129 Bundesliga players have contracts expiring at the end of the season. In today's newsletter, we look at the biggest potential free departure at all 18 topflight clubs
There are just 3 matchdays to go until the Bundesliga breaks for the World Cup.
FC Bayern will be desperate to have their name on top-spot before 60-days without a top-flight fixture, while the likes of Hertha BSC, VfB Stuttgart, Bayer Leverkusen, VfL Bochum, and Schalke 04 will do everything in their power not to spend Christmas on a relegation spot.
Perhaps even more important than any of these factors, though, is the fact that the same amount of Bundesliga fixtures stands between today and the opening of the January transfer window.
For many clubs, the transfer window will provide a perfect opportunity to bolster the roster, but - on a more negative note - it could also spell the premature end for some of their key stars.
For players with a contract expiring on June 30, 2023, a pre-contract agreement can be arranged as early as January 1st to confirm where they will be playing football next season.
So, while all of our eyes will be glued to the TV set to witness the drama unfold in Qatar, for sporting directors across the Bundesliga, November and December will be a busy period that could prove crucial in the quest to secure the services of key stars into next season, or at least receive a transfer fee.
In one of the final newsletters of the year, we examine just this aspect.
129 players in the Bundesliga have a contract expiring at the end of the season. In today's newsletter, we look at the biggest potential free departure at all 18 topflight clubs
*All contract information is via Transfermarkt.de
After 4 consecutive seasons of over-achievement, Union Berlin have become accustomed to having to sell their star players to clubs with greater financial means.
Qualification for the Champions League (!) could change this outlook, but the number of important figures with contracts due to expire in the summer is alarming.
Christopher Trimmel - who has been with the club since 2014 - is one of 9 players who has a deal ending in July 2023.
The loss of Union’s record top-flight appearance maker and club captain would be heart-shattering for the dedicated East-Berlin fanbase, but on the pitch, the loss of the Austrian would be overshadowed by another potential free departure this off-season.
Rani Khedira - brother of Germany legend Sami Khedira - has been one of the most consistent performers for Urs Fischer’s side.
The 28-year-old defensive midfielder has played the second-most minutes in all competitions this season and has started the last 24 matches in the league.
As a star performer for the biggest over-achievers in Europe, it’s not surprising that Khedira is attracting interest from multiple elite clubs on the continent, and this - coupled with the fact that he has made it into Germany’s preliminary World Cup roster - means losing him for free looks increasingly likely.
He, like others in the Union squad, has expressed his desire to sign an extension, but should he ultimately feature at the World Cup, it's hard to see Union presenting a financial offer that can compete with what his new-found status will attract.
After failing to negotiate new deals with Thiago Alcântara, David Alaba, and Niklas Süle over the last three seasons, FC Bayern have made a point this year of beginning contract talks earlier to ensure that no star is able to leave the club without a hefty transfer fee.
It’s obviously done the trick, as only two players in the roster are currently entering the final 6 months of their deal.
The first is backup goalkeeper Sven Ulreich - proving once again his topflight quality after taking the maximum points from all 7 matches he has featured in this season - while the second is Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting.
Heading into the season, it seemed almost inconceivable that Bayern would extend with the 33-year-old Cameroonian international, however the well-trodden forward has raised his game to new levels as a central focal point in Lewandowski’s absence.
In 613 minutes, Choupo-Moting has contributed 8 goals and 3 assists to the Bayern attack. That’s 1.58 goals and assists per game, a better ratio than Lewandowski managed in any of his 8 seasons in Munich!
Maintaining these elite standards over an entire campaign will prove impossible for the former PSG striker, but this sparkling run of form is a strong argument for another season-long extension.
SC Freiburg are the symbol of a well-run club with continuity at the heart of the project Christian Streich has overseen for the last 12 years.
One way which Die Braisgauer have been able to keep outside noise from interfering with the project at hand is by not publicly releasing contract information.
Via Transfermarkt, the only player at SC Freiburg with a contract due to expire in 2023 is third-choice goalkeeper Benjamin Uphoff.
He could be a valuable member in the club’s team dynamic, but on the pitch, his loss would be manageable.
Since signing from Kalsruher SC in 2020, Uphoff has made just 2 appearances in the Bundesliga.
Borussia Dortmund, unlike Bayern, have some major question marks regarding their current contracts.
Mats Hummels, who has never been in better form since returning to Dortmund in 2019, has a deal expiring in the summer.
Youssoufa Moukoko - an ultra-talented 17-year-old forward likely to be heading to the World Cup - has established himself in Dortmund’s attack, but is still holding off on an extension given the imminent return of Sébastian Haller.
And, Mahmoud Dahoud - a favorite of Edin Terzić’s whose presence has been dearly missed since injury in August - is also yet to put pen to paper.
All three of the players mentioned above could probably feature in Dortmund’s strongest starting eleven, but even they are overshadowed by another talisman who could possibly be leaving the Signal Iduna Park at the season’s end.
Marco Reus, basically synonymous with the club itself, is in the final 6 months of his contract. Even in a career riddled with injuries, the 33-year-old German international has earned himself legendary status amongst the fans who regularly pack the Süd-Tribune.
With 156 goals and 118 assists, Reus is the record scorer in Dortmund’s history, and is currently in his 10th consecutive campaign with Die Schwarz-Gelben.
It seems like only a matter of time before Borussia Dortmund and Marco Reus come to an agreement on a new deal, but the longer it stretches on, the greater the worries become that this decade-long fairytale could potentially come to an end.
Eintracht Frankfurt did a tremendous job to keep almost the entire Europa League winning side intact.
Doing so after making it through the Champions Groupstage, however, could prove more difficult.
Two players, in particular, stand out.
Evan Ndicka - a stalwart 23-year-old French defender - was already on the radar of multiple clubs in the Premier League, and his man-of-the-match display against Tottenham Hotspur in October will only have increased his value across the pond.
His free departure seems almost imminent at this point, but another player could be joining him in the off-season - Daichi Kamada.
The 26-year-old Japanese forward was extremely close to completing a move to SL Benfica last summer, and European interest has only increased following his performances this season.
In 20 matches in all competitions, Kamada has 12 goals and 3 assists, adding elite output to his wide-ranging skillset that highlights a player with a strong defensive application, a genius eye for a pass, and a superb interpretation of space.
After a slow start to the season which involved the sacking of manager Domenico Tedesco, Die Rotten Bullen are now back on track under former BVB boss Marco Rose.
Leipzig are through to the knockout stages in the Champions League and just 3 points off Dortmund in fourth.
Another Champions League qualification is well-within their reach for next season, but one player who may not be taking part is Konrad Laimer.
The Austrian international looked destined for a move to FC Bayern in the summer, and while that ultimately fell through, the chances that he still ultimately ends up in Bavaria - or Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool - are extremely high.
Alexander Rosen, TSG Hoffenheim’s sporting director, did a fantastic job last summer to extend the contracts of many key first-team players.
Nevertheless, there are still some worries heading into the January pre-contract window.
Benjamin Hübner joins Marco Reus and Christopher Trimmel as another Bundesliga captain who will see his current deal expire in the summer, but he also joins Trimmel in not earning our pick as the most important player that could possibly leave Hoffenheim for free.
Rather, that goes to Dennis Geiger.
After a Bundesliga career stricken by injury misfortune, the diminutive central midfielder has really come into his own under André Breitenreiter this season.
Since 2018, Geiger has missed over 600 days, and 62 Bundesliga matches, through muscle-related injuries, but his availability this season has allowed him to establish himself in the Hoffenheim set-up.
The 24-year-old academy graduate has started every single match, bar one, in this year’s Bundesliga, and is on course to easily crack his best-ever minutes tally in a top-flight campaign.
With the player flourishing under Breitenreiter, and Hoffenheim confident in Geiger’s fitness and durability, it feels like only a matter of time before a long-term deal is signed.
SV Werder Bremen
While the Bundesliga is generally known for being a division that loves to promote young talent, SV Werder Bremen aren’t necessarily a side that plays along with these rules.
Ole Werner’s side have held an average age of 27.6 this season, with veteran left-back Anthony Jung (30) one of the experienced heads who have allowed the North-German outfit to flourish on their top-flight return.
Signed from then-Danish champions Bröndby IF last summer, Jung was crucial in Bremen’s immediate Bundesliga return. Only Marvin Ducksch featured in more Zweite Bundesliga minutes for Bremen last season, a feat Jung has basically replicated in the current top-flight campaign.
Of Bremen’s 12 Bundesliga matches, Jung has started, and gone at least an hour, in all 12.
He may not be a flashy attacking fullback capable of grabbing headlines, but his consistency and durability are definitely something Bremen will want to keep ahold of next season.
Whereas Werder Bremen doesn’t embody the Bundesliga’s perception as a “talent’s league”, Mainz 05 are far truer to another common trope of the German topflight - that of being a selling division.
Like almost every Bundesliga club other than Bayern, Mainz 05 have been forced to sell a lot of its talent over the last decade. So, having some figures with continuity has proven crucial in keeping this plucky underdog in the topflight since 2009.
A key player in this respect is Stefan Bell.
After making his debut in 2012 (interestingly alongside Mainz’s current manager Bo Svensson), Stefan Bell has steadily grown into a seasoned veteran of Die 05er backline.
Bell has played over 2000 minutes in 7 of his 8 Bundesliga campaigns and has already started 8 of 12 topflight matches in the current season.
With Bell the oldest player in the squad - and in the first team 4-years longer than any other Mainz player - holding on to him beyond the summer should be seen as an important step to maintaining Mainz’s impressive resurgence under Svensson.
1. FC Köln
Köln are yet another side who have many question marks ahead of this winter window.
Despite qualifying for the UEFA Conference League last season, the “Billy Goats” have publicly stated their tight financial status. They will need to use their money wisely if they are to extend with some of the key players who have deals running out in the summer.
World Cup-bound Ellyes Skhiri and former German international Mark Uth are two huge headlines with contracts set to finish in July, but perhaps even larger is the question surrounding Jonas Hector’s deal.
Despite being relegated three times with Köln, Hector always remained true to his boyhood club, ultimately leading them into Europe twice and amassing 43 German national team caps in the process.
Now the club captain and first name on the team sheet, the ball is very much in his court as far as where he decides to take his career next.
At 32, this is possibly the last move he could hope for to another side in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues, and with Köln’s financial worries, they may simply not have enough financial power to hold onto him at a price he feels warrants his status.
Borussia Mönchengladbach were a side that suffered immensely from their inability to persuade players to sign long-term deals last winter.
Matthias Ginter was allowed to leave for free in the summer, and Denis Zakaria was prematurely sold so that Gladbach could at least get a bit of money through the door.
Though Die Fohlen have looked to address the issue after agreeing to new deals with Jonas Hofmann and Alassane Plea, there are still some massive names set to exit in July if they don’t find solutions in the next weeks and months.
Yann Sommer, Ramy Bensebaini, Christoph Kramer, and captain Lars Stindl are all worth a mention, but even these irreplaceable starters pail in comparison to striker Marcus Thuram.
After a forgettable 2021/22 season, the French international is back to his very best with 8 goals and 2 assists in his first 12 Bundesliga fixtures.
The 25-year-old forward was heavily linked to Tottenham Hotspurs and Inter Milan before injuries halted his progress, but it looks like FC Bayern could potentially be leading the race this time around after the Bavarians have been quick to note their desire for another center forward.
Whereas many Bundesliga sides will be desperately scrambling to re-sign expiring deals over the coming weeks, one wouldn’t be surprised if Wolfsburg happily allowed a few of their top earners to leave for free in the summer.
Max Kruse will definitely be gone, if not already in the winter, while the likes of Josuha Guilavogui, Jérôme Roussillon, Paulo Otávio, and Josip Brekalo are all players with high-wage demands that don’t need to be part of the squad next season.
That really leaves just one expiring deal that Wolfsburg fans will unanimously want to see return next season - Omar Marmoush.
After two strong loan spells with FC St. Pauli and VfB Stuttgart, the 23-year-old Egyptian international has finally come into his own in Wolfsburg.
Marmoush has started 3 of Wolfsburg’s last 5 Bundesliga matches, scoring 2 goals in the process and helping Kovač’s side remain unbeaten through them all.
At a club that has taken big steps over the summer to drop the average age, building on players like Marmoush will be a key step for a brighter future.
The German Football Weekly is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Like Wolfsburg, FC Augsburg have made a conscious effort over the summer to become a younger squad.
In doing so, they will need to faze out some older players, but one veteran they may want to hold on to just a bit longer is Rafał Gikiewicz.
After much discussion in the off-season regarding his position as the first-choice goalkeeper, Gikiewicz arrived into the season like a man on a mission.
