Best XI Players Who Bid a Summer Farewell to German Football

Now that the Sommer-Transfermarkt is behind us, we take a look at a dream team of players to have bid farewell to Germany in the past three months. As usual, the list will look out for standouts from a long list of departures — those who hung up their boots, guys who left Germany for supposedly greener pastures and players who moved on to get precious playing time.

For previous entries: 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017

(Transfer fees and stats are courtesy of Transfermarkt)

Goalkeeper

Bernd Leno (from Bayer Leverkusen to Arsenal)

Since Bayer Leverkusen brought Bernd Leno from VfB Stuttgart II in 2011-12 (initially on a six-month loan), the lanky shot-stopper only missed five league games in seven seasons. He managed to keep a double-digit of clean sheets for five of those, although his best days were history for many Bundesliga enthusiasts. Despite (or because of) the cheap call by B04’s official Twitter account admin, Leno is yet to make a league appearance for Unai Emery’s new-look Arsenal. Leverkusen, somehow, pulled a Bayern-esque transfer to replace Leno (£22.50m) with one of the Bundesliga’s most highly-rated keepers Lukáš Hrádecký (free).

Honorable Mentions: The league also bid farewell to three long-serving goalkeepers who didn’t see much action in recent years. Tom Starke is retiring for the second time after winning his 100th Bundesliga cap in the wake of returning to football as Sven Ulreich’s backup. After spending the previous three seasons on the bench, World Cup winner Roman Weidenfeller also finally called it a day to join Borussia Dortmund’s marketing team. One of the few players who has seen it all with the club, Christofer Heimeroth became Borussia Mönchengladbach’s team manager after his retirement.

Defenders

Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund to Arsenal)

It’s been a while since Arsene Wenger made the Bundesliga his main target in transfer windows and that tradition continues at the club even after his exit with Leno and Sokratis. Like his new teammate at Arsenal, the Greek defender – a guy who’d give you his all even when it doesn’t look good – spend seven seasons in the Bundesliga since joining Werder Bremen from the fringes at AC Milan. It didn’t take much time for him to win the hearts of Borussia Dortmund fans, but his late form left plenty to ponder, with Peter Bosz’ questionable system not helping his cause. He played every minute of the Premier League action prior to the international break, with the Gunners conceding two goals per game.

Georg Niedermeier (SC Freiburg to Melbourne Victory)

It’d only be fitting if Arsenal also signed Niedermeier this summer to make him the next BFG but we’re left to be disappointed as he heads to Australia. The combative defender (and the perfect man to play up-front to notch those hopeful balls when your team needs a late, scrappy equalizer) played a meager 89 minutes of Bundesliga football at Freiburg in the past couple of seasons. And he never made the leap to the first team in six seasons at his boyhood club Bayern Munich. But he was a popular figure at Stuttgart, where he plied his trade for eight years in between those stints. His last Bundesliga start was when he captained Stuttgart in a 6-2 defeat on a crucial Monday night relegation six-pointer at Werder Bremen.

Jannik Vestergaard (Borussia Mönchengladbach to Southampton)

So this three-man defense pretty much relates to Claude Puel resisting the temptation of (I know I’d have done it) fielding a backline of Harry Maguire, Wes Morgan and Robert Huth last season at Leicester City. But the good thing is that this is only a dream team. Vestergaard is another big center-back (in fact he’s 1m99cm) who first joined the Bundesliga some nine years ago. Through strong spells at Hoffenheim, Werder Bremen and Gladbach, the Denmark international was a constant threat from set-pieces in addition to being comfortable with the ball at his feet. The Saints only conceded a single goal in Vestergaard’s first three English Premier League appearances.

Honorable Mentions: The only thing that kept Benedikt Howedes (now he signed for Lokomotiv Moscow) from making the starting eleven here is the fact that he was in last season’s XI when he initially left Schalke on loan to Juventus. Schalke also separated with Coke after he failed to make the impression we were expecting from the player who starred in Sevilla’s Europa League final win over Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Meanwhile, Borussia Dortmund send World Cup winner Erik Durm to EPL side Huddersfield Town, while Nigerian international Leon Balogun and Bernardo — one of the 14 players (and counting) who happened to play for both RB Salzburg and RB Leipzig —  joined Brighton & Hove Albion. Fullbacks Daniel Opare and Julian Schauerte left Augsburg and Fortuna Düsseldorf to grace Belgian Jupiler Pro League. Lukas Schmitz will not be returning to the German Bundesliga with Düsseldorf as he heads to Austrian Bundesliga side Wolfsberger AC.

Midfielders

Arturo Vidal (from Bayern Munich to FC Barcelona)

Reducing the number of players vying for a starting berth in midfield was clearly the main issue for Bayern officials in this transfer window, as it can be seen/heard from their interviews throughout last season. And the Chilean was the easy target due to his disciplinary issues and him entertaining the thoughts of a reunion with Antonio Conte, who first took him away from Bayer Leverkusen and the Bundesliga. The warrior was only four games shy of making his 200th Bundesliga appearance when Barcelona snatched him in an improbable deal for the fulfilment of the second phase of the Hijacking Serie A Transfers project.

Naby Keita (from RB Leipzig to Liverpool)

Another player who will get to see his former clubs fighting in the ultimate football rivalry, Naby Keita is already crowned as Fussballgott in England after three matches, which is, at least, a welcome break from the lazy assumption that he’s the second coming of N’Golo Kanté. The Guinean had a direct role in 27 Leipzig  league goals in his two-year spell at the club after crossing the Red Bull’s border. While he’s starring in his new challenge at Liverpool, Ralf Rangnick is finding it hard to fill the gap left by an all-rounder and one-man engine.

