The German Football Weekly: Issue #7
Free weekly newsletter highlighting some the biggest news, and headlines, from the beautiful game on German soil
by Adam Khan on October 1
Hertha Berlin & a Transfer Window which Flattered to Deceive
Last weekend was the latest bleak chapter for Hertha BSC as they suffered their joint-highest defeat in Bundesliga history. The 6-0 schooling in Leipzig was yet another signal that all is not right at the Olympiastadion, and Pál Dárdai will have a lot to answer to with his unbudging persistence to a 3-4-2-1 and overly defensive tactics.
His post-match statement of “get in the bus, drive home, and start again from 0” doesn’t exactly exude the confidence of a manager who has it all figured out, but it would be remiss to lay the entire blame on the 45-year old Hungarian.
So, where else has it gone wrong for Hertha this season?
Well, the best place to start, as is so often the case at Hertha BSC, is in the summer window.
It’s an issue which has plagued the club since Lars Windhorst invested the first of his €375 million in 2019. Die Alte Dame have almost religiously splashed cash in the market, but have done so on expensive free agents, aging veterans, and young talent who don’t fit into the current coaching philosophy.
The likes of Sami Khedira, Omar Alderete, and Dodi Lukébakio have all come and gone from the Olympiastadion, leaving a minimal impression on the pitch, but a massive dent in the club’s finances!
This summer’s appointment of Fredi Bobic - the mastermind behind the signings of Luka Jovic, André Silva, and Filip Kostic at Eintracht Frankfurt - was supposed to see an end to Hertha’s comical transfer business. But, so far it is yet to take effect.
The arrival of 34-year old Kevin-Prince Boateng has the marker of a FIFA Career mode save rather than a well-thought-out decision from one of the most revered sporting directors in German football, whilst Stevan Jovetic’s undeniable goal scoring qualities count for little with an injury record that makes Marco Reus' look impeccable.
Bobic deserves some credit for thinning the squad of its excess weight (Omar Alderete, Mathew Leckie, Eduard Löwen have all departed), however it is quite worrying that Hertha have also sold 3 of the club’s top 4 goal scorers last season along with the biggest talent to come through the academy in years.
One can slightly understand why Bobic was willing to pull the trigger on Matheus Cunha and Jhon Córdoba for a combined fee of €50.00m, but to let go of 18-year old Luca Netz for just €4.00m is a criminal act of misjudgment from Die Alte Dame’s new sporting director.
Anybody who tuned into the Borussia-derby over the weekend will know just how influential Netz can be from an attacking fullback role. It’s brilliant business from Borussia Mönchengladbach who stand to more than quadruple their investment when they go to sell a potential German international in a few seasons time.
So, whilst my Bundesliga preview on the 12th of August gave Hertha BSC a B for their transfer business, the beautiful addition of hindsight as well as the frantic last minute action from Die Alte Dame would diminish my grade to nothing more than a C or D!
As we mentioned above, it hasn’t all been bad from Fredi Bobic.
Suat Serdar is a great relegation discount with both Bundesliga and national team experience, whilst Jurgen Ekkelenkamp (21), Oliver Christensen (22), & Myziane Maolida (22) are all youth internationals who fit the young profile which Hertha want to build the side around.
In terms of departures, €20.00m for an injury prone and inconsistent 28-year old striker is more than generous, whilst getting both Omar Alderete & Eduard Löwen off the wage bill is important in allowing Hertha to remain sustainable without European football.
There’s really only one stand out addition to this section (above), and it’s Matheus Cunha. The Brazilian international came in January 2020 for €18.00m and left just over a year later for a healthy profit of €12.00m.
He is the record-departure at Hertha BSC, but the fact that he left just 6 days before the window shut and left Bobic with little time to find a suitable replacement means the transfer only warrants an OK status.
We already spoke at length about the likes of Boateng, Jovetic, and Netz, but another trio I want to highlight is 21-year old Jessic Ngankam, 22-year old Arne Maier, and 23-year old Javairô Dilrosun. All three of the youngsters have been loaned out with options to buy around €5-6m, a pittance when you think of the talent which each of them possess.
