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The Transfer Window Review
From Harry Kane joining FC Bayern to Jude Bellingham departing BVB, we look at every transfer at every club this window, giving a conclusive grade for the summer window at all 18 Bundesliga clubs!
Another transfer window has come & gone in the Bundesliga. Almost €750m was spent, and for the first time ever, the €1 billion mark was broken for collective income.
From Harry Kane joining FC Bayern to Jude Bellingham departing BVB, we look at every transfer at every club this window, giving a conclusive grade for the summer window at all 18 Bundesliga clubs!
1. FC Heidenheim
Unlike fellow newcomers SV Darmstadt, Heidenheim were able to keep almost the entire core of their promoted squad together. No player with over 600 minutes last season departed the Voith-Arena, and despite some considerable interest from SV Werder Bremen, star-striker Tim Kleindienst opted to extend his contract in August.
Where things get a little less rosy is in the analysis of incoming transfers. A substantial amount of the budget was used to turn Tim Siersleben’s loan into a permanent deal, and the likes of Benedikt Gimber, Marvin Pieringer, Omar-Haktab Traoré, and Nikola Dovedan are, at best, second-tier quality.
Perhaps the one “new” incoming transfer that should spread excitement is Eren Dinkçi. The 21-year-old is loaned out from Werder Bremen until the end of the season, and while raw and unrefined, he has a lot of creativity and drive for goal that will help Heidenheim in their up-hill Bundesliga battle.
1. FC Köln
Without the rumored transfer ban to hold them back this summer, FC Köln were expected to make some pretty significant signings following key departures across the pitch. In Ellyes Skhiri and Jonas Hector, Köln lost their two best players for free, and a considerable goal threat also needed to be targeted after failing to adequately address Anthony Modeste’s move to Dortmund last summer.
In the end, Köln made some interesting deals for players that suit the combative, high-energy system Stefan Baumgart implements, but it also left a lot to be desired when one remembers the quality of personnel that went out the door. Ex-St. Pauli captain Leart Paqarada was an excellent free pick-up, and turning Jeff Chabot’s loan into a permanent deal was a no-brainer, but otherwise, there isn’t a lot to energize and excite one of the Bundesliga’s most passionate fanbase.
1. FC Union Berlin
As far as activity goes, nobody ended up surpassing Union Berlin who made a staggering 11 new signings. Gearing up for their first season in the Champions League meant the squad needed an overhaul, but what is remarkable is the caliber of talent that Die Eiserne have convinced to join the project.
German internationals Robin Gosens and Kevin Volland joined the club after flourishing overseas, and the serial winner Leonardo Bonnuci was signed on deadline day to bring his much-needed continental experience from over a decade in the UEFA Champions League.
These eye-catching additions have made headlines, but Union have also made numerous lower-profile signings that have an equally important role to play in the fixture-loaded campaign that awaits.
Benedict Hollerbach is a really exciting addition who was one of the most impressive attacking threats in the 3. Liga last campaign. Alex Král and Lucas Tousart are two reliable central midfielders with continental and Bundesliga experience, and the two loanees, Brendan Aaronson and David Datro Fofana, are talented youngsters whose work rate and direct playstyle will suit Urs Fischer’s unique style.
That all of these players were signed without losing a single top performer from the last campaign is a testament to Union’s impressive ability to both attract, and retain, some of the biggest talents in European football.
1. FSV Mainz 05
Mains 05 have one of the most difficult summer windows to judge. Die 05er opted for a quiet and modest transfer outlay, but in midfield, they still managed to complete one of my favorite deals in the entire division. Tom Krauß led the Bundesliga last season in tackles and interceptions, and the 22-year-old's combative nature will fit perfectly into Bo Svensson’s plans. As far as replacements go, there are few individuals better placed to take over Anton Stach’s role (now departed for TSG Hoffenheim) than the former RB Leipzig, FC Nuremberg, and Schalke 04 midfielder.
