June 26, 2017

Summer’s Departures: A “Startelf” of Players the Bundesliga Lost This Summer

And that’s it for this summer. As usual, keeping the season ahead in mind, clubs jostled around during the past two months of summer transfers. Meanwhile, for us fans, the transfer market always triggers a “you win some, you lose some” sentiment. This piece will probably trigger a bit of emotion for some of you Bundesliga partisans.

There was no shortage of this sentiment for Bundesliga fans during this summer’s transfer market, which closed on August 31st. As expected these days, Premier League clubs came in swinging to snatch up some of the Bundesliga’s finest, whereas their German counterparts sealed the deal with some of the hottest European prospects.

In terms of new league talent, Bundesliga fans will be able now to watch former Bundesliga stars Mario Gomez, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Abdul Rahman Baba return this season, as well as Philipp Wollscheid, Jeffrey Bruma and Takashi Usami – who all showed glimpses of their qualities as youngsters. Meanwhile, a host of exciting players bid farewell to the Bundesliga this summer and, as usual, we sat down to pick the best of XI.

Goalkeeper

Ron-Robert Zieler (Hannover 96 to Leicester City)

The World Cup winner (yes, the backup for the backup goalkeeper counts) featured 185 times in the Bundesliga since he joined Hannover in 2010, including playing every minute in the league since the 2011/12 season, and captaining the side in his last six games for the club. He was also a regular fixture in Hannover’s consecutive Europa League surges, where Mirko Slomka’s side reached the knockout stages.

Zieler was the subject of never-ending transfer rumors in his heydays, but he remained with the side from Lower Saxony, who believed in him after a rough patch at Manchester United, where he failed to break into the first team. But his overdue Premier League debut arrived in Leicester City’s first home fixture this season, as he replaced injured Kasper Schmeichel for the reigning champions’ hard-fought win against Swansea City.

Honorable mentions: If it was all about current form, Loris Karius – another keeper who learned his trade in Manchester as a youngster (at Manchester City, in his case) – would have been the obvious pick here. The social media sensation never looked back since making his debut for Mainz in October 2013, and he is planning for more of the same at Liverpool. Under-fire goalkeeper Simon Mignolet started the season between the posts, as Karius is recovering from injury, but the Belgium international is struggling to make the most of his opportunity. Jürgen Klopp also signed the 39-years-old Alexander Manninger, who is also no stranger to English football with his time at Arsenal, from Augsburg.

Defenders

Martin Stranzl (from Borussia Mönchengladbach to retirement)

Stranzl already turned 30 when he signed for relegation dogfighters Borussia Mönchengladbach from Spartak Moscow back in December 2010. After arriving at the club mid-season, he made his debut against Nürnberg in the Rückrunde’s opener. Die Fohlen finished 2010 bottom of the standings, conceding a mammoth 47 goals in their way of collecting 10 points in 17 matches. But they meant business after the customary long Winterpause with new signing Stranzl impressing in his first Bundesliga match for nearly five years.

Lucien Favre was on his way to take over the managerial position from Michael Frontzeck as well, and Stranzl played a big part in the Foals’ improbable survival, as they only conceded 18 goals in the second half of the season. The Austrian kept his place in the side, as they turned into a genuine European contingent in a space of a year. The former 1860 Munich and Stuttgart defender played a total of 258 Bundesliga appearances before calling it a day in the wake successive injury setbacks in the past two seasons.

Dante (from VfL Wolfsburg to Nice)

Partnering with Stranzl at the heart of Gladbach’s defense that year, Dante is another Bundesliga veteran who left Germany this summer. The Brazilian endured a difficult time under Pep Guardiola at Bayern before a mediocre season for Wolfsburg, which led people to forget about his best moments.

Apart from playing an invaluable role in Mönchengladbach’s revival, Dante was one of the three key signings that proved vital for Bayern’s unprecedented treble in Jupp Heynckes’ farewell season. Dante’s heralded passing prowess tested with his clumsy attitude whilst under pressure – with a lack of confidence, to boot – which, in particular, looked visible since the 7-1 reverse against Germany in the World Cup. Dante, 32, is looking to rebuild his reputation in Nice alongside his former boss Favre and a certain Mario Balotelli.

Roel Brouwers (from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Roda JC)

A third center-back from Mönchengladbach’s relegation survivals? Yes, that’s correct. But it must be noted that Brouwers is one of the underrated defenders. Ever. He amassed extraordinary numbers with his accurate passes, and he is always there when his team needed him the most.