The final two arrivals, Marco Richter and Ishak Belfodil, are also questionable additions. Richter, the make-weight in the deal for Arne Maier, has never truly impressed despite playing more than 100 Bundesliga matches before his 24th birthday. Though Maier’s injury record does him no favors, I don’t think I’m the only one who considers the captain of Germany’s Under 21 Euros victory to be far more talented than Marco Richter.
And, to round it off we have Ishak Belfodil, the epitome of a last minute panic buy!
The Algerian centre forward arrived a matter of hours before Cunha’s departure, and whilst he only cost €500th, his wages will far exceed what is a return of 0 goals, and 1 assist in his past 23 Bundesliga appearances.
In total, only Bayern Munich and VFL Wolfsburg have made a bigger net loss on transfers in the past 5 years. Hertha BSC aren’t shy with the checkbook, but Die Alte Dame have reaped none of the rewards on the pitch as they’ve failed to finish above 10th in any of their past five campaigns.
Though wins over VFL Bochum & Greuther Fürth have at least eased any fears of topflight relegation, it's now on Fredi Bobic to show more long-term planning in the next transfer window if Hertha are to fulfill their mission of returning to the European places.
Do you think Fredi Bobic is the right man to turn Hertha BSC into a European heavyweight? Let me know on twitter by using #BUNDESLETTER!
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Friday 18:30 (CEST): Werder Bremen v 1. FC Heidenheim
It’s a return to the Zweite Bundesliga for this week’s GOTW, as Friday night throws up an enticing affair between Werder Bremen and 1.FC Heidenheim.
It’s the second time Bremen have featured in this section, but the outlook could not be more different from when we previewed the Nordderby in ISSUE #5.
A 2:0 defeat to HSV followed by a 3:0 hiding from Dynamo Dresden has seen Die Grün-Weißen slip from within two points of top spot to 10th in the table. What was momentarily one of the best attacks in the division has now registered 46 shots in a row without finding the net, whilst the 12 goals they’ve conceded is the most of any side in the top 10.
Markus Anfang summed up the dire past two weeks in his post-match press conference on Sunday,
"We didn't get into one-on-one battles, we didn't convince in our own game going forward, and we made too many individual mistakes. You can't win a second division game like that."
The former Darmstadt, Kiel, and Köln manager’s job may not be on the line, but another defeat could see Bremen enter an international break with a very dark cloud looming above the WESERSTADION.
On the other side of the equation we have 1.FC Heidenheim, and the ever-present Frank Schmidt.
In his 14th season at the Voith-Arena, Schmidt has rightfully earned the legendary record as the longest serving active manager in Europe, taking his boyhood club from the regional lower divisions to within a goal of topflight promotion.
And, it could still get better for 1.FCH, with the South German’s record of 4 wins, 3 draws, and 1 loss enough to put them in third place after 8 matchdays.
Heidenheim will no doubt be dreaming of Bundesliga promotion with a quarter of the season gone. It would be a historic achievement and one which was so cruelly taken away from them by none other than Werder Bremen in July 2020.
Across a two-legged playoff the 4x Deutscher Meister prevailed, eking out a 0:0 draw at home before taking the tie on away goals with a 2:2 draw. That Werder Bremen would slump to relegation less than a year later has only compounded Heidenheim’s disappointment, and added additional fire to the first ever league encounter between the two sides!
Bundesliga GOTW: Saturday 15:30 (CEST): VFL Wolfsburg v Borussia M’gladbach
3. Bundesliga GOTW: Sunday 19:00 (CEST): 1.FC Saarbrücken v Eintracht Braunschweig
Euro Expert’s Talent Watch:
The Euro Expert is back, taking a look at one of the brightest young talents who made his Bundesliga debut last weekend- Kouadio Koné!
“I remembered Kouadio Koné from his time at Toulouse last season in Ligue 2. He always looked a level ahead of many senior players in a division which even Didier Drogba struggled in during his formative years. The physicality in French Football goes under the radar, but I'm seriously impressed by Kone's ability to carry possession forward under pressure. His debut in the Bundesliga was glorious too, and I would give Koné a talent rating of 7/10, I can't wait to see what this Parisian does next!”