It’s over. Summer transfer markets have never been shy from causing a footballing havoc in the past, but it was another level of madness this year. The responsible parties (players/agents/club officials) using social media outlets more than ever left the public scrapping for clues from mere tweets, while some clubs took upon themselves with creative ways of unveiling new signings.
Try as they might, nothing came close to dominate the ever-present duels between players (agents) and parent clubs this summer, however. Although the debate surfaced back when Gianluigi Donnarumma lurking at the exit door from AC Milan – an incident which is now only served as anecdote partly due to the change of heart from the young custodian – it was in need of a major shakeup.
In came PSG with the money penned in Neymar’s release clause – still an inferior figure to the money dished out when Hollywood, boxing and UFC met for a day – for the services of arguably world’s third best footballer and nothing has been the same ever since. While we were too busy converting the €222m sum to our currencies (£198m/$262m/6.2b Birr …), clubs raised their asking prices and want-away players happily engaged in actions that they think will force the transfer.
Bundesliga has been surely affected by these developments but, as usual, in our best XI of departing players, we reserved slots for less-heralded players saying their farewell to our beloved league after flaring the stage for many years. Let’s have your say in the comments section.
Diego Benaglio (VfL Wolfs burg to AS Monaco FC)
The undisputed number one in all of Wolfsburg’s major titles to date, Benaglio finally found himself behind Koen Casteels in the pecking order at the start of last season. Although Valérien Ismaël’s brief stint saw him return to duty between the posts – with far too little success – he did end up with the fewest appearances since he joined the club a decade ago.
Benaglio joined VfB Stuttgart at the age of 19 but his three-year spell only produced appearances for the reserve team. Another three years at the then Primeira Liga club Nacional revived his career and he wasted no time in firming his place at Wolfsburg after making his return to Germany in a winter break. Following a solid Rückrunde, Wolfsburg followed it up with a sensational title-winning campaign in 2008-09.
The Lower Saxony club had to wait for six years for another success story – first DFB Pokal triumph and finishing second to almighty Bayern in the 2014-15 season. Benaglio played all but three league games on both occasions and served as club captain since 2012. Wolfsburg are far from the ideal club for neutrals but it’s simply unheard of not to like Benaglio as a Bundesliga fan. Despite a major squad overhaul, Leonardo Jardim’s Monaco started the season with perfect record – stretching their winning streak to 16 league games before the international break – with Benaglio yet to see action as Danijel Subasic’s understudy.
Honorable mentions: Tom Starke managed to get his hands on the Bundesliga shield five times but he only appeared for a grand total of eight matches in Bayern München’s record-breaking run. The former Hoffenheim shot-stopper announced his retirement after the end of last season – maintaining Bayern’s unbeaten record when he was on the pitch – but hastily returned for pre-season action to fill for injured keepers. Jonas Lössl (Huddersfield Town), Sebastian Mielitz (SønderjyskE Fodbold), Lars Unnerstall (VVV-Venlo), Felix Wiedwald (Leeds United) and Mitchell Langerak (Levante) — all of whom briefly used as regular keepers in various Bundesliga clubs — exited Germany in the summer.
Benedikt Höwedes (from Schalke to Juventus FC, loan)
As far as transfers go, this one is the most heartbreaking one for all Bundesliga fans, including that of Borussia Dortmund. Having been in the club since he was 13, the no-nonsense defender was Mr. Schalke for quite a long time. With Serie A’s six-time reigning champions hold the option to buy the 29-year-old German international after the season-long deal, the deal portrayed as a big loss for the league in general.
With last season being the first time the injury-prone all-rounder played more than 30 league matches since 2012-13, Schalke fans expected bigger things from their skipper this term. But his row with the new man in charge, Domenico Tedesco, led to the unthinkable. Bundesliga hipsters called the whisperers bluff when rumors about him leaving for English or Italian clubs first made the rounds. It finally came as a major blow for Bundesliga when Juventus finally announced the signing earlier this week.
Höwedes featured more than 400 times for the Royal Blues and captained the side since 2011 before Tedesco gave the armband to Ralf Fährmann days before the start of the season. The new Juventus man played every minute of Germany’s successful 2014 World Cup campaign, as his versatility was the answer for Joachim Löw’s left-back conundrum.
Ricardo Rodriguez (VfL Wolfsburg to AC Milan)
If Höwedes’ exit caught many by surprise, Rodriguez’s switch to another Italian club rarely caused raised eyebrows. The Swiss international has been a subject of transfer rumors in the previous seasons and, at the end, his destination was Serie A instead of English Premier League. There was a time when neglecting him in the talk of Bundesliga’s best fullbacks considered as a crime, although he is not the same player since Wolfsburg’s memorable 2014-15 campaign.
Rodriguez was one game short of making his 150th Bundesliga appearance before opting for a move to reinvigorated Milan. The set-piece specialist at his time in Wolfsburg, Rodriguez is playing a huge role in Milan’s strong start to the campaign, as the former giants joined the Europa League group stage with ease and collecting maximum points in the league from two round of fixtures.
Phillip Lahm (Bayern München to retirement)
The man who retired from international football rather unexpectedly after a World Cup glory calls it a day from football altogether with eight league titles to his name. Barring two seasons on loan at Stuttgart, Lahm remained at Bayern since joining the youth setup in 1995. Although the fact that goals live longer in memory made his 2006 World Cup opener the first thing that comes to mind about the diminutive wizard, Lahm was a rather consistent performer at both club and country level.
His reputation grows when Pep Guardiola successfully played him in midfield but, more than anything, he should be forever remembered as one of the best fullbacks in the history of football. Lahm featured 517 times for the Bavarians and lifted the Champions League and six Pokal titles in his illustrious career. With Bayern having little to play for in the final weeks of the season, the buildup to Lahm’s retirement took center stage and he graced the pitch for one last time before substituted amidst a memorable standing ovation against SC Freiburg.
Clemens Fritz (Werder Bremen to retirement)
Another fullback-cum-midfielder to hang up his boot after the end of last season, Fritz was the remaining jewel of Werder Bremen’s heyday. Barring a surprisingly strong second half of the 2015-16 season, the former Bayer Leverkusen player struggled in his final years at Weser-Stadion. The regular shift to defensive midfielder role meant he was expected to lead the side both with his experience and versatility, but he couldn’t replicate his form that saw him playing an integral role during the Thomas Schaff era.
His final appearance for the Green and Whites saw him substituted early against Darmstadt in March due to injury, which ruled him out from the rest of the season. Fritz featured in 288 matches for Bremen in the Bundesliga in his 11-year stay at the club. He was part of the 2008-09 DFB Pokal champions squad which also lost to Shakhtar Donetsk in the UEFA Cup final. A season earlier, he was a runner-up twice as he took part in Germany’s Euro 2008 campaign, where they lost to Spain in the final, after helping Werder to a second-placed finish in the league.
Honorable mentions: His final season at Hamburg was a reminiscent of his Bundesliga debut – Hannover’s 5-4 defeat at Schalke in 2012-13 Rückrunde opener, in case you missed (or forget) one of the greatest 90 minutes of football – but saying it was always dark and gloom for Johan Djourou in Germany was simply naïve. He was one of the best performers in the club’s 2014-15 survival bid, a performance which merited him to captaincy before Markus Gisdol replaced him with Gōtoku Sakai. After a miserable campaign, the Abidjan-born defender joined Turkish side Antalyaspor. Emanuel Pogatetz (LASK Linz) and Alexander Madlung (released by Fortuna Düsseldorf) were familiar with Bundesliga since the early 2000s and it looks like they bid their final farewell to German football. Jesús Vallejo (Real Madrid) and Michael Hector (Chelsea) returned to their parent clubs after a contrasting loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt. Arsenal fans find it hard to count signing Sead Kolasinac on free as a consolation following a miserable transfer market, while set-piece specialist Markus Suttner joined EPL’s new boys Brighton & Hove Albion from relegated Ingolstadt. Roberto Hilbert (released by Leverkusen) and Santiago Garcia (Deportivo Toluca) also saw the exit doors of Bundesliga. Just in time before the transfer window shut, Greek outfit PAOK re-signed our favorite Portuguese international, Vieirinha. Also on the deadline day, Bayer Leverkusen sent Aleksandar Dragovic on loan to the 2015-16 Premier League champions Leicester City. The Austrian defender couldn’t live up to expectation at BayArena after a much-heralded transfer from Basel last season.
Xabi Alonso (Bayern to retirement)
Lahm was not even the only player parting ways from the beautiful sport in the wake of Bayern’s end of season clash against Freiburg. Another World Cup winner said his final good-bye five minutes earlier, as the game forever will be remembered as one of the few occasions in which two absolute legends featured for one last time. Xabi Alonso only played three seasons in Bayern and at times struggled on big occasions, but he did manage to instill his experience and leadership qualities to great effect at Allianz Arena.
The former Liverpool and Real Madrid great came close to winning the Champions League with three clubs but three semi-final defeats against Spanish sides means he had to settle for three league titles and a DFB-Pokal title in his stay at Bavaria. Alonso scored five goals in 79 appearances in the Bundesliga. Although he didn’t score from the halfway line in Bayern jersey, he opened last season’s campaign with an absolute belter against Werder Bremen.
Luiz Gustavo (VfL Wolfsburg to Olympique de Marseille)
Like his former teammate Ricardo Rodriguez, Luiz Gustavo regularly listed as the transfer target of many clubs before this summer. The Brazilian hard-fought midfielder has never been questioned for his attitude at Wolfsburg since he gave 100% whenever he donned the green shirts. He wore the captain’s armband in the second half of last season, as he played an integral part in securing Wolfsburg’s league status (okay, not Champions League berth … but still).
Gustavo featured more than 350 times for Hoffenheim, Bayern München and Wolfsburg since joining the former on loan from Corinthians in 2007. He played 35 times when Bayern wrote history by completing the treble in the 2012-13 season. Early days at Marseille were promising with the club making it into the Europa League group stage and collecting seven points from the first three league matches before a reality check arrived in a 6-1 thumping by a makeshift Monaco side.