When Gladbach took the league by storm in 2011-12 with a fourth-placed finish, their defense was considered by many as to be one of the league’s best, as Brouwers provided cover for Dante and Stranzl, managing his joint-best 21 league appearances that season. Meanwhile, Brouwers returned to his first club this summer, as his nine years in Gladbach garnered him status as one of the fan favorites in Borussia-Park.

Joel Matip (from Schalke 04 to Liverpool)

The great thing about Startelf lists like this one is that you don’t need to adhere to lineup conventions. So I’m going with four central defenders, perhaps taking a cue or two from Joachim Löw’s makeshift defensive unit during the 2014 World Cup. Matip, who scored Cameroon’s only goal in that tournament, rounds off the back-four, as he departs Schalke for Klopp’s Liverpool.

The Royal Blues has been the single club Matip has played for professionally, being a major contributor in S04’s 2010-11 DFB-Pokal triumph. His versatility was on display in Gelsenkirchen, as he showed he could do a more than decent job as a defensive midfielder, and he also briefly featured in both fullback positions. With Schalke having a hard time making any progress in recent years, the 25-years-old all-rounder takes the next step forward in his career.

Honorable mentions: While Hannover succeeded in keeping Salif Sané at the club, they witnessed a huge turnover in the wake of relegation. Skipper Christian Schulz is still playing in the Bundesliga, though it’s the Austrian Bundesliga, as Sturm Graz came calling after his contract with Hannover expired. Fellow defenders Hiroki Sakai and Marcelo followed suit, while Daniel Schwabb and Antonio Rüdiger, whose loan deal to Roma was made permanent, disappeared from Stuttgart. Meanwhile, Eintracht Frankfurt avoided relegation via a hard-fought playoff win against Nürnberg in the final season for hard-tackling Carlos Zambrano and super-sub Constant Djakpa at the Commerzbank-Arena. Medhi Benatia returns to Serie A with a loan deal to Juventus, who won the last five league titles in Italy, after a difficult time with Bayern. Estonian captain Ragnar Klavan, who only missed eleven league games in four seasons at Augsburg, is one of Klopp’s four signings from the Bundesliga. Finally, after enjoying highs and lows (mostly lows), Sebastian Boenisch and Slobodan Rajkovic finally departs the Bundesliga.

Midfielders

Ilkay Gündogan (from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City)

Manchester City fans were expecting a signing or two from the Bundesliga ever since the news of Pep Guardiola’s arrival was made public. The Spaniard didn’t disappoint, by penning a pair of high-caliber signings from Germany. His first, Gündogan, is an exciting player with an anchoring role capable of dictating the game. A skill rivaled only by few.

The biggest issue is Gündogan’s fitness, as he’s yet to feature for the Citizens due to an injury setback suffered at Dortmund at the end of last season. In full fitness, Gündogan – who missed both the World Cup and Euros due to injuries – is an ideal player for Guardiola’s City side, who attracts praise from every corner for their exuberant season start. Gündogan won the Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal, and reached the Champions League final with Dortmund.

Granit Xhaka (from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Arsenal)

Judging by the fierce competition in the league, Arsenal were relatively quiet in the summer. Nevertheless, they acquired the services of Mönchengladbach’s engine Xhaka and Germany’s international Shkodran Mustafi – both of whom could address the Gunners’ own long-standing weaknesses. Xhaka didn’t have the best of starts to life in Emirates Stadium, with his aggressive attitude getting the better of his potential in the opening day defeat to Liverpool.

But like his time in Gladbach, Xhaka will start to settle with time, as he impressed in a deep-lying role in Arsenal’s first win of the season; 3-1 at Watford. In a four seasons stint in Germany, Xhaka featured in 140 matches. In his early days at Gladbach, Favre dropped Xhaka to the substitute bench for disciplinary reasons. But, instead of moving on to a new pasture, he fought back to get his manager’s trust, and eventually given the captain’s armband last season under Andre Schubert.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan (from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester United)

While Guardiola is busy revolutionizing a club from the other side of Manchester, his old foe, Jose Mourinho, is working on bringing back the Manchester United’s heydays. With the caliber of players also joining United this summer – Zlatan Ibrahimović and Paul Pogba, in case you missed it – Mkhitaryan’s transfer from Dortmund suddenly became relatively unheralded.

But the Armenian was outstanding from start to finish in 2015-16, which leads to a prestigious kicker‘s Bundesliga Players’ Player of the season award. His prior two seasons at Dortmund saw him struggle with the pressure of living up to Dortmund’s expensive player tag, but he eventually starred under Thomas Tuchel in a Dortmund’s dynamic attack. He eventually left Dortmund breaking the club record for outgoing players, as well, although Andre Schürrle later revoked his status of Dortmund’s expensive incoming transfer.

