The suspense is over. Now all the talk will hopefully focus on the pitch after the summer transfer window closed, with an unusually high number of late deals having materialized. As is the custom here, we’ve compiled a list of the best players who left German football during the summer.
It’s not all about the big money transfers to the loaded English Premier League clubs, however, as we also value those who’ve hung up their boots or have entered in the twilight of their careers after spending time in football’s Holy Grail – the Bundesliga.
(All stats are from Transfermarkt)
Ralf Fährmann (from Schalke to Norwich City – loan with an option to buy)
The news that the guy wearing the number 1 jersey had been handed the captaincy of Ruhr giants Schalke was one of the big surprises of the 2017 off-season.
After playing in 117 consecutive league outings – including three full seasons – Fährmann picked up a groin injury during the warm-up before a home game against Werder Bremen in October 2018, presenting understudy Alexander Nübel with his big break.
Nübel made a good impression, but he then returned to the bench when Fährmann was back to full fitness after a three-game absence. There was a further reverse soon afterwards, though, as the former Eintracht Frankfurt shot-stopper fell out with Domenico Tedesco, who’d already forced another legend out of the club the previous season in Benedikt Höwedes.
Following Tedesco’s dismissal, Nübel held his starting berth under caretaker manager Huub Stevens. Indeed, Schalke wanted to keep hold of the Germany U21 keeper so much that they decided to give the armband to him after Fährmann’s loan deal to newly promoted Premier League side Norwich.
With Tim Krul keeping his place at Norwich, however, Fährmann is still waiting for his Premier League bow. And there will most definitely be no national team debut at this point either, as Jogi Löw was never interested even when Fährmann was an automatic starter at club level.
Fährmann kept 57 clean sheets in 196 Bundesliga games for Frankfurt and Schalke over the course of 13 seasons.
Honorable mentions: Another Bundesliga long-timer, René Adler, also bids German football farewell after he announced his retirement following 269 league games for Bayer Leverkusen, Hamburg and Mainz since making his debut in 2007.
Fellow veteran Jaroslav Drobny – 202 Bundesliga appearances for VfL Bochum, Hertha Berlin, Hamburger SV, Werder Bremen and Fortuna Düsseldorf) – could also finally opt for retirement at the age of 39.
And after failing to make a single appearance for Hertha Berlin in two years, Jürgen Klinsmann’s son Jonathan has joined Swiss side St. Gallen.
Niko Bungert (Mainz – retirement)
To understand how Niko Bungert is revered at Mainz, it’s enough to observe the fanfare in his farewell to the Opel Arena and hear the collective roar when he came close to scoring in his final game against Hoffenheim.
After failing to cut it at Schalke, Bungert joined Mainz while they were in Bundesliga 2. from Kickers Offenbach back in 2008.
Although his time at the carnival club was hugely affected by nagging injuries – which forced him to hang up his boots at 32 after spending the majority of the past couple of seasons in the treatment room – the club captain was still a firm fan favorite.
Fabian Lustenberger (Hertha Berlin – Young Boys)
Another old-timer in the center of the defense, Lustenberger featured 308 times for the capital city side after his move from FC Luzren in 2007. His ability to play in both central defense and midfield was vital in Pál Dárdai’s team, which blended youth and experience so well.
Lustenberger immediately took the captain’s armband at his new club Young Boys after Hertha decided against extending his contract, although only three outfield players racked up more playing minutes than the former Swiss international last season. After scoring in both his first two Bundesliga seasons, Lustenberger had only managed to find the net once (in 2015) ever since.
Paul Verhaegh (VfL Wolfsburg – FC Twente)
The Dutch fullback is most remembered for his reliability from 12 yards at Augsburg. Manuel Neuer – in his first involvement of the game after being substituted in following Pepe Reina’s sending off, no less – was the only keeper to save a penalty from Verhaegh in four years. His other 15 attempts were all successful.
Oddly enough, however, Verhaegh only converted half of his last six penalties in the Bundesliga. Two of those were in his first season at Wolfsburg after leaving the Bavarians, where he’d spent seven solid years since joining them from Vitesse Arnhem.
Just two of his 189 Bundesliga games took place last season, and he’s finally returned to the Eredivisie with newly promoted Twente.
