The Transfer Window Recap
Another January window has come and gone. In this Friday’s newsletter, we recap all the exciting business by looking at the tops & flops across the division!
Another January window has come and gone.
The Premier League splashed cash, Chelsea made us sick to our stomachs, and even the Bundesliga spent the most it ever has since Covid struck.
We’ve seen more young talent arrive, veterans move within the division, and even a new superstar take their place in Germany.
In this Friday’s newsletter, we recap all the excitement from the January window by looking at the tops & flops across the division!
The Best Signing
Had a club like Borussia Dortmund signed Arne Engels, everyone across Europe would be swooning over their terrific recruitment. That it was FC Augsburg then who ultimately got this mammoth deal over the line, is all the more reason to see it as the greatest piece of business done this winter.
The 19-year-old Belgian youth international is a fantastic investment in the future from Augsburg’s new American owners. However, it is Engels’ maturity and first-team qualities which have seen him already leave a lasting impact on Enrico Maaßen’s outfit.
With no club holding less average possession or completing a fewer percentage of their passes after 15 matchdays, the clear issue which Augsburg needed to address during the Winter break was their ability to dictate a match in possession.
Engels’ signing alone won’t bring a miracle, but his introduction into the first team has already proven to be a massive step in the right direction.
In the 4 matches in 2023, Augsburg’s pass completion percentage has increased by 7%, and Die Fuggerstädter are completing almost 70 more passes per fixture compared to their season average.
You cannot do much better for a fee of just €100,000 and the guarantee of a massive resale value.
The Worst Signing
Hertha BSC are in drastic need of goals if they are to stay up this season.
In 12 of their 19 matches, Hertha have scored 1 or fewer goals, and the 5 center forwards who began the season as part of the first-team squad have combined for just 4 goals in 47 appearances.
The top priority in January was to get a striker with goalscoring qualities, but in one of Fredi Bobic’s final decisions as sporting director, the former German international wildly missed the mark.
Florian Niederlechner, a veteran Bundesliga forward known for his work ethic and professional attitude, brings a lot to a side struggling against the drop, but something he doesn’t offer in mass are goals.
In his last 70 topflight appearances, Niederlechner has scored only 14 goals, and in only 2 of his 8 Bundesliga campaigns has the 32-year old German managed more than 10 league goals.
With Hertha picking up zero points and scoring only one goal after 4 games of the calendar year, it’s going to need more than a miracle for Florian Niederlechner to somehow keep Hertha in the top-flight.
The Best Sale
Long-time fans of the German Football Newsletter will know how highly I’ve rated Georginio Rutter.
The 20-year-old French youth international was one of the best 1v1 specialists in the division, had a sensational ability to operate in tight spaces, and even ended last season as Hoffenheim’s top goalscorer.
His output has slightly dried up this season - only finding the target twice in more than 1000 minutes - but almost everyone at Hoffenheim seemed confident that the youngster’s development was right on track.
Clearly it wasn’t just Hoffenhiem who rated him so highly.
Practically overnight, Leeds United came in with a bid of €28m - capable of rising to €40m with performance-related bonuses.
While chump-change for the Premier League, in the Bundesliga such figures remain astronomic, and Hoffenheim didn’t need long to consider a fee that comes close to shattering the club’s previous record.
It’s frustrating from a neutral perspective that we will no longer get to see such a talented individual on a weekly basis, but if the Bundesliga has taught us anything, the next young starlet is just around the corner.
The Worst Sale
It’s hard to find a single reason at the moment to be critical of Union Berlin. Urs Fischer’s side are pushing Bayern to the absolute limit in the title race, are still alive in both the Europa League and DFB Pokal, and are doing all of this with a budget that in theory should see them struggling against relegation.
Nevertheless, if there is one thing that could potentially divide the fanbase, it was the decision to sell Julian Ryerson to Borussia Dortmund in January.
In his 4 full seasons in Köpenick, the Norwegian developed into a fan-favorite who stood out for his versatility and attitude.
Though he spent most of his first 3 seasons on the bench, in the past 12 months Ryerson has capitalized on an extended run of form to nail down a position in Union’s starting 11.
This development from squad player to stand out star is not uncommon under Urs Fischer, but unfortunately for Union, clubs around the continent have taken notice. According to The Athletic, Brighton & Hove Albion, and multiple Italian clubs were monitoring the Norwegian’s progress, but it was ultimately Borussia Dortmund who jumped at the opportunity to activate the lowly €5.00m release clause.
While at the time that the contract was drawn up, it may have seemed fanciful that a club would offer so much for Ryerson, things are clearly changing in East-Berlin, and Oliver Ruhnert will need to do more in the future to protect his assets who seem to be rising in value at an astronomical rate.
The Best Window
FC Augsburg are a strong contender for not just the best signing, but also the best window in the Bundesliga. Die Fuggerstädter made a staggering 7 signings, 6 of which are under the age of 23.
Not only do these deals show the board’s intent to stay up by any means possible, but they also offer a glimpse into the smart recruitment model shaping Augsburg’s future.
Nevertheless, it’s Augsburg’s more notable neighbors over in Munich who ultimately take my pick.
After losing Manuel Neuer, and Lucas Hernandez to season-ending injuries, FC Bayern’s campaign could easily have swung out of control with poor recruitment in the January window.
Instead, it is arguably the opposite that has happened.
In Yann Sommer, Bayern signed arguably the best goalkeeper in the Bundesliga. In Daley Blind, an intelligent veteran defender who can play in at least 4 different positions, and in João Cancelo, the most complete modern fullback whose acquisition should free up Benjamin Pavard to play in his favored centerback role.
All this, for a combined fee of just €8.00m!
The Worst Window
There are really two contenders vying for this position.
Borussia Mönchengladbach lost their starting goalkeeper of almost a decade, renewed only one of the many important contracts due to expire in July, and didn’t sign a single player who could strengthen their mediocre depth.
A start to 2023 that has seen Die Fohlen pick up just 1 win against 4 opponents in the bottom half of the table is the clearest indicator that Gladbach missed the boat this January.
On the other hand, Hertha BSC were in even more dire need of reinforcements, yet made an equally unremarkable impact on the market.
Problem children, transfer flops, and aging stars were largely given away for free in order to ease the wage bill, but the fact that the aforementioned Florian Niederlechner was their only major piece of business that joins in January speaks volumes of a club that will in all likelihood be spending next season in Bundesliga 2.