Halfway through the 2012-13 season, Bundesliga clubs are hardly more separated than they were in August. Freiburg, Mainz and especially promoted side Frankfurt have been hugely successful and would all represent the German top flight on the international stage if the season were to end today.
The surprising form of some traditionally lesser clubs has left others with a mountain to climb if they are to achieve their goals. Schalke, Gladbach, Stuttgart and Hamburg are all separated by a maximum of one point, and in all likelihood will be competing for third place. Meanwhile, noveau-riche sides Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim are facing relegation.
The winter break will bring much-needed time for players to rest and reflect. And critically for clubs, it will offer the chance to bring in reinforcements. Read on for a rundown of the biggest names linked with moves to the German top flight during the January transfer window.
With Josue approaching 34 years of age, Wolfsburg are looking for a quality replacement in central midfield. And if a report from the Netherlands is to be believed, Lucas Biglia is on their radar.
The 26-year-old has a contract with Anderlecht that will expire in 2015. Given that the Belgian side finished fourth in their Champions League group and have been knocked out of European play, however, Wolfsburg may have a chance to sign him. Rated at €8.5 million, he falls within the Volkswagen-backed side's price range.
News of a possible transfer of Biglia to Wolfsburg is still in a very early stage. Whether Wolfsburg are aiming to sign him in January or the summer, or at all, is still uncertain.
With Renato Augusto likely to leave Leverkusen for his native Brazil, the Werkself are in the market for a new attacking midfielder. And according to a report from Express, they are in negotiations with Barcelona over a move for 18-year-old talent Gerard Deulofeu.
The Spain Under-21 international is regarded as one of his country's brightest prospects, and an agreement between Leverkusen and Barcelona will be contingent upon precautions from both parties. Leverkusen are said to be only willing to agree to a loan if there is an option to buy, while Barca are aiming to secure a buyback option.
It will take careful negotiations to seal a transfer, but Leverkusen have conducted such operations before. In the summer, they signed Daniel Carvajal, but Real Madrid have an automatic buyback clause that lasts until 2015.
With Felipe Santana's future at the Signal-Iduna Park in perpetual doubt, Dortmund have long monitored the market for center backs. The Brazilian penned a two-year deal in June, but not before BVB were linked with Basel's Aleksandar Dragovic as a possible replacement.
On Friday, the 21-year-old was again linked with the Bundesliga title holders. Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke admitted "if we want to permanently establish ourselves at the top, we have to improve spots 12 to 18 in the squad," he told Sport-Bild, alluding to his side's need for more depth.
With Ivan Perisic possibly on his way away from the Signal-Iduna Park and the club having earned over €34 million profit after taxes in 2012, Dortmund should have no trouble meeting the Dragovic's €5 million valuation.
The defender was a star of the Basel side that eliminated Manchester United from the Champions League last season, and he has been in fine form for the Swiss side in 2012-13. And in January, Dragovic could follow the likes of Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri in leaving Basel for the Bundesliga.
Ex-Leverkusen and Bayern star Lucio could be on his way back to Germany in January. The 34-year-old was dismissed from Louis van Gaal's Bayern in 2009, but after three-and-a-half seasons in Italy, is ready to return to the Bundesliga.
"I'm unhappy because I'm not playing at Juventus," he told Sport-Bild in late November, adding that a move to Germany is "a serious option."
"Germany is a very organized country, the football is very appealing, the league is booming. And Wolfsburg is a club that will be big in the future. The Wolves would be an option for me, they're a very well-run club."
Clearly, Lucio would like to join compatriots Diego, Naldo, Felipe, Josue and Fagner at Wolfsburg. Now the question arises: Do VfL want to sign him?
Wolfsburg are flirting with relegation in midseason, and although defense is not their biggest problem, a player of Lucio's experience and skill could be very useful on the pitch and in the dressing room. There have been no reports of negotiations as of yet, but Lucio and Wolfsburg have over a month to reach an agreement.
Of all the players linked with moves to Bundesliga clubs this January, the most probable recruit, the least internationally known and perhaps the most talented prospect are all one and the same: Arkasiusz Milik.
Even at just 18 years of age, the striker has made a name for himself at Gornik Zabrze. The "next Lewandowski" is among the top scorers in the Ekstraklasa, and earlier this year scored his first international goal for the Polish national team.
Milik was first linked with Dortmund and Juventus, as well as Stuttgart, in October. A month later, Bild ran a report claiming interest from BVB, while Polish source Dziennik revealed a €2 million offer from Leverkusen.
Although late to notice Milik, it seem Leverkusen have won the race to his signature. The hugely talented striker was photographed during his medical exam on Saturday, and he is expected to complete his move in the coming days.