Rafinha (FC Bayern – Flamengo)
In two long stints with Schalke and Bayern, Rafinha played 332 Bundesliga games, racking up 40 assists in the process – something that he perhaps didn’t receive as much credit for as he deserved.
The former Brazilian international divided opinions among Bayern’s hard-to-impress fanbase and he didn’t get along with Niko Kovac, but there was never a doubt that Rafinha was very well-liked among the squad.
Before his return to Brazil’s Série A as a free agent this summer, Rafinha had only spent a single season away from Bundesliga (at Genoa in 2010-11) since joining Schalke, who’d signed him after he impressed in the 2005 U20 World Cup – when a certain Lionel Messi was the breakout star.
Honorable Mentions: Mats Hummels’ unexpected return to Dortmund meant Abdou Diallo, who also spent a season at Mainz, became PSG’s third defensive reinforcement from the Bundesliga under Thomas Tuchel.
Somehow, a day after the EPL’s deadline day, Southampton (with another familiar name at the helm – Ralph Hasenhüttl) managed to nick a promising talent from the Bundesliga in the shape of Austrian international Kevin Danso.
Frederik Sørensen, who was a regular fixture the last time Köln were in the Bundesliga, has joined Lustenberger at Young Boys. In the veterans’ camp, Augsburg’s defensive cleanup saw both Christoph Janker and tongue-twister Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker become free agents, perhaps available to step in at clubs facing an injury crisis during the coming season.
Former Kaiserslautern and Freiburg center-back Marc Torrejón is also up for a similar challenge (only two short of a century of Bundesliga appearances) as he departed high-flying Union Berlin.
After eight years at Stuttgart and two relegations, Timo Baumgartl left the Bundesliga to join his former teammate Daniel Schwaab at PSV.
While promotion hopefuls Hamburger SV made the surprise signing of Arsenal youngster Xavier Amaechi, Scottish defender David Bates left the Volksparkstadion for Championship side Sheffield Wednesday.
Kevin Wimmer’s loan deal at Hannover didn’t work out and the defender, who was seen as a huge prospect when he joined Tottenham Hotspur in 2015, has been sent out on another loan (to Belgian side Mouscron) by Stoke City.
Similarly, Dortmund keep loaning out both Felix Passlack (Eredivisie club Fortuna Sittard) and Jeremy Toljan (Sassuolo), while their arch rivals Schalke were also working hard to offload fullbacks Hamza Mendyl (Dijon) and Pablo Insua (Huesca) on initial loan deals.
Former Freiburg and Wolfsburg all-rounder Sascha Riether (249 Bundesliga apps) found playing time hard to come by in his four-year stay at the Veltins Arena, but he’s now part of Schalke’s managerial team in the wake of his retirement. Meanwhile, Schalke alumnus Tim Hoogland joined A-League club Melbourne after his four-year stint at second-tier Bochum.
Newcastle United landed Jetro Willems from Eintracht Frankfurt in an initial loan deal, while Hamburg’s sought-after left-back Douglas Santos joined Zenit Petersburg for a record sum for a Bundesliga 2. club.
Hamburg also separated from their long-time fullback and skipper Gotoku Sakai, and Stuttgart bid farewell to another Bundesliga veteran in Andreas Beck.
Robert Bauer, who played Bundesliga football with Ingolstadt, Bremen and Nürnberg, joined Russian club Arsenal Tulsa.
Finally, former Bayer Leverkusen right-back Giulio Donati is now a free agent after leaving Mainz, where he played for four seasons.
Matthias Lehmann (1. FC Köln – retirement)
Every team needs its water carrier, as shown by the long career of Lehmann, who notched up 441 games in Germany’s top two divisions. Lehmann made his Bundesliga debut with 1860 Munich, and that alone demonstrates just how long he played at this level.
After further stints with Alemannia Aachen, St. Pauli and Eintracht Frankfurt, Lehmann’s move to the then second-tier Köln in 2012 brought stability for the no-nonsense midfielder, as he remained central in their push to promotion, avoidance of the drop and European adventure.
He managed to play more than 20 league games per season since his introduction at 1860 back in 2003 before falling out of favor in Köln’s latest promotion race, which happened to be his final season as a player.
