VfL Wolfsburg became the talk of the Bundesliga Thursday when it was announced that they had landed Yunus Malli from 1. FSV Mainz. The transfer fee is reported to be in the range of €12.5 million.
Born in Kassel, approximately halfway between Wolfsburg and Mainz along the A7, Malli began his youth career with VfL Kassel before moving to Borussia Mönchengladbach. He moved to 1. FSV Mainz in the summer of 2011. The following October, he made his Bundesliga debut at the age of 19 against Hertha BSC on his way to logging 129 Bundesliga appearances and another eight in Europa League.
While Malli had appeared for Germany’s national youth teams throughout his career, his strong performance at Mainz paired with his Turkish heritage to provide him a chance at making the jump to full international for Turkey. He has appeared eight times for the homeland of his parents.
“With Yunus Malli, we once again have gained flexibility and strength in the offensive area and naturally also increased the competition in the midfield,” said trainer Valérien Ismaël of his newest charge. “He is a scoring threat, but also distinguishes himself through assists. Additionally, he is strong in set-pieces. It is also to our advantage that he knows the Bundesliga well and will not require a prolonged familiarization time.”
As part of the move, Malli received a new contract into 2021. His contract with Mainz had been set to expire after the 2017-18 season, but Malli’s agent (and uncle) Ilhan Malli had publicly decried Mainz’s inaction on an extension.
“We aren’t ‘come hell or high water’ about a transfer away. We could also imagine extending,” Ilhan Malli told SportBild earlier this week. “We just have received no offer from Mainz at this point.”
“It’s all a bit strange.”
The move came barely two days after die Wölfe finally dealt Julian Draxler to Paris Saint Germain in a transfer deal reportedly worth €4o million.
The 24-year-old attacking midfielder was involved in half of Mainz’s 16 goals scored before the break, scoring six and assisting on seven. By comparison, Draxler departed Wolfsburg having provided just two assists on the season.
Draxler’s public failure to force a summer move away from Wolfsburg and subsequent performance are believed to be contributing factors to the VfL’s underwhelming first-half performance, which ultimately led to the dismissals of trainer Dieter Hecking and sporting director Klaus Allofs.
And in case there is any doubt as to whether Malli is intended as a replacement for the departed Draxler, VfL Wolfsburg included in their press release on the acquisition that Malli would wear the number “10” jersey. Draxler had worn the mythical number during his Wolfsburg stint.
New sporting director Olaf Rebbe nailed the point home, stressing that Wolfsburg had landed “an absolute team player.”
Malli will immediately join his new teammates at winter camp in Spain, where he will undergo a medical exam and be officially introduced on Friday.
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