Hertha Berlin have confirmed that they have signed former #1 Bayern Munich goalkeeper Thomas Kraft. Hertha, which dominated 2. Bundesliga this season and who have already clinched promotion back to the top tier for the 2011-2012 season, inked Kraft to a four-year contract on a free transfer from Bayern Munich.
Kraft, who turns 23 this summer, was named as Bayern Munich’s starting goalkeeper over winter break by then-coach Louis van Gaal after Kraft’s outstanding performance in Champions League action. The move created some controversy then, and created more later as LvG stood by the young keeper despite upper management’s pursuit of Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer. With the acquisition of Neuer looking likely as Bayern have increased their offer to Germany’s #1 keeper and Bayern re-signing current keeper Hans-Jorg Butt for next year, Kraft was free to leave as his contract expired and will look to start fresh in a new environment, as former Bayern goalkeeper Michael Rensing successfully did when he moved to FC Koln this winter.
Kraft was quoted about his thoughts on his transfer to Hertha. ‘Hertha BSC is a big challenge for me,” Kraft told the club’s official website. ”General manager Michael Preetz and coach Markus Babbel have completely convinced me with their vision for Hertha. I am really looking forward to going with Hertha on their way into the Bundesliga.”
Ekici to Werder Bremen?
In an article on the FC Bayern blog, Kicker magazine reports that Bayern Munich youngster Memhet Ekici is headed to Werder Bremen next season for a 5 million Euro transfer fee. Ekicki, only 21, has played in 27 matches while on loan this season to 1. FC Nurnberg. The German-born Turkish midfielder has already earned caps with Guus Hiddink’s Turkish senior national team and has been in the Bayern Munich youth system since 1997.
Some Bayern fans fear that the sale of the talented Ekici may be a repeat of Bayern’s handling of Mats Hummels, who was developed in the Bayern system but was allowed to go to rivals Borussia Dortmund, where he has anchored Dortmund’s incredible defense during this title season. Although Kicker reports that agreement has been reached by Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen for the Ekici’s services there is as of yet no word of any agreement between the two clubs on either’s official web site.
Schalke Looking at Stekelenburg
While Bayern Munich wheels and deals to keep Schalke keeper Manuel Neuer in the Bundesliga, Schalke Sporting Director Horst Heidt is looking at Netherlands national team goalkeeper Maarten Stekelenburg as a potential replacement for Neuer, according to a recent report on ESPN Soccernet. Stekelenburg, 28, started with the vaunted Ajax youth teams in 1997 and has played almost 200 matches with Ajax along with 40 international appearances with the Dutch national team.
Although Ajax Coach Frank de Boer feels that Stekelenburg will be moving on to a bigger club, the question would be is Schalke, at this point, a bigger club based on their 14th place standing in the Bundesliga table despite their admirable Champions League run.
Congratulations to FC Augsburg
FC Augsburg will join fellow 2. Bundesliga side Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga next season, gaining promotion for their second place finish with 65 points with a game remaining in this campaign.
Although the team can trace its roots back to 1907, the team has never competed in the Bundesliga’s top rung. Under the direction of Coach Jos Luhukay, however, the Bavarian side is making the big leap forward. Over 3,000 Augsburg fans celebrated after last weekend’s 2-1 home win over FSV Frankfurt. Game-winning goal-scorer Stephan Hain had this to say after winning the match and promotion for Augsburg. “It’s great for the club, the city and the people here”, said Hain, whose 85th-minute winner, minutes after coming off the bench, sealed the all-important win against Frankfurt. “It’s a unique experience. I’ve maybe dreamed about it from time to time, but I still can’t believe it.”
FC Augsburg play at Impuls Arena, which seats 30,660. Luhukay, 47 is a native of the Netherlands who signed on to coach FC Augsburg in March, 2009. Congratulations to the club, players and fans.