It’s the time of the year football fans fret over players whose contracts would run out at the end of the season, allowing them to freely negotiate with suitors. Clubs would be presented with one last desperate attempt of cashing in on such players before they could leave for free in the summer. The list of players who would be free agents in six months time generally cause varying intuitions.
There would be some who would leave you scratching your head on why their clubs decided to take the risk of losing them for a free, if not for a bargain in January. It also features former stars whose careers didn’t go according to plans and end up jumping between clubs. Those are the first two impressions I had when I first run into a tweet from BundesligaFanatic’s own Johnny Walsh on the complete list of Bundesliga 2. players eligible for trading clubs on free in 2018, according to Transfermarkt.
This is the list of 2. Bundesliga Players that were available on free transfers heading into 2018, according to transfermarkt.
Some players have already moved/extended, but this should help keep an eye on any potential pre-contract dealings. pic.twitter.com/aFgR6evXd9
— Jonny Walsh (@jonathanwalsh_) January 1, 2018
After some customary dwelling with the list, I found myself coming up with a dream team from the list of 200 or so players. As Jonny noted in the tweet, some players have already moved/extended including the legendary Atsuto Uchida, who bids farewell to Germany after his return to Kashima Antlers is finalized. My picks got nothing to do with recent performances, as it’s all about personal preferences mostly from my memories of the players. And, for the tactic gurus, as it’s a custom for dream teams, I took the privilege of shoehorning identical players.
Thorsten Kirschbaum (1. FC Nürnberg)
I had no other option but to trust Thorsten Kirschbaum in goal, as our soon-to-be-free-agent list looked rather thin in the goalkeeping department. The former Germany U21 international was Manuel Neuer’s current backup Sven Ulreich’s backup at VfB Stuttgart for a couple of years before joining Der Club in 2015, notably conceding 15 goals in his last five Bundesliga matches for the Swabians. He started this season as the undisputed number one in Franconia before losing the plot in his 50th appearance for the promotion hopefuls.
With only ten minutes left of a hard-fought game against direct rivals Ingolstadt, his long punt nearly resulted in Nürnberg’s winner but Mikael Ishak – who leads the scoring chart midpoint of the season – failed to capitalize in a one-on-one duel with Örjan Nyland. Moments later Kirschbaum created another golden opportunity but it’s for the opposing team this time around. His blunder pass forced him to foul the energetic Darío Lezcano in the box, resulting in the Paraguayan converting the winner from the spot. Kirschbaum never saw action since the game, as Michael Köllner turned to the young custodian Fabian Bredlow, who was at the ranks of RB Leipzig.
Kaan Ayhan (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
This one will certainly be categorized as “what could have been”, although Kaan Ayhan is still 23 and he’s finding his feet back in Fortuna. The Turkey international was a highly-respected defender from the ranks of Schalke’s much-heralded youth academy. But it was going too fast for the versatile defender. He was even trusted to take set-piece duties at a very young age, not to mention as a central defender, before a serious injury and successive change of personnel in the managerial dugout saw him running out of the pecking order at the club.
After a forgettable loan spell at Eintracht Frankfurt, a permanent move to Düsseldorf work wonders for the ball-playing defender, as his name is regularly associated with Turkish clubs. According to Transfermarkt, his contract will be expired at the season end with no mention of a buyback clause for Schalke, however. Ayhan formed a commanding central defense alongside André Hoffmann – whose promising career also affected by a long-standing injury – to help Fortuna finish the first half of the season top of the standings.
Florian Dick (Arminia Bielefeld)
His inclusion to this list was not certain as it would be to a Hilarious Names XI, but Florian Dick deserves some credit for his longevity in Germany’s top two divisions since, well, Arsenal last won the English Premier League. The highlight of his career was being considered one of the league’s best right backs in 2010-11 in Marco Kurz’s exciting Kaiserslautern side before their eventual relegation the next season.
The former Germany U20 international moved on to the then 3. Liga side Arminia Bielefeld after two more seasons at Kaiserslautern. He amassed an impressive 15 assists in the third-tier, as the club enjoyed a memorable season by reaching the DFB-Pokal semifinal in addition to the promotion. The 33-year-old scored in Bielefeld’s stunning 5-0 win against St. Pauli – his first for more than two years – before missing the final two matches of the year due to a muscle fiber.
Tobias Levels (Ingolstadt)
One to relate with my relatively brief time of “supporting” Borussia Mönchengladbach, Tobias Levels has never been a blossoming fullback. He’s more known for showing grit and directness rather than overlapping runs. The arrival of Lucien Favre effectively ended his spell at Gladbach, although his role in the otherworldly relegation fight shouldn’t be quickly forgotten by the Foals faithful.
He returned to Bundesliga in Ingolstadt’s brief spell in the top of the pyramid but his contract at the Bavarians set to expire at the end of this season. When he left Fortuna Düsseldorf in 2014, he spends months without a club before Ingolstadt come calling. The fact that he’s ever-present in the Schanzer’s lineup since the end of September could mean it’s not a lost cause for the 31-year-old right back at Ingolstadt.
Lukas Schmitz (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
After starting the campaign with two assists in the first three matches, the former Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen left back warmed the substitute bench in six of the last eleven. His experience and versatility – played as a left back, a winger and a defensive midfielder this season alone – could prove vital for Die Flingeraner’s hopes of a long-awaited promotion to the Bundesliga.