Leroy Sané (from Schalke 04 to Manchester City)

Let’s settle this early: I believe this transfer is only bettered by the moves of Pogba and Gonzalo Higuaín in the list of this summer’s ridiculous big-money football transfers. Sané is a huge prospect, and he never looked back since he made a name for himself in Schalke’s famous win in Santiago Bernabéu last term. But I never thought he reached the point of joining the list of most expensive football transfers.

On the other hand, I wonder how he will fit into Guardiola’s tactical scheme, as his passing abilities leave a lot to be desired, not to mention he appeared selfish in front of goal at times. Of course, there is a good news for City fans, apart from my close to zero understanding of tactics and as such. The noticeable portion of the transfer sum will only be conducted based on his form at City, while Raheem Sterling – who you can draw many comparisons with Sane, with some exceptions here and there – is in top form under Guardiola. Sané, 20, scored 11 goals in 47 Bundesliga appearances, including 8 in 33 matches last season.

Ronny (from Hertha Berlin to unattached)

Okay, enough with the in-form players who are embarking on a new adventure in the so-called World’s Best League after their big-money transfers.

Ronny has never been a world beater, and only played 114 games in six seasons in Germany, half of them in the second-division. But this apparent lack of success doesn’t stop this Brazilian wizard from being one of the fan favorites in Hertha Berlin as well as in the Bundesliga.

From his maiden Bundesliga goal against Frankfurt in the 2013-14 (his best season in Bundesliga, by some distance) curtain-raiser to the dazzling free-kick against Hannover, and a late brace at Freiburg, Ronny delivered joyous moments for Bundesliga faithful.

All told, his Bundesliga career brings memory of fellow Brazilian starlet Caio, who left Frankfurt without fulfilling his potential. Caio is currently enjoying his time in Switzerland with Grasshopper. Meanwhile, Ronny is searching for a club after his contract at Hertha terminated by mutual agreement.

Honorable mentions: The Bundesliga lost some of its battling midfielders in the summer, from Stuttgart’s Serey Die to Mainz’s veteran Elkin Soto. After a disastrous Euros with Russia, Roman Neustädter is trying his luck in Turkey with Fenerbahçe, while Tolga Cigerci signed for city rivals Galatasaray. Håvard Nordtveit returned to Premier League with a move to West Ham United, while Roy Beerens joins English Championship side Reading.

Former German international Piotr Trochowski once again left without a club after his Augsburg contact expired. Despite the relegation dent with Hannover, Hiroshi Kiyotake joined Trochowski’s old club Sevilla in a lucrative deal. The face of Kaiserslautern’s entertaining 2010-11 team, Ivo Iličević finally moved to the not-so-rich-anymore Anzhi Makhachkala after five years at Hamburg SV. After successive injuries, Stefan Reinartz hang up his boot at the age of 27, but it will not be the last time we hear his name.

Striker

Bas Dost (from VfL Wolfsburg to Sporting CP)

Bas Dost will forever be associated with his crazy start to the 2015 calendar year. From the goal that started it off – a miscued volley beating a certain Manuel Neuer, to the four-goal haul at Leverkusen, it was fun watching Dost doing his thing in the highly-entertaining Wolfsburg side. He was free from the injury woes that kept him frustrated in his first two seasons in Wolves, and everything he touched seemed to find the back of the net.

Dost’s “Normal” form restored last season, as he only managed to score eight goals in the league (only half of the 16 he registered in 2014-15), though he still finished as the club’s top scorer.

Dost, who finished Eredivisie’s top-scorer with 32 goals in 34 matches in his last season for Heerenveen, leaves Wolfsburg for Portugal’s Sporting to replace Leicester City-bound Islam Slimani days before the deadline day.

Honorable mentions: Surprisingly there were few movements in this section. Hoffenheim kept Adam Szalai, who broke his scoring drought in Euros, but Kai Herdling and Kevin Kuranyi left the club in the summer. A chronic knee injury forced Herdling, most of whose career was spent in Sinsheim, to retire. Kurányi and Hugo Almeida returned to the Bundesliga last term, but both struggled to show even a glimpse of their qualities before departing once again in the summer. Anthony Ujah rounds off our list, as he left the Bundesliga to join Assani Lukimya in the Chinese Super League.

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical difference, he is interested in every detail of German football. You can pay a visit to his Facebook page, Bundesliga Obsession, dedicated for the one and only, Bundesliga. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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