Sepp van den Berg and Marco Richter are also two noteworthy additions, but it does feel like something is missing in the final third. Bo Svensson may have been wary of adding another established forward who would block the development pathway of Brajan Gruda (19) and Nelson Weiper (18), but Mainz could do with a seasoned goalscorer to compete for a European place. Jonathan Burkardt will be out for at least another 4-months following surgery complications, and Ludovic Ajorque has struggled for form and fitness this season.
There is no side that got their business done earlier and more efficiently than Bayer Leverkusen.
Granit Xhaka, Alejandro Grimaldo, and Jonas Hofmann are all excellent senior additions who bring leadership and title-winning quality to a youthful roster. Victor Boniface is an elite goalscorer whose mere 22 years of age makes him a fantastic prospect for a huge future sale to the Premier League. And finally, Arthur, Nathan Tella, and Matěj Kovář are all fascinating young prospects who will earn valuable minutes as Leverkusen compete across 3 competitions.
Excluding the prolonged saga surrounding Nadiem Amiri, even the departures have all gone according to plan for Bayer 04. Moussa Diaby was sold for a fair price to Aston Villa (€55m), and out-of-favor heavy earners - Sardar Azmoun and Kerem Demirbay - were pawned out to other European destinations.
Despite signing the best defender in Serie A (Kim Min-Jae), one of Europe’s most dominant center-forwards (Harry Kane), and weakening two direct rivals (Konrad Laimer & Raphaël Guerreiro), there is a pretty unanimous opinion that FC Bayern have stumbled (again!) in the transfer market. Der Rekordmeister allowed Benjamin Pavard to leave without any replacement in mind, and an anchoring midfielder could never materialize after a catastrophic deadline day.
Noussair Mazraoui is now the only out-and-out right back in the senior squad, and a collection of more box-to-box oriented midfielders (Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka, and Konrad Laimer) will need to provide security ahead of the Munich defense. With only 18 senior players Bayern are laid thin across the pitch, and with 3 stars heading to the AFCON in January, Der Rekordmeister needs to contend with completing serious business in the winter window.
M’gladbach sporting director Roland Virkus was in one of the most precarious positions in European football ahead of the summer. With almost no budget, the 56-year-old was expected to completely revamp a squad decimated over the summer. The top 4 goalscorers from last season all departed for new challenges, taking 39 of the club’s 55 goals with them for a combined compensation of only €10m.
That Virkus has then set up a half-decent squad that doesn’t count amongst the relegation candidates is already a major testament to his ability to handle under pressure. Tomáš Čvančara is a young and exciting center-forward who has a knack for scoring goals, Franck Honorat is a versatile wide-creator who counts amongst the key players this season, and Jordan is a bullish and aerially competent center-forward who played the best football of his career under manager Gerardo Seoane at Young Boys Bern.
The roster’s depth is thin, and a string of injuries in wide positions could cause massive problems, but all in all, Virkus has done a solid job with the hamstrung budget available to him.
With over €100m flowing into the accounts following the sale of Jude Bellingham, BVB fans were right to expect a significant summer window that would fulfill their hopes of ending a decade-long wait for a league title.
That these aspirations weren’t entirely fulfilled would be an understatement. Marcel Sabitzer (€19m) and Ramy Bensebaini (free) were excellent pick-ups, and at €13m you are not doing much wrong by signing last season’s top-scorer Niclas Füllkrug, but otherwise, the black & yellow market activity was an underwhelming affair.
For an eye-catching €30m Dortmund signed an average and inexperienced, Bundesliga midfielder whose public presence in favor of the radical Christian right led to massive fan protests and widespread backlash. Before last season, Felix Nmecha (22 yrs) had never played more than 300 minutes of senior football, and the Man City academy graduate’s form took a nose dive following the World Cup. Nmecha contributed only one goal and two assists in the final 15 matches of the 2022/23 season, making the price tag Dortmund eventually paid for him even more perplexing.