Max Kruse (Werder Bremen – Fenerbahçe)
When rumors about lucrative offers from some giant clubs cooled down, Max Kruse’s name was strongly linked with Turkish sides. And that’s where he finally landed, after Bremen’s reluctance to extend his contract despite a stunning second half of the season for the seasoned genius, during which he’d played in a slightly deeper role.
In total, Kruse was directly involved in 144 goals in just 250 Bundesliga appearances. He only played a single game in three years during his first stint at Bremen, before his move to St. Pauli helped him to develop immensely as an all-round attacking engine.
Kruse stayed in the Bundesliga after St. Pauli’s immediate relegation with a move to SC Freiburg, where he was instrumental in a surprise fifth-place finish and a Europa League berth.
Following two productive seasons under Lucien Favre at Gladbach, Wolfsburg came calling and, although his time at the Lower Saxony club was far from disastrous, coming back home to Werder ultimately brought the best out of Kruse over the past three seasons.
And even with his infamous disciplinary issues, he still managed to feature 14 times for the national team, scoring four goals in the process.
James Rodriguez (Bayern to Real Madrid – loan ended)
There was little surprise when Bayern announced that they wouldn’t trigger their buy option for the Colombian attacking wizard, although that had little to do with his performances, even if some fans questioned his influence (or lack of it) in Bayern’s now customary painful Champions League knockout exits.
In his two-year stay at the Allianz Arena – hampered by injuries and a difficult relationship with Niko Kovac – James lived up to his star status with some memorable displays and dazzling football, capped off by a sensational hat-trick against Mainz in March. In 43 league outings for the Bavarians, the 2014 World Cup Golden Boot winner was involved in 29 goals.
Honorable Mentions: Bayern also said goodbye to Renato Sanches, who failed to make a telling impression after his big-money arrival from Benfica in 2016. Jean-Philippe Gbamin was another big-name summer departure from the Bundesliga after his move to Everton from Mainz.
Dortmund have sent Sergio Gómez to Spain’s Segunda División for playing time, while RB Leipzig decided against extending Emile Smith-Rowe’s loan deal, perhaps at the request of their social media team after they spent the majority of the Rückrunde responding to endless enquires from Arsenal fans about why he wasn’t playing.
Following their relegation, Hannover separated from midfield workhorses Walace, Iver Fossum and Pirmin Schwegler, while Lewis Holtby and Thanos Petsos are searching for new clubs after they left Hamburg and Bremen respectively.
Robbery (Arjen Robben – Retirement & Franck Ribéry – Fiorentina)
It was always hard to separate the careers of Ribéry and Robben, which calls for a double-entry in one of our front three places.
Both made instant impressions after their surprise arrivals from Marseille and Real Madrid respectively. And each of them expected to be out of the club within a year or two when Pep Guardiola took the helm.
But, if anything, they became even more complete players under the Spaniard. Both struggled with persistent injuries, of course, but they nonetheless caused havoc to opposing fullbacks even in their mid-30s.
And each finished off their Bayern careers with a goal in a league decider (a ninth title for Ribéry and Robben’s eighth) against Frankfurt.
Most of all, the pair changed Bayern’s history as the famed club had rarely had revered wingers in its ranks. From the golden generation of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Müller to the prominence of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm, the leading figures at Bayern had never previously been wide men.
It was fitting, then, that Bayern’s long-awaited fifth European Cup triumph arrived courtesy of a brilliant piece of combination play between the two wingers, who defied the odds throughout their time at the club.
Shinji Kagawa (Borussia Dortmund – Real Zaragoza)
Kagawa’s arrival from Cerezo Osaka for peanuts is one of the biggest bargains in modern football history. His instant success opened doors for similar transfers, while Dortmund won successive league titles and a memorable Pokal with the Japanese wizard taking center stage.
After finding things tough at Manchester United, as so many other players have in recent years, Dortmund opened their doors for the little genius as he returned to form in a fantastic season under Thomas Tuchel.
Kagawa was further down the pecking order for Lucien Favre, however, and he finally left the club after a six-month loan deal at Besiktas. Kagawa was involved in 78 goals in 148 Bundesliga outings for the Black and Yellows.
