July 28, 2017

Bundesliga Summer Transfers: The Gems

My esteemed colleague Travis Timmons wrote a great summary of the Bundesliga’s most expensive summer transfers, focusing on ten of the priciest deals. I will give my opinions in the few cases that I disagree with Travis’ assessments and then tackle some under-the-radar signings/honorable mentions in more detail.

Note: In addition to Transfermarkt.com I will be relying on Bundesliga.com and the Bundesliga reddit forums for data.

Let’s start with the biggest signing.

Yes, Granit Xhaka got paid a lot of money, but deservedly so and only relatively speaking. €45 million sounds like a lot, but in light of the differences in revenue between the EPL and the rest of the world not named “Barça” or “Real Madrid”, it really isn’t. I mean, for one thing, when it comes to TV money, Leicester, Stoke, and Norwich are pulling in two or three times the amount Bayern is! Bayern and, to a lesser extent Dortmund and Schalke, all do a great job of closing the gap with other income (match day + commercial), but the reality is that when it comes to squad value, there are 14 English teams over €100 million compared to just six Bundesliga squads. The perceived overpay is not unlike this summer’s stunning NBA deals (Mike Conley getting paid more per year than Lebron James), with the EPL’s TV deal acting as the increased salary cap in this analogy.

Moreover, I actually thought Xhaka played quite well at the Euros. His stats from France are a little better than during the Bundesliga. He was probably the second-best outfield player behind Fabian Schär. It’s definitely not his fault that Haris Seferovic can’t finish chances that Xhaka creates with his brilliant vision. 

Next, I think Henrikh Mkhitaryan‘s contract is more contentious for Manchester United, as he will turn 28 in January. This is a problematic age for an attacking player, as Michael Caley and others who have written about the football aging curve have described:

“The football aging curve increases until an age of approximately 26 and drops thereafter. But the differences between the age of 25 until 30 are minor. After 30 the slope becomes considerably negative.”

The recent examples of Juan Mata, the 28-year-old Miki will be replacing at MU, or even past attackers such as Alvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado or Dimitar Berbatov all signing long-term, big-money deals at 27 or 28 years old are certainly warning signs. On the other hand, it’s not like MU are known for spending their money wisely. I certainly agree with Travis that it was  tremendous business for BVB, even if Watzke and Zorc are ostensibly playing the real life version of Football Manager / FIFA career mode.

Breel Embolo was the other player that raised my eyebrow on the Bundesliga’s most-expensive transfer list. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on him, and there are rumors that he wasn’t fully fit for Switzerland at the Euros, but for me his touch was extremely disappointing.

According to Whoscored.com he lost the ball 15 times in 190 minutes, which would put him 8th-WORST among qualified (3 games or more) players. (If you are wondering, Ádám Szalai, the Hungary and long-time Bundesliga veteran, who scored for the first time in 18 months is your clubhouse leader.) The Cameroon-born striker is just 19, but I have my doubts as to whether Schalke really needed another attacking player full of athleticism and questionable decision-making. Of course, if they are selling Leroy Sané (speaking of questionable decision-making and a fondness for dribbling) for €50 million, it probably makes sense to replace him. It further complicates matters that Huntelaar wants to stay and presumably start at center-forward, despite clearly having lost a step or two. Either way, I see Embolo as a classic Schalke move to bank on the future.

Having reflected on the top most-expensive transfers, let’s now look at some under-the-radar deals:

Hoffenheim are Killing It

As you read, TSG sold their somewhat-disgruntled star Kevin Volland for €20 million to Leverkusen. They reinvested that money in four players.

Sandro Wagner arrived from Darmstadt for 2.8 million. The former Bayern player, once the butt of many jokes, is bringing a lot of question marks coming off his best ever season. Still, for €2.8 million it’s a worthy gamble. The bigger one is Andrej Kramaric, who finalized his move from Leicester for €10 million after impressing in the spring. The Croatian, who didn’t get a lot of playing time at the Euros, was averaging close to four shots a game, and was unlucky not to score more than five goals. With the revitalized Mark Uth, who scored eight goals since Nagelsmann took over in February, and Mexico-slayer Eduardo Vargas still lurking, Hoffenheim suddenly have great depth up top.

Lukas Rupp was one of the more-underrated midfielders in the Bundesliga for Stuttgart last year. He cost just €5 million and is a prime candidate for the Vladimir Darida-style breakout season.

Kevin Vogt, the 24-year-old Cologne midfielder with 8000 Bundesliga minutes behind him, is also a decent depth piece, although getting him for €1.75 million when he is listed at €4 million could be a troubling sign.

Getting one of the best Bundesliga defenders of last year in Ingolstadt’s Benjamin Hübner at €800k is an absolute steal. It is borderline unfair, considering they already have Fabian Schär, who was arguably Switzerland’s best player in the Euros, and Niklas Süle, who is targeted by all the big clubs and is still just 20 year old.

Dortmund Got all the Kids

Aside from Demeble, the BVB picked up Raphael Guerreiro from Lorient for €12 million. The 22-year-old left back had SIX interceptions in the Euro final versus France and is gonna give Marcel Schmelzer a run for his money. At 18, Emre Mor (from Nordsjaelland to BVB for €7 million) was the only player for Turkey to have showed up at the Euros. Perhaps the legendary Fatih Terim was having a moment of senility or was afraid to bench Arda Turan, but it’s clear that he made a huge mistake by not playing Mor. Our colleague, Anas Ali Molla already raved about Mikel Merino in February. Given the rare combo of physical ability and technical skill displayed at Osasuna, €3.5 million seems like a steal and a nice replacement for Gündogan.

The Rest of the League

Julian Baumgartlinger from Mainz to Leverkusen for €4 million was an early pickup, giving Bayer roughly 45 central midfielders. No wonder poor Christoph Kramer had to go back to Borussia Mönchengladbach, where he will try to replace Xhaka.

VfL Wolfsburg did some very Wolfsburg things. They got Daniel Didavi from Stuttgart, who finally had his first season at 26. VfL also signed Yannick Gerhardt from Cologne for €13 million (market value – €4.5 million), whose partnership with Maxi Arnold should give die Wölfe a nice young midfield for the future. Finalizing the loan deal of Guilavogui from Atletico is another solid move. Wolfsburg are doing sensible things.

Well, not so fast!

On the other hand, they lost veteran defender Naldo to Schalke for nothing, entrusting Dante to lead their defense and mentor Robin Knoche. (I know about Jeffrey Bruma, but work with me here, people!) YIKES! Sadly, that is only the second worst move for VfL, if the Simone Zaza for 25 mill rumors prove true, which I hope they will.

Some Striker News

Bobby Wood leaving Union Berlin and joining HSV for €3.5 million should be an upgrade over the strikers aka the “Lords of Hamburg” (Artjoms Rudnevs, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, and Sven Schipplock).

Alfred Finnbogason finalized his deal with Augsburg (€5 million paid to Real Sociedad), while Anthony Ujah left Werder for China, joining Liaoning FC for €11.5 million. At age 25, this is a curious move, but I certainly cannot blame him for taking all the money that China had to offer. I mean Graziano Pelle recently got 30 million, and Gonzalo Higuain reportedly turned down 800k British pounds PER WEEK! What a time to be alive.\

Leave us a comment if we missed someone, or if you have some thoughts on the transfer season!

 

 

 

 

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL