It will be hard for the Bundesliga to live up to expectations following last season’s dramatic, and truly eventful, feast. But already the biggest sides in Germany are preparing to go at it again. Here, we take a look at ten of the best new imports set to light up Deutschland this season:
1. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich’s season 2008-09 was, by pretty common consensus, a bit of a disaster. Jürgen Klinsmann arrived brimming with ideas and invention, and left eight months later seething at injustice and ignorance. One of the main factors for Bayern’s lacklustre form, it is commonly agreed, was the lack of a driving force in midfield. Mark Van Bommel divides opinion amongst fans- some hate him, others just don’t like him, whilst Zé Roberto’s best days are, sadly, behind him.
So when new manager Louis Van Gaal was appointed back in May, imagine his delight at discovering that Bayern’s much-vaunted board of Franz Beckenbauer, Karl-Heinz Rummenigge & Uli Hoeneß had secured the signature of the kind of inspirational figure so severely lacking at the club since the days of Stefan Effenberg. Tymoshchuk’s favourite player is Lothar Matthäus, give it six months and Lothar Matthäus may be asking the tousle-haired Ukrainian for an autograph.
With 83 caps for the Ukraine, four league titles spread across the Ukraine & Russia, a UEFA Cup winners medal, and three Ukrainian player of the year crowns to his name, Tymoshchuk could well prove a steal at a reported €14m. His former coach at Zenit described him as “the most professional player I ever worked with”, Bayern fans will be hoping they see the kind of form he has shown in Russia for the past three years.
2. Lucas Barrios (Borussia Dortmund)
Lucas Barrios is a hard man to come by. A star in South & Central America with Argentinos Juniors, Tigre & Cobreloa, he has long been touted for a move across the Atlantic to Europe, but on numerous occasions there have been stumbling blocks. A move to Nancy in France never materialized, the player turned down a switch to Panathinaikos only last year, and his club- Chilean side Colo-Colo- failed to agree a suitable payment structure with La Liga outfit Espanyol. At 24, Barrios could have been forgiven for thinking that time was running out for his big move.
Until, that is, Borussia Dortmund turned up at his door. A €4.5m fee was swiftly agreed, and the 6ft 2in Barrios, who has a pretty healthy return of 43 goals in 50 games for Colo-Colo, is heading for the Westfalenstadion, where he will likely replace the Basel-bound Alexander Frei in the Dortmund attack. Die Schwarzgelben’s faithful are among the loudest fans in Europe on their day, with the powerful Argentine on board, expect to hear their roars well across the Rhine.
3. Juan Arango (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Venezuela has probably only produced one excellent footballer, and even he was born to Colombian parents. Juan Arango is that man. “Arangol” is a living legend back home, after his exploits with Spanish side RCD Mallorca, where he made almost 200 appearances in five years. Signed on a three year deal for a bargain €3.6m fee, the 29 year old attacker- who can play on either flank or centrally- will add pace and quality to the Gladbach attack, and is very much a creator and scorer of goals.
4. Eljero Elia (HSV)
Martin Jol may have exchanged the Nordbank Arena for the bright (red) lights of Amsterdam this summer, but the Dutch legacy at Hamburg is very much living on with the capture of this exciting 22 year old.
Part of Steve McClaren’s successful (yes successful) Twente side last season, Eljero Elia was named as the Dutch Young Player of the Year- following the likes of Dennis Bergkamp, Patrick Kluivert, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder & Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in receiving the award and becoming the first Twente player since Pieter Huistra (remember him, Rangers fans?) in 1988 to be honoured- before sealing a €9m switch to HSV. Pacy, intelligent and left footed, Elia joins a strong looking HSV line up and will be looking to follow in the footsteps of his compatriots Rafael Van der Vaart, Nigel De Jong & current skipper Joris Mathijssen in establishing himself at the Nordbank.
5. Marcus Berg (HSV)
And alongside him for Hamburg next season will be the star of this summer’s European Under 21 championships. Signed from Groningen for a healthy €10.5m, Marcus Berg will add his exciting brand of centre forward play to a Hamburg side certainly not lacking in providers. His aerial ability, silky first touch, two-footedness and willingness to try the unusual brought him 33 goals in 56 games at Groningen, where he had been signed to replace fans’ favourite Luis Suárez. He managed that with ease, now he will be looking to achieve a similar feat as he steps into the shoes of Bayern Munich-bound Ivica Olić at HSV.
