Despite clawing back in their match Saturday at Ingolstadt to earn a 2-2 draw, the comeback win for Eintracht Frankfurt on Sunday confirms what many have felt for much of the Hinrunde — Hannover 96 have been relegated. The side was never far from the bottom of the table following the 1st round draw against Darmstadt when they were 9th. However, the final nail in their coffin was that fact that they won a total of 2 matches in the Hinrunde so far.
So now that the confirmation has been made many will start to wonder who could remain with the club as they attempt to bounce straight back to the big stage, and who will be sold off to other clubs. One such player is goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler. The 27-year-old native of Köln came up with in the Billy Goats’ youth system before attracting the notice of Manchester United and signing with the English club in July 2005. Although he played for the Red Devils’ youth sides, he never made an appearance with the senior squad and came to Hannover on a free transfer.
Zieler has been with the club since the summer of 2010 and has been a rock at the back. He made his first league appearance for the 96ers in week 18 of that season, and since then has missed just two Bundesliga matches for the club, both in that first season. Zieler currently sits second in club history for goalkeeper appearances and thirteenth for all positions. Zieler has kept 47 clean sheets, which averages out to one out of every four matches. According to Squawka, he also currently leads the Bundesliga this season with 119 saves, with Hoffenheim’s Oliver Baumann his next closest competition with 95 saves.
Zieler’s appeal has probably dropped a bit considering that this is a bit of a down year for him. His five clean sheets in both the league and DFB Pokal this season are his fewest since he took over the #1 role for the club. The goalkeeper made over 30 appearances for German youth sides, and his six appearances for the German National Team show that he is talented, but the last was nearly a year ago, in a 2-1 loss to the United States, and his chances of being named to the 23 man squad for this summer’s European Championships, are slim, particularly considering the outstanding form of Timo Horn and Bernd Leno of FC Köln and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, not to mention Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen.
One factor that works in his favor is value. According to transfermarkt.co.uk he is currently valued at €8 million. However, it is unlikely that Hannover would get that for him should a deal be made. This would be because relegated clubs are likely to cut down on their wage bill in order to remain financially viable. In a similar situation following last season, Roman Burki made the switch to Borussia Dortmund from Freiburg following the Black Forest side’s relegation. Despite a valuation of 4.5 million Euros, BVB were able to come in and agree to terms for just 3.5 million. Teams looking for a cheap upgrade could target the 27-year-old who has just one year remaining on his current contract.
So which sides could hope to improve their goalkeeper position by bringing the native of Cologne? Squawka currently rates Zieler as the tenth best keeper in the Bundesliga this season out of those who have made 10 or more appearances. This has him ranked ahead of Rene Adler at Hamburg, Christian Mathenia of Darmstadt, and both Koen Casteels and Diego Benaglio of Wolfsburg. According to Kicker’s own player rankings, he sits as the fourth best goalkeeper of the current campaign, tied with Hoffenheim’s Oliver Baumann, and trailing just Marvin Hitz of Augsburg, Adler, and Mainz’s Loris Karius. So despite the club’s struggles, Zieler is largely looked at as not part of the problem.
The reality is that Zieler is not alone as players who could move to a new club in order to remain in Germany’s top flight. The Japanese duo of right back Hiroki Sakai and attacking midfielder Hiroshi Kiyotake continue to impress. Sakai remains one of the first names in the starting line up with 27 appearances, second among outfield players. Kiyotake continues to be the man pulling the strings for the side. In 19 games that the 26-year-old has appeared in, he has scored 4 goals and assisted 6 more. Without him in the side, Hannover has collected just 4 points all season. Additionally,both players have international experience with the Blue Samurai of Japan, making them even more valuable.
The Lower Saxony side will receive offers for these two along with Ron-Robert Zieler in the upcoming transfer window. All will be viewed as upgrades for different Bundesliga sides, so whether or not Hannover will get close to the market value for these three players they brought to Germany is the real question that will be answered in the coming months.
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