Although he didn’t feature against MSV Duisburg in the final, Schmitz was part of Schalke’s 2010-11 DFB-Pokal winning side. He joined Thomas Schaaf’s Werder Bremen the following season but struggled for minutes since the long-serving coach’s departure from the Green and Whites. At 29, Schmitz could still achieve more in his career. The next six months would be vital to prove he still has plenty to offer.
Peter Niemeyer (SV Darmstadt)
The player most known for the unfortunate incident with referee Bibiana Steinhaus has been sidelined since his solid performance in Darmstadt’s first matchday win against Greuther Fürth. Without him in the side, the Lillies dropped to the playoff berth (not for promotion, mind you) as they are in danger of going backward in almost the same way to their leap to the very top.
The towering midfielder played a century of Bundesliga matches in the colors of Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin before he entrusted in Dirk Schuster’s policy of signing Bundesliga veterans in a bid to keep Darmstadt aloft in top-tier football. After helping the side to avoid relegation by quite some distance, Schuster left the club to join Augsburg, which didn’t work out well for both parties. Schuster returned to Darmstadt following Thorsten Frings’ dismissal and the energetic midfielder could also return to full fitness in time for their fight to avoid a drop to 3. Liga.
Yannick Stark (SV Darmstadt)
With Darmstadt focusing on the relegation battle, another midfield entered his final six months of contract at the club in Yannick Stark. Unlike Niemeyer, Stark’s game is more relied on his deft handling of the ball and pass distributions. He failed to live up to his potential since he joined Darmstadt from 1860 Munich, however.
He was overlooked in Schuster’s aggressive side, as he never made the squad for the entire 2015/16 season. A decent showing on loan at third-tier FSV Frankfurt revived his career when he is back at Darmstadt at the season start. Despite playing in all but two league matches this term, Stark only made the starting lineup four times. He found the net in three occasions – one less than club’s top-scorer Tobias Kempe – in a limited playing time and you’d expect there must be interests from fellow Bundesliga 2. clubs for his free signature at the end of the season.
Andreas Lambertz (Dynamo Dresden)
The man who played for Fortuna Düsseldorf in five divisions – from Oberliga Nordrhein to Bundesliga – entered the final year of his contract at Dresden. SGD were in 3. Liga when the central midfielder decided to call it a day on his magnificent 13-year stay at Fortuna. Dresden started the season in a shaky form before a stunning 3-1 win at Lambertz’s former employers – where they netted three belters in the first ten minutes – opened a three-game winning streak to help them finish 2017 in eleventh place.
Dresden’s skipper was an unused substitute against Fortuna but he proved his worth by scoring the match winner against Union Berlin. Not one to give up easily, we could expect there is still something left in Lambertz’s career, even if Dresden will not offer him a contract extension.
Daniel Halfar (1. FC Kaiserslautern)
Very few players divide opinions like Daniel Halfar in Germany’s second-tier. He is a technically gifted player who could prove to be defenders’ nightmare but it looks like the Red Devils fans are seeing enough. His attitude left plenty to ponder, although he remains the key figure and club captain both under Norbert Meier and Jeff Strasser.
A number of injuries reduced his appearances to nine league matches this season but a record of one goal and assist each is still considered as not good enough. Lautern are popping up the table, as they sit ten points shy of safety zone heading into 2018. So far, Halfar played a total of 206 games in Bundesliga 2., including his productive season to date in helping Köln’s promotion to Bundesliga in 2013/14.
Domi Kumbela (Eintracht Braunschweig)
One of the few things that makes Braunschweig’s season in the Bundesliga a memorable one was Domi Kumbela’s stunning form. It was the first time that the DR Congo striker played in a top-tier division but he came close to finishing the season in double figures for a bottom-placed team. After an unproductive year away at Turkish side Kardemir Karabükspor, Kumbela returned to The Lions and nearly helped them to another promotion to Bundesliga last season before they lost to VfL Wolfsburg in the playoff.
The story is different for both Torsten Liberknecht’s side and Kumbela this season. They are only three points better off from the danger zone, while a hairline crack in the foot (I don’t know, ask Transfermarkt) limited Kumbela to six appearances so far, the last of which in the first day of October. Kumbela scored 79 goals and assisted 25 in 216 matches for the Lower Saxony side.
Richard Sukuta-Pasu (SV Sandhausen)
Another typical forward, you may ask, but I already had a pact to put Richard Sukuta-Pasu in my all dream teams. In 37 Bundesliga appearances, albeit 7 starts, for Bayer Leverkusen, St. Pauli and Kaiserslautern, Sukuta-Pasu only found the net once. After failing to reach the standards he sets in junior levels, a move to Austrian Bundesliga side SJ Sturm Graz was a much-needed break.
He returned to Germany with a move to 3. Liga Energie Cottbus before he joined Sandhausen last season. The bulky striker already surpassed his best tally for Germany’s top two divisions with six goals in fifteen league appearances for the overachievers Sandhausen. The club from Baden-Württemberg is currently six points away from an automatic promotion place. After Lucas Höler completed his January switch to SC Freiburg, Sandhausen would be more reliant on Sukuta-Pasu’s scoring output.
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