His performances will undoubtedly be scrutinized throughout the year, but it is ultimately what didn’t arrive, rather than the individual qualities of the new signings, which have Dortmund fans most irritated at this recent summer window.
A large-scale rebuild has hit the Deutsche Bank Park this summer. With a new manager on the sidelines and 10 new signings, the squad that shocked the continent by winning the Europa League in 2022 is barely recognizable. Only 4 players who started the final against Rangers still remain at the club, and even last season’s emerging superstar - Randal Kolo Muani - was able to successfully maneuver a €95m deadline day move to PSG.
In Kolo Muani, Daichi Kamada, and Jesper Lindstrøm, Frankfurt lost last season’s top 3 scorers in one clean sweep. However, it shouldn’t all be viewed negatively as Die Adler have again recruited wisely to offset these exits.
Omar Marmoush and Jessic Ngankam are two talented mobile center-forwards who together cost less than €5m. Willian Pacho and Hugo Larsson were sought-after youngsters who will fit Frankfurt’s talent development model. And Ellyes Skhiri and Robin Koch are experienced Bundesliga starters who, at 28 and 27, still have room for improvement in Frankfurt.
It is clear that Kolo Muani’s world-class talent will be impossible to replace this season, but if the intention is to use the upcoming campaign as a year to regroup and build for the future, than Die Adler did a decent job of getting the maximum sale price for their French superstar and investing with intention across the squad.
FC Augsburg entered the new campaign with their youngest squad in topflight history. David Blitzer - FC Augsburg’s majority investor - has continued transitioning a notoriously dull club into one of the more exciting destinations in Europe.
Rafał Gikiewicz (35 yrs), Julian Baumgartlinger (35 yrs), Daniel Caliguiri (35 yrs), Tobias Strobl (33 yrs), and Andé Hahn (33 yrs) all departed, with these veteran faces replaced by far younger counterparts.
Tim Breithaupt (21 yrs) and Patric Pfeiffer (23 yrs) join as two of the brightest young talents in the Zweite Bundesliga and Japhet Tanganga (24 yrs) looks like a significant deadline day coup after arriving for a season-long loan from Tottenham. Even Finn Dahmen (25 yrs) is a relatively bold appointment as a first-choice goalkeeper, but the former U21 international has shown impressive quality in limited minutes at Mainz 05.
Losing over 1000 matches of Bundesliga experience through the veteran departures means Augsburg did have to sign a few elder-statesman, but even here, they largely hit the mark. Sven Michel (32 yrs) is a solid unselfish center-forward whose enterprising style has seen him pave the way from the regional 4th tier all the way to the Bundesliga. Masaya Okugawa (27 yrs) was a victim of circumstances at Arminia Bielefeld, but the Japanese international has proven qualities in the Bundesliga. And finally, Kevin Mbabu (28 yrs) has seen his career slightly veer off path in the past few seasons, but there was a solid stretch in 2020 where he was amongst the best fullbacks in the division for Oliver Glasner’s Wolfsburg.
Major off-season change is nothing new in Leipzig, but this summer was extreme even for RB’s standards. 10 players arrived and 10 players departed. It has left a new-look squad with fundamental changes to the first XI.
In Christopher Nkunku and Dominik Szoboszlai Leipzig lost their two most explosive goal-threats to the Premier League, joined later in the summer by the Bundesliga’s most talented young defender, Joško Gvardiol. The drawn-out saga surrounding Konrad Laimer finally came to an end after he completed his free transfer to FC Bayern, and RB’s two failed center-forward purchases - André Silva and Alexander Sørloth - will be playing their football in La Liga next season.
With the second-largest income (€240m) of any club in world football this window, RB Leipzig had the tools to facilitate a statement summer. All told, they didn't disappoint.
