Ever since the winter transfer window opens at midnight on New Year’s Day, we are reminded by sports writers that it was a quiet one, even by the standard of the usually tame mid-season ins and outs. I will also spare you from listing the January transfers impacts, as there are some excellent pieces out there dedicated to the subject. So you ask: What is so important that you want to bring the uneventful month for football?
Well, I wouldn’t dare to dream bigger than watching three of my favorite players return to my favorite league in a single transfer window.
Which is exactly what happened.
These players might not be Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar, but all of these returnees have their own legitimate claims to be included in a Bundesliga hipster’s darlings list. The gaffer behind my early days of Bundesliga obsession, Thomas Schaaf is also back in the dugout after six-months absence, providing icing on the cake.
When he left Hannover for Chinese Super League mid-table side Changchun Yatai ahead of the 2014-15 season, I put the Hungarian in my annual dream team consisting of departing players, adding that his move was least expected of all.
Granted, it was not the season in which the league of a country that will celebrate a milestone of 50 years without a title come up with a briefcase full of money to allure Bundesliga stars, but still Hustzi is a kind of player you couldn’t resist to unlike him. His deft first touches, blistering pace, passing accuracy and deadly free-kicks are a joy to watch, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone accusing him of not giving enough effort for his team’s case. In his two stints at Lower Saxony, he was directly involved in 77 goals in 133 appearances, in which he started in all but three games.
His time at China didn’t deliver anything spectacular, but he end up signing for Eintracht Frankfurt in what appears to be one of the potential bargains conducted by Bruno Hübner this January.
His slick play down the left wing was instrumental in the first outing of 2016, as Frankfurt inflict more misery on nostalgic VfL Wolfsburg thanks to Alex Meier’s second hat-trick of the season (and Bundesliga career). In my mention of his inclusion to the dream team, I also noted that his chances of returning back to German football was highly unlikely, but thankfully that wasn’t to be the case. And more importantly, this will increase the chances of the (in-)famous Assani Lukimya‘s return to Bundesliga after his latest shift to the Far East.
Thomas Schaaf and Hugo Almeida
Hannover fans have every right of not getting excited about Hustzi’s return, though, as his addition would help rivals Eintracht Frankfurt in avoiding the sight of a relegation zone, where the 96ers are still firmly in danger. The mere output of Hannover’s strikers hindered hints of improvements here and there in the Hinrunde, presenting the attack-minded Thomas Schaaf with another reason to focus in the position for his first reinforcements as Hannover trainer.
Hugo Almeida’s name has been linked to various Bundesliga clubs in the recent years, and Schaaf finally made it happen, as the Portuguese international joined Hannover alongside fellow German football veteran Ádám Szalai. They both featured in the starting line-up against Darmstadt, and combined brilliantly to provide a fresh start after an overall tumultuous 2015 for Hannover faithful.
But that wasn’t enough to lift Hannover off the bottom of the standings after two matchdays into the Rückrunde, as Schaaf faced an uphill task to keep his status of never been relegated from the top-tier football both as player and manager.
Almeida only needed 10 minutes of his Hannover debut to add to his 42 league goals for Werder Bremen, but, another of Schaaf’s ex-striker at Weserstadion, Sandro Wagner stole the show to decide the crunching fixture in favor of the newly-promoted side. They couldn’t take any solace from a thumping defeat at Bayer Leverkusen this weekend either, with the exception of Thomas Schaaf, as they are lagging five points behind the relegation playoff place.
Almeida was ever-present at Werder with his trademark powerful left-foot shoot and aggressive approach are hard to forget for anyone who tuned to Bundesliga fussball when the Green-Whites were still European football regulars, if not title contenders.
On a more personal account, two incidents involving hat-tricks will live long in my memory of the burly striker. After finding the net twice to help Bremen to a narrow lead in an entertaining derby against Hamburg on matchday 6 fixture of 2010-11 season, Almeida denied a third of the evening, which would have been his first in Bundesliga, in injury-time when the linesman somehow made a baffling offside call. And when he finally gets one against the other Hamburg side, St. Pauli, a month later, he ended up taking an early shower after a horrible tackle left Dr. Felix Brych with no option but sending off the hero of the day ten minutes from time. Schaaf signed his former striker Nelson Valdez when he unveiled as Eintracht Frankfurt’s coach last term, and he followed a similar approach by rejuvenating the veteran striker Almeida’s career this winter. Expect a return of Markus Rosenberg if Schaaf is in need of a new club some time in near future.
I expect that you, dear readers, are by now well-acquainted with the rare downside from Borussia Dortmund’s sparkling return to form under the tutelage of Thomas Tuchel. No, aside the usual facts of the defensive instability and Bayern’s continuing immortality, I mean. The answer is fan favorite Kevin Großkreutz’s absence from the roster, of course. From cheering for Dortmund among fellow vociferous supporters in a popular stand Yellow Wall, to his frequent presence in social media and incidents involving kebab throwing or peeing in hotel lobby, Big Kev is never short of drama. And all this putting aside his versatility on the pitch, which knows no boundaries whatsoever.
Jürgen Kramny saw the benefits of adding such dedicated player to his revitalized squad, and he didn’t disappoint a bit, with Großkreutz playing every minutes in the Swabians back-to-back hard-fought wins to make up lost grounds from the frantic days under Alexander Zorniger.
It wasn’t as exciting as most of us pictured it, but no one can revoke Großkreutz the rights to claim that he is part of a World Cup champions’ squad. At 27, the current Stuttgart fullback has time on his hands to leave behind his six-months misery at Turkey, as incidentally the game at his favorites Köln marks his first appearance for almost a year.
The transfer deadline day tend to be hectic more often than not, and Bayern München’s move to cover up for their depleted defensive department adds yet another player who knows the ins and outs of the Bundesliga. Serdar Tasci was part of Stuttgart’s astonishing 2006-07 championship side, and only an unexpected departure from the Swabians in 2013 denied him a chance to feature in the list of loyal Bundesliga players.
Indeed the former German international was part of my inaugural piece of departing players when he signed for Spartak Moscow. Moreover, Werder Bremen’s veterans of the game, Clemens Fritz and Claudio Pizarro start the year with some aplomb in their side’s revival from the dead zone. Both had their sparkling moments in the Bundesliga in yesteryears, but no one would have expected them to be Viktor Skrypnyk’s young side saviors when they are on their way to retirement this summer, albeit we keep saying this about the Peruvian goal poacher for a few years now. Let’s hope you would find a better set of players who made their Bundesliga return in a same transfer window.
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