6. Danijel Pranjić (Bayern)
Bayern, we know, had to have a bit of a tinker this summer. With Klinsmann out and Van Gaal in, it was always inevitable that King Louis would look towards the Eredivisie as he began the rebuilding work at the Allianz Arena. And his first serious port of call was to Heerenveen, for Danijel Pranjić.
Pranjić first came to attention playing for Croatia as an attacking left back during Euro 2008, but those more familiar with him will recognise him as a much more versatile performer, one whose crossing ability- from open play and set pieces- is bettered by few in Europe. A quick, smart user of the ball, and athletic enough to get up and down his left flank, Pranjić will add plenty to a Bayern side that needed plenty adding to it.
7. Marcelo Martins Moreno (Werder Bremen)
As Shakhtar Donetsk celebrated their UEFA Cup triumph (ironically, over Werder) in May, football writers across Europe hailed the influence of their South American contingent. The likes of Jádson, Ilsinho, Fernandinho & Luiz Adriano may have gotten the headlines in Istanbul that night, but Werder had their eye on the South American who no-one seemed to know, let alone write about.
Marcelo Martins Moreno was born in Bolivia and, despite a dalliance with Brazil at U18 & U20 level, has 13 caps for the Bolivian national team. Compared by one South American observer as being “like a young Gabriel Batistuta”, Moreno combines physical presence with mobility, and possesses a rapier-like shot. Has signed initially on loan, but if he can get his head right following a difficult year in the Ukraine, Martins Moreno will go some way to filling the void left by Diego at the Weserstadion.
8. Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen)
England fans may remember Eren Derdiyok from Fabio Capello’s first game in charge. That night, the 20 year old striker lit up Wembley by equalising for Switzerland with his first touch after coming on as a second half substitute. Later that year he would score the goal which secured qualification to the Champions League proper for his club, FC Basel, and followed that up with a memorable strike away to Barcelona, so he has big game pedigree.
Ironically, Derdiyok’s hero is Alexander Frei (don’t get too excited Alex, he is also a fan of Newcastle United!), the man who will replace him at Basel. The 6ft 3in striker looks set for bigger and better things, taking his hold up play and aerial presence to Leverkusen, where he should form a more than useful partnership with German international Patrick Helmes.
9. Franco Zuculini (Hoffenheim)
Hoffenheim may have tailed off last season after being crowned Winter Champions, but that should not detract from the incredible strides the club made in its debut Bundesliga campaign. Strides which, along with controversial owner Dietmar Hopp’s millions, have enabled the club to attract quality players to the sparkling Rhein-Neckar-Arena.
Top of such a list is this 18 year old prodigy. Signed from Racing Club, Franco Zuculini has less than 40 senior appearances under his belt, but has already shown enough to earn both comparisons with the likes of Javier Mascherano & Fernando Gago, and a call-up to Diego Maradona’s national side for a recent friendly with Panama. Maradona has hinted that Zuculini has the tools to become a regular for the national team, and anyone who has witnessed his boundless energy, precise passing and tigerish marking will doubtless agree. Can play anywhere across the midfield due to his youthful exuberance, but will undoubtedly settle as a ball-playing, ball-winning central midfielder. Hoffenheim fans should be excited.
10. Thomas Kahlenberg (Wolfsburg)
Last season’s title success may have stunned even the most hardened of VfL Wolfsburg fan, but their management team was in no mood to rest on their laurels. No sooner had the champagne been swigged than the Wolves crew were busy securing a deal to bring this talented Dane to Lower Saxony.
Thomas Kahlenberg made his name playing for Brøndby IF in his home country, where his prodigious talents earned him a place in Denmark’s squad for Euro 2004- aged just 21. He moved to AJ Auxerre in France soon after, where he established himself as the club’s main creative outlet, making 101 appearances over four years. Comfortable either as a left sided midfielder, or in a freer, central role, Kahlenberg’s passing, creativity and eye for goal is impressive, and he should slot in neatly alongside last season’s golden triangle of Zvjezdan Misimović, Edin Džeko & Grafite as Die Wölfe prepare to make their Champions League bow this season.