With the players who left the Bundesliga in the summer along with Bayern’s consistency in buying Bundesliga stars, the good players in the Bundesliga are always a threat to take their talents elsewhere. Leverkusen fans have certainly learned that the hard way with their departures such as Heung-Min Son, Gonzalo Castro, Andre Schurrle and, way back when, Michael Ballack. The latest Leverkusen player to make waves in the Bundesliga such as these departed players did was Julian Brandt. The young German at one time had all of the reasons to stay in red and black, but after finding his own success and international stature along with Leverkusen’s remarkable struggles, now his departure looks inevitable.
Brandt’s Rising Stature
Brandt came to Leverkusen in January, 2014 from Wolfsburg’s youth academy as a highly touted prospect in German football who has played for every German national youth squad beginning with the U15s in 2011 . His obvious talent made Roger Schmidt give the young winger his debut with Bayer’s senior squad in February along with his first taste of Champions League play against Paris St. Germain. . Brandt’s playing time has gone from sporadic during that 2013/2014 debut season that saw him play less than 600 minutes of Bundesliga footbal to being a fixture in Schmidt’s first team. This is because Brandt showed improvement, going from two goals in six starts to four goals in 10 starts along with a small increase in match rating as well. His improvement cemented his top prospect status, and it helped improve Brandt’s stature as an individual player.
But Brandt did the most for himself last season, when he started to really blossom into the player that he can be with his talent. He ended the season with nine goals in only 18 starts, along with a streak that saw him score in 6 consecutive games. During this streak he showed the finishing, pace and instinct that makes him such an exciting talent. He also was able to increase his status among fans and his peers with his great play, so much so that Joachim Low nearly brought the 20-year-old to Euro 2016. His close call for Germany continued to elevate Brandt’s status, but what happened next did more for him than anything.
What happened next for Brandt was this summer’s Olympics, which is a competition meant to put some of the best young players in the world against one another. Brandt once again demonstrated that his level of talent and ability was far above his peers competing in Brazil with his outstanding performances. The native of Bremen picked up an astounding total of seven assists in the tournament, which was four more than the total of the second-leading Olympic player in assists. His contributions helped Germany beat some of the better footballing countries such as Portugal en route to a silver medal. Brandt was also on the team of the tournament for his terrific performances, and he was able to raise his profile on the international stage. His performance at Rio has garnered Brandt a spot on the German senior team, which is a huge accomplishment for a player of his age. Die Mannschaft is an incredibly hard team to get into, and the fact that Brandt is on the team now with multiple caps displays how people in the German game see him as a player. His stature has grown tremendously with his Bundesliga goals and his Olympic assists, and with his trajectory his stature is only going to keep on rising.
Leverkusen’s Shocking Start
While Brandt’s trajectory has been upward, the same can’t be said for his club Bayer Leverkusen. Many people—including the Bundesliga Fanatic—expected a Champions League side that improved in the summer to be a lock for the top four or/and to even be a dark horse title contender. But things have downwards for Bayer, and Brandt, so far with what has happened in the opening this season.
The Bundesliga form for Leverkusen has been inconsistent thus far, with this past weekend’s 3-0 humiliation by Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim the latest in a string of bad results. These include an away loss to lowly Werder Bremen as well as at surprising Frankfurt, the season-opening loss to Monchengladbach and a lifeless draw with Augsburg, offset at least by a shutout win over Borussia Dortmund . All of these underwhelming performances see Schmidt’s side stand at 11th in the league with tough games against 2nd place Leipzig, 1st place Bayern and an in form Schalke side in the upcoming match days. But this isn’t even the end of Bayer’s misery since they just flopped in the DFB-Pokal, which saw them lose to 3rd tier side Sportfreunde Lotte. The embarrassing loss puts Leverkusen’s chances at winning a domestic trophy out the window this season already.
But how about the Champions League? Europe’s premier club competition hasn’t’ been all that unkind to Leverkusen as they sit 3rd in their very competitive group at the moment. They’re only 2 points off of leaders Monaco, and they have a good chance of making it to the knockout stages. If that ends up happening, it would certainly help Bayer salvage something from this season.
Besides the poor results, new signings Kevin Volland, Julian Baumgartlinger and Aleksander Dragovic haven’t been able to have the kind of impact that was expected. Volland has yet to score in the league, and just saw himself get sent off less than 10 minutes into the game against former club Hoffenheim. Baumgartlinger on the other hand hasn’t been consistently in the first team, which has made his impact limited as well. The same can be said for Dragovic, who has seen himself fall behind Tah and Toprak in the pecking order in defense. And Brandt himself has had a subpar beginning to the new Bundesliga season, goalless in five starts (and three substitute appearances). Brandt has one assist and only 10 shots in 546 Bundesliga minutes Injuries to Karim Bellarabi, who was in excellent form, and supersub Joel Pohjanpalo a few weeks back have impaired Leverkusen also.
Now what does all of this have to do with Brandt’s future? If Leverkusen keep playing like they have in the league and the new boys don’t show signs of improvement, he’s going to be tempted by offers from other clubs. With no domestic cup competition along with the real possibility of not advancing in the Champions League (perhaps dropping to the Europa League), along with Brandt’s own offkey 2015/2016 start he might come to see Leverkusen as a bad fit for his growth as a player to continue. Why would a player on the national team who is clearly a future star in the league and among players of his age stay with a club that is failing to consistently earn positive results? Not everyone is as loyal as Stefan Kießling, and with offers from English clubs and most likely Bayern to come, Leverkusen might not be able to keep Brandt from seeking the grass that appears greener. Every player wants to reach the top in their careers, and Brandt may eventually feel that other clubs might be able to deliver the goods that Bayer promise but don’t quite achieve.
Schalke fans have seen how hard it is to keep young German internationals even with a successful club, so for a club without success at the moment it seems like an impossible task to keep Brandt. When Brandt regains his form and keeps improving but Bayer keep faltering, the transfer rumorscon are only going to keep on growing and growing. If Leverkusen can turn the season around before January, they might be able to hold onto Brandt for January and the summer time. But if Brandt gets his groove back but Leverkusen doesn’t step up and fulfill the potential that the quality of their roster promises, then his departure seems inevitable.
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