For €38.5m RB Leipzig broke their transfer record to sign RC Lens forward Loïs Openda. The Belgian forward was a break-out star in the previous Ligue 1 campaign, scoring 21 goals and setting defenses alight with his electric speed and verticality. The likes of Fábio Carvalho and Christoph Baumgartner will create for Openda in attacking phases, but even these two eye-catching arrivals are eclipsed by Xavi Simons. The La Masia graduate contributed the most goals and assists of any player in the Eredivisie last season (27), and after 3 Bundesliga matchdays, he has already registered 5 goal contributions (2 goals & 3 assists).
Finally, Leipzig have also continued their recruitment across their two tried and trusted pathways. To follow in the footsteps of Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, and Mohamed Simakan, Leipzig have signed two new French centerbacks in Castello Lukeba (20 yrs) and El Chadaille Bitshiabu (18 yrs). And, from the Red Bull Salzburg pipeline, Nicolas Seiwald (22 yrs) and Benjamin Šeško (20 yrs) make the short trip over to Leipzig. Seiwald is a box-to-box oriented midfielder who will replace Konrad Laimer, while Šeško, who stands at 1,94m, combines the traits of a physical center-forward with the dynamism and directness of an RB Leipzig attacker.
Continuity was king for SC Freiburg this summer. Die Breisgauer made the fewest new signings of any Bundesliga club (3), and goalkeeper Mark Flekken was the only player sold with over 1,000 minutes in the previous league campaign.
Given Freiburg’s renewed qualification for the Europa League, bigger names could have potentially been attracted to the project, but Die Breisgauer were correct to prioritize keeping the current squad together over rebuilding with new, more illustrious, faces.
An approach that values the collective over individual quality has gotten Freiburg to its lofty status, and there is no reason to abandon this mantra now that they look like serious European contenders.
SV Darmstadt 98
Newly promoted and with one of the smallest budgets in the Bundesliga, nobody expected Darmstadt to blow the budget in the transfer window. However, even with this said, it is more than disappointing what Die Lilien have mustered together.
Top scorer Philipp Tietz and key centerback Patric Pfeiffer were able to depart to fellow relegation-rivals FC Augsburg, while as far as incoming transfers go, there isn’t a whole lot to spark optimism. Christoph Klarer, Fabian Nürnberger, and Andreas Müller all impressed in the previous Zweite Bundesliga season, but their age, and complete topflight inexperience, is a pretty significant hurdle that Darmstadt potentially under-estimated.
More alarming, is the lack of a significant center-forward to arrive and guarantee a goalscoring impact. Without Tietz, Darmstadt have only one player in the current squad who scored over 5 goals for the club last season (Braydon Manu), and new signings Luca Pfeiffer and Fraser Hornby do not look like an adequate outlet to carry the goalscoring burden. Pfeiffer contested 19 Bundesliga matches for Stuttgart last season without scoring a goal, and Hornby was signed following a solid, albeit unremarkable, season with relegated Belgian topflight outfit K.V. Oostende.
SV Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen are clearly one of the big losers from the deadline day drama. After Niclas Füllkrug’s future looked all but settled, Borussia Dortmund somehow mustered together the €13m asking price to bring last season’s top scorer to the Signal-Iduna Park.
Only time will tell how big of a role he is to play in Dortmund, but for Bremen, he is a significant loss. Füllkrug was directly involved in 42% of the league goals Bremen scored last season, and Bremen managed to win only 2 of the 18 Bundesliga matches where Füllkrug didn’t contribute a goal or assist. Completing a last-gasp loan move for Frankfurt’s Rafael Borré is quite impressive, but for all his enterprise and work ethic, the Colombian international has yet to prove himself as a clinical goalscorer in Europe.
Further afield, Bremen also made headlines with the free signing of Naby Keïta, but the transfer is yet to really bear fruit due to an abductor tear that has seen him sidelined since July. Keïta’s footballing qualities and top-level experience will undoubtedly boost Bremen’s survival chances, but for how many matches he will actually remain fit is a bigger question mark nobody can really give a conclusive answer to.
TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
After narrowly escaping relegation with their worst league finish since 2016, it was quite clear that Hoffenheim would be amongst the most active Bundesliga clubs in the summer market. Die Breisgauer spent and sold big. 3 players - Mergim Berisha, Anton Stach, and Attila Szalai - arrived for over €10m, while the majority of the summer outlay was funded by the departure of Austrian international Christoph Baumgartner (sold for €24m to RB Leipzig).
Big money outlays were perhaps the norm throughout this Hoffenheim window, but Die Kraichgauer also showed a more frugal side with various smart pick-ups at the lower end of the market. Marius Bülter - arguably the best player from relegated Schalke 04 - was purchased for only €3m, while only a year after leaving Hoffenheim, former captain Florian Grillitsch returned on a free transfer.
Even the experienced Wout Weghorst returns to the Bundesliga, joining Hoffenheim on a €1.5m loan from FC Burnley. His technical limitations and stature are not for everyone, but his goal record in Germany speaks for itself. In his 3 full seasons for Wolfsburg Weghorst always managed over 15 league goals, and with the creative abilities of Andrej Kramarić at his disposal, there shouldn’t be many doubting that he can pull off a similar figure again this year with Hoffenheim.
After two seasons of narrow escapes, VfB Stuttgart have finally taken a more proactive stance in the summer transfer window to ensure a less volatile 4th year in the Bundesliga. They have still had to contend with some massive departures - club captain Wataru Endo, star defender Konstantinos Mavropanos, and Croatian international Borna Sosa - but Stuttgart have made the absolute most out of their budget, delivering a good balance between starlets with huge resale value, and immediate first-team talent.
Woo-yeong Jeong (23) and Angelo Stiller (22) are both experienced in the Bundesliga for their age and will be reunited with their former manager Sebastian Hoeneß, while turning Serhou Guirassy’s loan permanent, and bringing in Alexander Nübel for a year, are two quality additions at either end of the pitch. With 5 goals in 3 games, Guirassy is the Bundesliga's top scorer at the time of writing, and goalkeeper Alexander Nübel has clearly bolstered a defense that kept only two clean sheets in the entirety of last season.
Despite their limited budget, VfL Bochum have been quite active in the summer window. The West German outfit signed 10 new players, 7 of which arrive either on a free transfer, or season-long loan.
Key additions like Maximilian Wittek, Matúš Bero, and Keven Schlotterbeck have all functioned under manager Thomas Letsch in the past, and as far as free transfers go, there weren’t many better deals available for a club of Bochum’s stature than Lukas Daschner and Felix Passlack.
Bochum even made their most expensive transfer since 2008 - Moritz-Broni Kwarteng for €1.1m. The Ghanaian attacking midfielder has been sidelined with a pelvic injury since his arrival, but with 10 goals for Magdeburg in the Zweite Bundesliga, he has the quality to add an important attacking impact.
Ultimately, Bochum didn’t deliver the most adventurous window, but it is solid and dependable and sets them up nicely to reach their survival target for another year.
VfL Wolfsburg are a club I boldly predicted to finish in 5th place, and a big reason for my optimism is the stellar summer window Marcel Schäfer administered. To earn €70m from the sale of Micky van de Ven and Felix Nmecha is impressive, and in Schäfer’s first transfer window since inheriting the sporting role, the former Bundesliga fullback ticked all the boxes when it comes to incoming players.
Lovro Majer, Václav Černý, Moritz Jens, Cédric Zesiger, Joakim Mæhle, and Rogério are all between 24 and 26 years old, providing excellent resale value whilst still hitting the peak of their career in Wolfsburg. As a full Croatian international who was previously on FC Arsenal’s radar, Lovro Majer is probably the marquee Wolfsburg addition, but as far as value for money goes, it is hard to look past Václav Černý. For just €8m Wolfsburg signed one of the best 1v1 technicians in the Eredivisie last season whose 26 goal contributions were only bettered by Xavi Simons.
Losing the talented Omar Marmoush on a free transfer does slightly dampen the outlook, but at least from a footballing perspective, the additions of Tiago Tomás and Amin Sarr should be able to compensate.