The summer transfer window is now officially closed. Whew. Perhaps it’s my imagination, but it’s difficult to recall a Bundesliga transfer window so busy with big names going to and fro.
England seemed a popular destination for Bundesliga players, with late transfers Abdul Rahman Baba (FCA to Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (Wolfsburg to Manchester City) and Heung-Min Son (Leverkusen to Tottenham) following the trail set earlier in the summer by Bastian Schweinsteiger, Shinji Okazaki and Roberto Firmino. Overall, a great loss of Bundesliga talent to a league buoyed financially by another mind-boggling TV contract. The Bundesliga certainly gave the impression of being a selling league — taking English pounds and running, probably with the idea that players sold at such high prices can be replaced by younger talent coming from German youth academies and good value transfers from lower-profile domestic leagues.
To some degree it’s frustrating to see talent established in Germany leaving for England. On the other hand, success in sports is often gained by properly valuing talent and selling it when the price is too good to refuse. It will be interesting to see if the Bundesliga clubs involved in European competition this year will have enough depth to compete successfully.
To be fair, German clubs have already re-invested chunks of their incoming transfer money into their clubs by quickly purchasing ‘replacement’ players. Bayern brought in two standout talents in Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal, Bayer Leverkusen have hopefully filled the offensive void left by Son’s departure by bringing in Dortmund’s Kevin Kampl and, surprisingly, Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez. Wolfsburg, who lost not only De Bruyne but also Ivan Perišić and Aaron Hunt, beat Juventus to the punch in capturing the signature of Schalke’s Julian Draxler. FC Augsburg has brought in two young fullbacks to fill the shoes of the promising Baba, while Mainz and Hoffenheim have brought in players too (although one must say that Hoffenheim has undergone a fairly radical changeover, reflected clearly in their poor start to the season). Again, whether Bundesliga clubs are being penny-wise or pound-foolish (pun intended) will be an interesting story to follow as the season develops.
The Javier Affair
I don’t think it was just me who was shocked (pleasantly) when the news was announced that Mexican international Javier Hernandez was joining Bayer Leverkusen. After returning to Manchester United this summer from his year-long loan spell at Real Madrid, the noise out of Manchester seemed to be that Hernandez was a Red Devil and he was going to receive the chance to make it. Obviously that changed.
And Leverkusen Coach Roger Schmidt made the Mexican’s move to Germany happen. He sold Hernandez on his club, the never-ever team of the Bundesliga, much goodness but little greatness over the years and a near-empty trophy cabinet. Hernandez acknowledged Schmidt’s influence, and also stated
I want to go back to feeling important and happy. I want to find happiness. Bayer made me feel important and loved and coming here was not a difficult decision to make. They made me feel wanted….. I want to help and achieve important things. I have felt very loved. I hope to accomplish things in my head and in my heart
Obtaining Chicharito cost Leverkusen an estimated £7.3 million, hardly chump change. But the 27 year-old Mexican has scored 97 goals in 270 matches in all competitions for Chivas de Guadalajara, the Red Devils and Los Blancos, plus another 40 international goals for El Tri. He’s in the prime of his career, feels loved now by Leverkusen instead of being a lesser-light priority at Manchester United, and has competed in about every major tournament the footballing world offers. He’s at the right age….old enough to know what it takes to succeed and that success is not a given, and young enough to accomplish a great deal. Hernandez also has the pedigree, with both his father and his grandfather representing Mexico in the World Cup (1954,1986), and seems quite grounded, taking seriously his role of being Mexico’s ambassador for UNICEF and reportedly being very devout in his Catholic faith.
Acquiring Chicharito seems a no-brainer, and hopefully Leverkusen will reap huge benefits from what is, for them, a very audacious move. Whatever happens, Leverkusen, hardly the most popular Bundesliga club because of their corporate connection, has just gained approximately 123 million new fans — Hernandez’ popularity in Mexico is enormous, and adidas needs to get it together and make Leverkusen product available in Mexico and the U.S. immediately.
