With that spectacular footballing jamboree in Brazil this summer, many of us have taken our eyes off of club football for a brief moment, maybe forgetting the excitement of European club football amidst the haze and wonder of a fine World Cup. But our clubs have still pressed yet further on, making some excellent signings, both in terms of personnel and in terms of value. This balance has been struck excellently well in the Bundesliga, with three of the most exciting signings moving for a combined €2.25m – that’s the equivalent of less than £2m. Two million pounds.
Despite their low prices, the quality of these players is unquestionable; all three have been capped by their countries this year, with the third lighting up the World Cup, while the trio are all highly rated by followers of German football – and rightly so. Let’s have a look at three of the most exciting Bundesliga signings of the Summer so far.
Fabian Johnson – 1899 Hoffenheim to Borussia Mönchengladbach – Free
Johnson, a 26-year old full back, will need no introduction to fans of the United States, or indeed anyone who watched them this year – the ex-Hoffenheim man was easily America’s best player in Brazil, holding down the starting spot against the younger, also impressive DeAndre Yedlin, only being forced off the pitch due to injury against Belgium.
Back to full fitness and at a new club, Johnson is ready to hit new heights. In an interview with new club Borussia Mönchengladbach upon his unveiling last week, Johnson stated “I wanted a new challenge and Borussia made efforts to sign me very early on. Borussia are going to play in Europe – that tempted me. I want to improve myself as a player and help the club to more success”.
Thanks to a great World Cup, his stock has never been higher – there’s very little doubt that Johnson will achieve his aim of improving both himself and bolster the Borussia defence. Johnson was a member of the Germany squad at U21 Euro 2009 which thrashed England 4-0 in the final. Then a winger, he starred alongside Mesut Özil, Sami Khedira, Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Benedikt Höwedes, all now World Cup winners, but Johnson didn’t wait to make the jump to senior level with his country of birth, instead taking up an offer from Jürgen Klinsmann to play for the United States, thanks to the nationality of his parents. Since his switch to the United States, Johnson has been a virtual automatic pick at Hoffenheim, impressing despite their torrid season in 12/13 and finally displacing Andreas Beck at right back towards the tail end of 13/14, having played at left back for the majority of the previous 2.5 seasons.
This versatility will help Johnson at Mönchengladbach; Favre enjoys playing versatile players, with the likes of Tony Jantschke and Havard Nordtveit both being important members of the squad thanks to their willingness to play anywhere in the defence and midfield, while the likes of Julian Korb, Oscar Wendt and Filip Daems will surely all want some playing time in what will be a marathon season for Borussia, with midweek games in Europe heightening the importance of the squad depth more than ever before.
Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund to FC Bayern München – Free
Lewandowski’s move away from Dortmund has been obvious for nigh-on 18 months. With the first rumours breaking in January 2013 that Bayern were interested in the Polish striker’s services, rumours intensified last summer among overtures of clubs including Real Madrid and Arsenal supposedly being linked with the prolific man, who at that time had been a central part of Dortmund’s fairytale run to the Champions League final, his four goals against Real Madrid in the semi-final his most obvious and impressive contribution.
Lewandowski notched up 103 goals for Borussia Dortmund in 187 games, ending his final season at the club as top scorer in the Bundesliga with 20 goals, showing his commitment and motivation despite knowing since January that he was on his way to Bundesliga Champions Bayern. There is very little doubt that Lewandowski will continue his excellent scoring record, replacing the not-as-talented (yet still excellent) Mario Mandzukic, who managed 18 for the club last season.
That Lewandowski has moved on a free makes the move even more astonishingly good value for the Rekordmeister. Obviously, this is for a reason – essentially, Dortmund allowing Lewandowski’s contract to run down and the Polish striker to leave on a Bosman, as no transfer fee from a direct title rival was worth being less competitive on two fronts, while Lewandowski showed no interest in moving abroad. But still, Lewandowski is probably the most impressive free transfer in football history, since at least Sol Campbell’s switch from Spurs to Arsenal all those years ago.
One slight problem may be Pep Guardiola’s seeming inability to properly manage the ego of a striker, falling out with the likes of Mandzukic, Eto’o and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the past, while favouring employing more diminutive players as a false nine than an outright striker. Luckily, Lewandowski has gone some way to showing his ego should be less of a problem than with other cases; obviously, his motivation at Borussia Dortmund despite knowing he was leaving for an entire season was incredible to behold, while he and his former club seem to have parted on amicable terms. Guardiola’s problems with Eto’o and Ibrahimovic are somewhat explainable, both players having quite obvious ego issues, whether still now or in the past, while Mandzukic may have raised more concerns, given that the Croatian loved Bayern and always gave his all for the club.
Even if there are problems, it’ll be fun to see the Bayern meltdown – so all in all, an exciting move.
André Hahn – FC Augsburg to Borussia Mönchengladbach – €2.25m
The “expensive” man of the trio, if you’re going to judge a transfer worth lower than £2m as expensive, André Hahn is potentially the man with most to gain from his transfer. After a lightning season at FC Augsburg, where he and Tobias Werner became one of the most feared winger partnerships in the league, and the duo propelled the club to their record high Bundesliga finish of 8th, having been damned to relegation by most “experts” in pre-season.
Why does Hahn have the most to gain? Well, the speedster broke into the Germany squad just before the World Cup this year, as an unused substitute against Chile in March, before making his debut as a substitute against Poland, in a game in which new club teammate Christoph Kramer also made his debut. Despite not making the full 23 man squad, Hahn was listed in the original 30 listed by Joachim Löw, which perhaps hints at a future in the Germany squad; regular football at a large club, competing for honours in Europe and domestically will do nothing to stop that ambition, while a change of scenery could be just what’s needed for the 23-year old to kick on yet further.
A great example of how this works is Max Kruse, also of Mönchengladbach. After his break-out season at SC Freiburg in 12/13, the Hamburg-born forward made the switch to Borussia Park for a similar fee to Hahn, going on to score 12 goals and assist a further 12 for his new club, as he started every single game last season. Like Hahn, Kruse also broke into the squad towards the end of his break-out season, so comparisons between the two, at least in career trajectory (considering that they’re different types of players) are perhaps well-founded.
One of the most exciting parts of the Hahn transfer is that it’s hard to tell exactly who he’ll play alongside, let alone if he’ll play on the right or left. Hahn should probably start the majority of games, but with the likes of Patrick Herrmann, Ibrahima Traore and loanee Thorgan Hazard competing for game time, Borussia’s sporting director Max Eberl has provided Lucien Favre with one of the most positive selection headache in the Bundesliga this season.