German winter transfer window – the ins and outs of the Bundesliga

Bundesliga sides have been rather more frugal with their money during this year’s winter transfer window than their recession-defying English Premier League counterparts.

One remarkable fact of this season’s winter deals is that all the fees spent by German clubs during the month of January do not even add up to the £50m total spent by Chelsea on Spanish striker Fernando Torres.

Over the course of the month, English clubs spent more than £225m on players.

But on the continent, a busy, if inexpensive, transfer window slammed shut on January 31st with several intriguing deals completed in the Bundesliga.

The biggest deal of the window saw Bavarian giants Bayern Munich spend a cool €15m on Hoffenheim’s enforcer Luis Gustavo. The Brazilian, who can play in midfield or as a left-back, made his first appearance for his new club by coming on as a sub against Wolfsburg.

The other deals completed by Bayern – albeit in the departure lounge – also raised a few eyebrows.

Wantaway defender Martin Demichelis, who has had several sharp disagreements with coaching staff, players and the hierarchy, left the German side for the paltry sum of €3m. The Argentine defender headed to Spanish side Malaga to join up with his former River Plate coach Manuel Pellegrini.

World Cup runner-up Mark Van Bommel also departed after terminating his contract and signing a 6-month deal with AC Milan.

Felix Magath’s struggling Schalke side showed signs of panic-buying on the last day of the window as they brought in ageing Iranian star Ali Karimi and former-European Championship winner and free agent Angelos Charisteas.

34 year-old Karimi, who was originally signed by Magath during his stint at Bayern at 2005, signed a deal that keeps him at the Veltins-Arena until the end of the season. Karimi’s previous spell in Germany was an unsuccessful one and critics are keen to point out to that at this stage of his career, it is unlikely to work out this time either.

The signing of striker Angelos Charisteas is an even stranger one. The forward scored the winning goal in the Greece’s remarkable Euro 2004 triumph but has been on a slippery downhill slope since then and failed to score a single goal during his stay at French strugglers Arles.

And with the likes of Raul, Huntelaar, Farfan, Edu and Gavranovic already fighting for a starting berth, added to the fact that Charisteas’ contract was terminated over 3 months ago, it’s hard to see why Magath made this puzzling purchase.

On a positive note, Die Konigsblauen did sign Ghana’s highly-rated midfielder Anthony Annan from Rosenborg as a replacement for the Sevilla-bound Croatian playmaker Ivan Rakitic.

Werder Bremen’s season of struggle continued as they lost top scorer Hugo Almeida to Besiktas for €2m. With only 6 months left on his contract, general manager Klaus Allofs was keen to cash in on the former Porto striker as contract negotiations had broken down. However, Bremen only managed to bring in two reinforcements in the shape of Brazilian free agent Samuel and Elfsborg’s Swedish striker Denni Avdic.

Perennial underachievers Bayer Leverkusen, who currently sit in second place in the Bundesliga, made no major signings during January. However, striker Patrick Helmes, who had an injury-filled stay at Leverkusen but still managed 28 goals in 56 games, was allowed to leave for €8m to rivals Wolfsburg as a replacement for Manchester City-bound Edin Dzeko. Leverkusen may live to regret that decision as they now only have Stefan Kiessling and Eren Derdiyok on their books as out-and-out strikers.

Wolfsburg, like Schalke, looked as if they were panic-buying too – or perhaps they were just giddy from the £27m they received for Edin Dzeko. The cash windfall provided by the sale of the Bosnian forward allowed Wolves to bring in former Standard Liege striker Dieumerci Mbokani, Stoke City striker Tuncay, Leverkusen’s Patrick Helmes, South Korean midfielder Koo Ja-Cheol, Venezuelan wonderkid Yohandry Orozco and experienced Czech midfielder Jan Polak. However, it remains to be seen whether or not these signings will pay off in the long run for McClaren’s men.

Dortmund, the league leaders, added just one player to their burgeoning squad in the form of 19 year-old midfielder Moritz Leitner from 1860 Munich. The youngster was immediately sent on loan to Augsburg but again, Jurgen Klopp’s penchant for uncovering young talents is proving to be a valuable asset.

Seventh-placed HSV neither bought nor sold any players during the window as manager Armin Veh looked to retain his solid squad. Die Rothosen sit just nine points behind Leverkusen in second place.

There were some big changes at “The Village Team” TSG Hoffenheim, who brought in five new players but moved on eight. Some of the major departures included Senegalese striker Demba Ba to West Ham, Luis Gustavo to Bayern, Christian Eichner to Koln and Prince Tagoe to Partizan – but club owner and “sugar daddy” Dietmar Hopp provided the funds to bring in Liverpool’s unwanted winger Ryan Babel, the Bayern duo of David Alaba and Edson Braafheid as well as Figueirense’s Roberto Firmino for a reported €4m.

But it was VfB Stuttgart who pulled off perhaps the most exciting capture of the window in 24 year-old striker Shinji Okazaki. The Japanese international, who featured heavily in Japan’s Asian Cup triumph and has scored 21 times in 41 games for his country, signed a deal from Shimizu S-Pulse that will keep him at the German side until June 2014. With Dortmund’s (now injured) Shinji Kagawa and Schalke’s Atsuto Uchida lighting up the first half of the season, can Okazaki thrive on the success of his fellow countrymen? All eyes will be on coach Bruno Labbadia to see if he can get the best out of this untried but talented youngster.

And come May time, we will be able to see which gambles have paid off.

Colin Stone

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