Leverkusen’s roster has changed dramatically despite their success last season. Gone are captain Simon Rolfes (retired), Gonzalo Castro, Josip Drmic, Stefan Reinartz and now Son. But bringing in Hernandez, along with Kevin Kampl from Dortmund, young Jonathan Tah, Admir Mehmedi and getting Christoph Kramer back from his Gladbach loan, along with signing loanee Kyriakos Papadopolous to a permanent deal should make the club even stronger. Leverkusen have never won the big matches (trophies include one Pokal championship and a UEFA Cup title) — they are Neverkusen for a reason (or two). But this is a squad that appears well-managed and talented. Their Champions League group includes Barcelona and AS Roma, along with BATE Borisov. And they were just knocked off by Bayern on MatchDay Three. Nevertheless, this is an exciting time to root for Die Werkself.
More Intriguing Last-Minute Transfers
– Stuttgart obtaining Robbie Kruse. The pacy Australian winger could be a great pickup for the Swabians, even though their defense is what is the main cause of a point-less start to the season. If Kruse is healthy, he could really help the club down the flanks.
– FC Augsburg bringing back Ja-Cheol Koo from Mainz. The South Korean midfielder was a strong contributor to Augsburg during his earlier loan spell with the Bavarian club. FCA are certainly off to a slow start, but his acquisition may help the club get in gear, and he’ll certainly provide depth with Europa League group play upcoming.
– Vedad Ibišević going to Hertha Berlin. The Bosnian international has been surplus to requirements at Stuttgart for quite a while now, which of course is why Fredi Bobic signed him to a contract extension last summer (and one of the reasons Fredi is no longer at VfB). I’ve rooted for the striker since he came up with Hoffenheim and had such a wonderful Hinrunde with the exciting Bundesliga newcomers before injuring his knee during winter break. The initial success of Ibišević was breathtaking, scoring 18 goals in 17 matches, and the fact that he played high school soccer in my hometown, along with a year at local St. Louis University, made him a great guy to root for. I’m not sure what he has left, but he’s only 31, and certainly Stuttgart’s inability to judge talent does not necessarily serve as an indictment of his current ability. He will need to gain match fitness, but he could be a difference-maker for Hertha, who have needed help in attack since the departure of Adrian Ramos.
Quick Hitters from MatchDay Three
How ’bout those Billy Goats. 1.FC Köln…. fourth in the table going into the international break. Even more intriguing, Köln are tied for third in the league for in goals scored, with six. Anthony Modeste appears to be a really good signing thus far, the team is taking on a more offensive focus as Coach Peter Stoger said they would, Simon Zoller is back from his loan and seems to be everywhere on the pitch and Timo Horn continues strong in goal. Another positive note — Philipp Hosiner saw his first Bundesliga action this past weekend and scored his first goal. The young man has been through an ordeal off the field, and it’s really nice to seem him find success.
Along with Köln, there appears to be a pretty solid, emerging Bundesliga middle-class, with Mainz 05, Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder Bremen and Hertha Berlin hitting some good notes so far. One expects Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Augsburg to get it together soon, while newcomers FC Ingolstadt and SV Darmstadt are off to good starts. HSV already has a win, so it really leaves only Hannover, Hoffenheim and Stuttgart with major problems thus far. As noted, Hoffenheim have undergone quite a roster turnover, so one would expect improvement as the players are together longer. That leaves Hannover and Stuttgart. Oh oh. Of course, no one expects Ingolstadt to win two of every three matches, or Darmstadt to remain unbeaten (well, they haven’t won yet either).
Overall, I’m still happy with Fox’ handling of the Bundesliga in the U.S. Not happy with TuneIn Radio. The network upped their audio broadcasts of BuLi matches to five each week from three last year….. but now they are charging a ‘premium’ monthly fee. For one who often works when the matches are being played, TuneIn was a godsend, helping to give one a ‘live’ feel for the matches they presented. But I won’t sign up for the monthly subscription, and will no longer have that opportunity available — already spending enough on sports subscriptions. It reminds me of GolTV a few years back. They had just lost La Liga and Serie A coverage to BeIn Sports, and thus began presenting five BuLi matches each weekend — YESSSSSS !!! Unfortunately, about two weeks later, my satellite company dropped GolTV, as eventually did many U.S. satellite and cable providers. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
MatchDay Three Stats
I cover everything ….. Lars Bender led the league in distance covered (12.3 km)
I shoot at everything…. The irrepressible Anthony Ujah fired off eight shots
I can cross you up… Christian Träsch led the league by putting up six crosses
I tackle everything… Arturo Vidal led with 19 tackles this weekend
Mr. Touchy Feely… Julian Weigl was tops with 109 touches of the ball