Zlatko Junuzović (from Werder Bremen to Red Bull Salzburg)

Another player who was a fan favorite, but who’d be leaving after an uninspiring last season at the club, Zlatko Junuzović was an absolute joy to watch when he managed to reach double figures on assists for three successive seasons (14/15-16/17). Starting from a defensive midfielder role, the Austrian at least played once in every available playing position in his career. Luckily for Florian Kohfeldt, his departure will not be that much of an issue at the Weser Stadion thanks to the club’s active summer in the transfer market. The free-kick specialist is another entry to a midfield which would be a headache for any manager expecting tactical discipline.

Kevin-Prince Boateng (from Eintracht Frankfurt to Sassuolo)

When Prince’s time at Schalke came to an end, I had no choice to include him in such list since it was a January switch, but now he makes the cut.  Boateng was ever-present in Eintracht Frankfurt’s historic season – which brought the club’s first trophy for some thirty years – as he played a career-high number of league games (31). The exuberant midfielder learned the ropes at Hertha Berlin and he also had a year at Borussia Dortmund with Kloppo. The Ghanaian international is already making his presence felt at Sassuolo, with three goals and one assist in the Black and Greens’ unbeaten start to the season. 

Max Meyer (from Schalke 04 to Crystal Palace (no typo here))

Bundesliga fans were quick to express their discontent following the rather odd decision by the 22-year-old to join Crystal Palace, amidst rumours making the rounds that he had already joined Hoffenheim after his Schalke contract expired in the summer. The bemusement reached another level when Meyer then indulged himself in comparing the Champions League-bound team with his new employers to please the rousing Palace fans. Meyer joined Schalke at the age of 14 and it was Lewis Holtby’s move to the English Premier League that basically presented him his first break at senior level. Both he and Palace struggled in the early season, with Roy Hodgson showing little interest in playing Meyer as a defensive midfielder like Tedesco did to great effect.

Honorable Mentions: Powerhouses Eugen Polanski, Nigel de Jong and Albin Ekdal were among the midfielders who left the Bundesliga this summer, although in the case of the former he could still make a return soon as he’s currently without a club. Julian Schuster, Jan Rosenthal and Axel Bellinghausen called it a day on their industrious careers which spanned Germany’s top two divisions. Alen Hallilović, Miloš Jojić and Pavel Olkowski left for clubs outside Germany after Hamburg and Köln’s relegation from the Bundesliga.

After a challenging decade in the German leagues, Peniel Mlapa joins Eredivisie side VVV-Venlo on loan from Dynamo Dresden. Dominik Kaiser, who was the poster boy of RB Leipzig’s road to the Bundesliga and the first player to have a testimonial match at the club, finally moved on to Danish side Brøndby. André Schürrle is having a good start in his second test of Premier League football with Fulham after he left Borussia Dortmund unceremoniously in the summer.

Strikers

Stefan Kießling (from Bayer Leverkusen to retirement)

The 2012-13 Torjägerkanone winner struggled with serious injury issues in the past few seasons, which led him to hang up his boots at the age of 34. Last season saw Kießling failing to find the net for the first time since his first season at Nuremberg, as he only had 74 minutes of league action. Although Joachim Löw has never been fully convinced, Kießling notched 144 goals in 403 Bundesliga games, all the while when his biggest contribution being his work rate under any circumstance. He will be remembered as one of the finest players at the Bay-Arena for many years to come.

Alex Meier (released from Eintracht Frankfurt)

Another former Bundesliga top-scorer and club legend, Alex Meier is looking at his options after his Eintracht contract expired this summer. After joining the Eagles from Hamburg for half a million euros in 2005 back when the club was in 2. Bundesliga, Meier scored 137 goals and assisted further 55 in 379 games for Frankfurt. His big moment came when he managed to win the Kanone in 2014/15 despite missing the last seven matches due to a knee injury. He struggled with persisting injuries since then, but was able to score in each of his 12 seasons at Frankfurt, including a familiar volley against Hamburg after coming on for the last three minutes in his only league appearance the last term. Two old-fashioned strikers is the perfect way to conclude my line-up, that put aside the basics of having a dynamic side.

Honorable Mentions: Borussia Dortmund and Bundesliga said goodbye to Andriy Yarmolenko and Michy Batshuayi after their contrasting stints at the Yellow and Blacks. Jonathas had a decent season with limited playing time at Hannover but he is now back in Brazil with Corinthians on a loan deal. Raul Bobadilla departs Bundesliga for the second time after a scoreless season at Borussia Mönchengladbach. Yoshinori Muto initially joined  Mainz after snubbing a move to Chelsea, but the Japanese striker is finally in the English Premier League after a move to Rafa Benitez’ Newcastle United. After spending a decade in the lower divisions of German football – most notably with five successful seasons at MSV Duisburg – Nigerian hitman Kingsley Onuegbu heads to Cyprus.

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical differences, he's interested in every detail of German football, if not any kind of football. Wolfsburg's industrious away win at Hamburg started his Bundesliga obsession back in 2005. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

2 Comments

  1. Ya, I forgot to include three crucial (and relatively late) transfers — Kehrer, Juan Bernat and Benjamin Henrichs (I’d definitely put Kehrer as starter and the last two for the honorable mentions). Thanks.

  2. I may be blind and am missing it, but no mention for Thilo Kehrer? thought he’d have a future at Schalke.

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