes of Sunderland, West Brom, or Bournemouth are buying Bundesliga players.
Anyhow, this summer has been expensive, especially the top four transfers on this list.
I’ll update this list at summer’s end, as final transfers are completed.