No goalkeeper in the current Bundesliga season completes more saves per game, and Gikiewicz's heroics from the penalty spot have already saved Augsburg valuable points in two separate matches.
Augsburg’s form with and without him in the side also speaks volumes of his ability to raise the standards of the entire backline.
In the first 8 Bundesliga matches with him in the side, Augsburg conceded 12 goals, and in the 5 matches he has subsequently missed in all competitions FCA conceded 14 goals and failed to win a single game.
Though Hertha have quite a few players with deals expiring in the summer, it’s hard to find a real stand-out that fans would be desperate to extend with.
Stevan Jovetić is an impressive forward when on the pitch, however, that occurs far too sporadically.
Maximilian Mittelstädt was arguably the best player under Felix Magath, but can’t get a real chance under Schwarz.
And Vladimír Darida and Peter Pekarik have been good servants to the capital club, but it would be wise to move both on over the summer.
Thus, we’re really only left with Marvin Plattenhardt.
Since starting Germany’s first match at the 2018 World Cup, Plattenhardt’s Bundesliga career has drastically declined.
He was appointed club captain over the summer and has started all but two matches this season, but if Hertha finds a better alternative on the market, one wouldn’t be surprised to see them at least flirt with the idea of parting ways in the summer.
VfB Stuttgart will most likely be fighting relegation until the final day of the season, but one thing Die Schwaben thankfully don't need to worry about is dealing with numerous players entering the final months of their contract.
In fact, the only player of any real notability is Tanguy Coulibaly.
The 21-year-old was a bit of an ace in the deck on Stuttgart’s topflight return in 2020, however, since that season, injuries and poor form have really stunted his progress.
At the time of writing, he is yet to feature for a single minute in the Bundesliga, and unless his form and fitness improve, it's hard to imagine Stuttgart throwing a big contract his way.
Expiring contracts will be the least of Die Werkself’s worries if they end up getting relegated at the end of the season, but there are some interesting players to note nevertheless.
Paulinho and Daly Sinkgraven are two who seem to be on their last legs at the BayArena.
Paulinho - a talented Brazilian winger signed as a teenager for €18.5m in 2018 - has never really settled in Germany, whilst Sinkgraven has been out-of-favor since the start of last season and wasn’t even selected in Leverkusen’s 25-man Champions League squad.
32-year-old Karim Bellarabi is also worth a mention given that he is the longest-serving player at the club, however, constant injuries and a lack of fitness mean Leverkusen would potentially look to cut ties with the winger they signed in 2011.
That leaves us with one name - Charles Aránguiz.
Like Bellerabi, the Chilean is on the wrong side of 30 and not without his injury history, but the central midfielder can offer a bite in midfield that is severely lacking in the squad at the moment.
Should they remain in the top flight, a one-year extension could serve both parties well.
VfL Bochum look almost certain to be relegated at the end of this season, so the question of who to extend with is less one of footballing ability, and rather a matter of pure finances.
A staggering 11 players are in the final year of their contract, but there is truly only one who VfL fans will feel desperate to see return for the Zweite Bundesliga.
That would be Anthony Losilla, club captain and Bochum’s record foreign appearance maker.
Only Eintracht Frankfurt’s Makoto Hasebe (38) is older than Losilla (36) in the German topflight, but the Frenchman’s veteran status hasn’t negatively influenced his ability to feature on the pitch.
Since earning promotion last season, Losilla has missed just one fixture (coronavirus infection), and started the other 45 he was deemed fit for.
With expert leadership, strong individual performances, and pristine fitness, resigning Losilla could ensure that Bochum doesn’t suffer the same fate as Greuther Fürth and Arminia Bielefeld - both fighting for survival in the Zweite Bundesliga after getting relegated from the Bundesliga last season.
With sporting director, Rouven Schröder shockingly stepping down from his post last week, and relegation looking increasingly likely, Schalke 04 are in no position to negotiate new contracts.
Should they get relegated to the second division again though, perhaps there is an argument to re-sign Simon Terodde to another 1-year deal.
In his last 5 seasons in the second tier, the 34-year-old forward won 3 golden boots, and 3 league titles, and scored a remarkable 133 goals in 161 matches.
Without his 30 goals last season S04 would have had no hopes of winning the second-tier title, and while he is struggling for form in the topflight, his elite track record in the Zweite Bundesliga speaks for itself.