Ousmane Dembélé (Borussia Dortmund to FC Barcelona)
Confession time: I was contemplating to drop Dembélé to the honorable mentions spot. But it’s too hard to not find a place for a nine figure sum. Phew. Dembélé was last season’s revelation with Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang the major beneficiary as he won the Torjägerkanone with the help of marvelous assists from the French international. But his attitude following the European football shake-up (Neymar, PSG, Barca …) and the fact that he only played one season in the Bundesliga means he will not be missed as much.
According to figures fetched from Transfermarkt, Dortmund manage to sell the player with 90€m profit from the sum they spend to get his signature from Stade Rennes last term, as the Spanish giants had to react fast for replacements. The 20-year-old dazzling midfielder featured 51 times for the Black and Yellows, scoring 10 times and assisted 22 (!) in the process.
Honorable mentions: It was rough at the end of the tunnel for Douglas Costa at Bayern, whose departure to Juventus is still on a loan deal. Bayern officials didn’t have good things to say about the Brazilian winger after his long-awaiting departure materialized with a switch to Serie A. They seemed to be insisting that Renato Sanches‘ move to Swansea City will not have an option of a permanent deal, however. Borussia Dortmund also sent Mikel Merino (Newcastle) to Premier League following his struggles for playing minutes in the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Emre Mor allowed joining Celta Vigo on a permanent basis following his mediocre season at Signal Iduna Park. Bayer Leverkusen bid farewell to their once prized asset Hakan Çalhanoğlu (AC Milan) while Alexander Baumjohann (Coritiba) departed Bundesliga for Brazil after his stints at five clubs. Pascal Groß (Brighton) and Mario Vrančić (Norwich City) went to try their luck in England after their respective clubs got relegated the past season. As is his wont, Eric Maxim Chuopo-Moting changed clubs on a free transfer for the third time in his career. The Cameroonian international was an ultimate hard worker in his times at Mainz, Hamburg and Schalke before joining Mark Hughes’ Stoke City, a club who simply can’t survive transfer markets without signing Bundesliga players. A day after the Bundesliga’s market closed, La Liga, who saw their window shut a day later, welcomed Johannes Geis as the Schalke midfielder joined Sevilla on a season-long deal.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Schalke to Ajax)
The Dutch international was a superstar signing when he joined Schalke from AC Milan in 2010 and after seven season in Veltins Arena – in which he netted 126 times in 240 matches – we could say that he left the club with a legend status. Injuries and lack of form taunted him last season as he only found his name on the scoresheet on two occasions from 16 league appearances.
The former Real Madrid star was one of the fan favorites at Schalke and it was emotional for him to depart the club he duly served in the last seven seasons. His eye for goal saw him revered as ‘The Hunter” and he always committed himself to the club’s case. After relatively brief stints at various clubs, including PSV and Ajax, it tells you something that Huntelaar remained for the majority of his career at Schalke.
Anthony Modeste (1. FC Köln to Tianjin Quanjian)
The French hitman spends two fabulous years at Köln before moving to China. His 25 goals have a huge say in the Cathedral club making it into Europe, but he will not take any part in their adventures. Although it was far from his scoring output in Köln, where he scored 40 league goals in two seasons, Modeste scored 19 times in his previous two-year spell at Hoffenheim.
Some parts will question his move to Chinese Super League like all the players who followed his route faced, but he was a real fighter whenever he was on the pitch. Despite things get messy between him and the club days before the switch finalized, he is going to be remembered fondly by the Effzeh fans for years to come. Not so much by Blackburn Rovers supporters, for whom he couldn’t score in nine appearances back in 2011-12 season, however.
Javier Hernández (Bayer Leverkusen to West Ham)
Another reliable goal-getter for our departed XI, Chicharito is one step ahead in the box more often than not against opposition defenders. He only played two seasons in BayArena and struggled with injury problems in the last term but he managed to score 28 times in 54 league appearances. The former Chivas,Manchester United and Real Madrid striker helped Leverkusen with his vast experience and goal-scoring prowess.
At the end, the club was keen to cash in on the injury-prone striker and West Ham were happy to reunite him with Premier League alongside fellow ex-Bundesliga player Marko Arnautovic. While the Austrian didn’t cover himself in glory in the first weeks of the season, Chicharito’s form seemed one of the few promising sights for a struggling West Ham side.
Honorable mentions: After his initial loan deal to Granada, Adrian Ramos joined Chinese side Chongqing Lifan. The Colombian striker netted 71 Bundesliga goals playing for Hertha Berlin and Dortmund. Haris Seferović was far less prolific for Frankfurt in his three-year stay before joining Benfica this summer. Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who always find something to dominate the headlines in his stints at Hertha Berlin and Hamburg, finally completed his loan switch to Championship side Leeds United in the final day of the transfer market. We will be awaiting whether Claudio Pizarro, no stranger to this list and defying the odds, finally decide to hang up his boot after his contract at Bremen expired.
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