Frankfurt’s Magical Triangle (Luka Jovic – Real Madrid, Sébastien Haller – West Ham, Ante Rebic – AC Milan, two-year loan deal)
In the same manner as Robbery, Frankfurt’s front three are indivisible after a spectacular season both individually and as a team. Eintracht were in contention for a Champions League berth until the final weeks, and there was a small matter of Thursday’s delight during their run to a Europa League semifinal, which they lost to eventual champions Chelsea in a penalty shootout.
For their part, Haller, Rebic and Jovic scored 57 of Frankfurt’s 91 goals in all competitions while registering 25 assists.
Ante Rebic is the one who signed for the club first (and departed on deadline day, too) when he arrived from Fiorentina in 2016 on an initial loan deal. The Croat went on to score in both of Eintracht’s Pokal final appearances, against Dortmund and Bayern respectively.
Haller and Jovic joined a year after Rebic’s introduction, but it was Adi Hütter who brought the chemistry between the front three to full and devastating effect following his difficult start as Frankfurt’s coach.
Rebic’s physical strength and all-round ability, Haller’s brilliant build-up involvement and imposing presence and Jovic’s consistency and poaching instinct were the driving forces of Frankfurt’s marvelous season, after many had predicted the club would do well to avoid relegation in the wake of a dreadful start to the campaign that also saw them exit the Pokal in the first-round.
For Frankfurt’s astute sporting director Fredi Bobic and head coach Hütter, the task of assembling another batch of attacking talent continues, while the magical triangle is now scattered across England, Spain and Italy.
Honorable Mentions: Dortmund gave up on young talents Maximilian Philipp and Alexander Isak, whereas André Schürrle is out on loan again with the club desperate to take him off their wage bill.
Schalke did the same with Yevhen Konoplyanka, as the out of favor Ukrainian winger finally departed with a move to Shakhtar Donetsk. Christian Pulisic heads to Chelsea in a lucrative move announced in January, with the English club finding loopholes to land him in spite of a transfer ban.
Leipzig offloaded Bruma (PSV) and Jean-Kévin Augustin (Monaco), who both rarely saw action after decent first seasons in the Bundesliga.
With intense competition in the squad for a striking role, Leverkusen decided against signing Swedish international Isaac Kiese Thelin on a permanent basis from Anderlecht, while striker-cum-singer Josip Drmic joined Norwich after his contract wasn’t renewed by Gladbach.
Victor Osimhen (Lille) and Riechedly Bazoer (Vitesse) are enjoying life after leaving Wolfsburg in the summer. Joelinton is also making a name for himself in Newcastle after debuting against Arsenal opposite his former Hoffenheim teammate Reiss Nelson.
In a win-win scenario, Hertha Berlin managed to get a good deal out of Valentino Lazaro as he received the call from Antonio Conte to join Inter Milan’s ambitious project.
After their relegation to Bundesliga 2., Stuttgart separated with speedy wingers Carlos Mané, Chadrac Akolo and Anastasios Donis while Bundesliga old-timer Ivo Ilicevic is a free-agent following Nürnberg’s demotion.
Strikers Aron Jóhannsson and Serhou Guirassy were among other names leaving the Bundesliga over the summer, along with Hannover’s Jonathas and a certain Pierre-Michel Lasogga, who heads out to Qatar.
Further down in the second-tier, Robert Glatzel earned himself a move to Cardiff City after impressing with Heidenheim and Sebastian Freis hung up his boots after making 371 appearances for five clubs since 1999.
Karim Guédé, mostly remembered for his eventful cameo appearances with Freiburg, also calls time on his career following a season at Sandhausen. Other well-known names departed in the form of Sami Allagui and Alexander Meier both leaving St. Pauli, with the latter still looking for a club.
Unless he does somehow eventually pull a Gareth Bale, there’s a high chance that Caiuby will be going in the same direction, as Augsburg’s sporting director Stefan Reuter stated that the troublesome (yet awesome) attacker will never play for the club again despite having a year left on his contract.
Finally, besides the big names of Kagawa and Gotoku Sakai, Takuma Asano, Yuya Kubo, Tatsuya Ito, Ja-cheol Koo and Takashi Usami all left Germany in the summer as the Bundesliga awaits its next superstars from East Asia.
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