Silly season has returned as the January transfer window has opened, bringing with it a slew of transfer rumors in the Bundesliga and Europe overall.
In Germany, several top players have been linked with moves within the domestic league and abroad, including Lewis Holtby and Robert Lewandowski. Several players abroad have also been rumored to move to the Bundesliga, either for the first time or in a return. These include Marko Marin and Johan Djourou.
Every transfer season brings many more news stories than actual transfers, though, and it can be a challenge to sift through the reports and distinguish between the likely and the far-fetched. Click "Begin Slideshow" to begin a rundown of all the hottest rumors, analyzing what moves are realistic this January, and what are little more than idle rumor.
On Christmas Eve, Bild reported that Bayern are keen to add strength and conditioning coach Dr. Holger Broich to their staff. They faced a tricky stepping stone in that the fitness guru has a contract with Leverkusen that runs until 2016. The report claimed that in exchange for Broich, Leverkusen wanted 18-year-old Bayern talent Emre Can.
Since then, Leverkusen CEO Wolfgang Holzhaeuser stated publicly that the window of opportunity for Broich to move had passed, but admitted his interest in Emre.
A transfer in any capacity is unlikely to occur, however. Emre is the crown jewel of the Bayern academy and has been for most of his stay since signing with the Bavarian giants in 2009. Even though there is a predictable bottleneck of central midfielders born in 1994 and 1995 (Emre, Pierre-Emil Hojbjerg and alleged target Leon Goretzka), the departure of Emre on a full transfer is the least likely possibility.
Especially after Toni Kroos' successful loan spell at Leverkusen, Bayern would be happy to lend Emre to the Werkself. Leverkusen would be unlikely to accept such an offer, even if it were with a guaranteed duration of more than a year.
B04 have a very bright talent in Dominik Kohr already on the cusp of breaking into a midfield trio that consists of three Germany internationals, past and present. If they were to sign Emre on loan, they would be left with nothing from the deal at its expiration, and Kohr's chances would go to waste. Bayern will have to look elsewhere to loan the talented holding midfielder.
Following Ron-Robert Zieler and Mame Biram Diouf, Johan Djourou could be the next Premier League player to move to Hannover, according to Bild. The German daily revealed late on Sunday that H96 manager Joerg Schmadtke is keen to sign the out-of-favor Arsenal and Switzerland defender, who has made just two appearances for the Gunners this season.
With Thomas Vermaelen, Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny decidedly ahead of him in the pecking order, Djourou appears to have little future at Arsenal. And following an injection of €20 million into Hannover due to Europa League performance and sales of club shares, CEO Martin Kind is bullish about the prospect of making new signings: "The money is there. We're able to take action," he told Bild.
A transfer this January is entirely possible.
Last January, Bayern Munich assistant manager Hermann Gerland admitted to Fussball-Vorot his intention to bring then-16-year-old midfielder Leon Goretzka to the Allianz Arena. Bochum refused to sell their most prized starlet, who captained Germany at the U17 European Championship in May and has since become a regular starter in the 2. Bundesliga.
In November, Die Welt reported that Bayern sporting director Matthias Sammer met with the youngster, who was also at the time being monitored by Manchester United, Arsenal and Real Madrid. Goretzka was not always brilliant for Bochum, but he ended the first half of the season in tremendous form, scoring once and assisting four goals in his final three matches.
There are a couple things that are abundantly clear regarding Goretzka's future. The first is that he is already good enough for the 2. Bundesliga, and may by August be ready to play in the top flight. The second is that he is still a few years away from being able to compete with the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Javi Martinez, Luiz Gustavo and Toni Kroos for a place in the first team, but for Goretzka to be signed and sent to the reserves in the Regionalliga Bayern is not an acceptable option for player or club.
A sign-and-loan deal might be appropriate, on the other hand, provided Bayern sort out the futures of Emre and Hojbjerg. The real question is whether Sammer can convince the 17-year-old to leave his hometown club at such a young age, and Bayern can pry Bochum's greatest talent away when he is under contract with the Ruhr club until 2016.
On Monday, Bild ran a report on Lewis Holtby's wage demands and how the playmaker was unable to reach an agreement with Schalke for an extension. That report also included a footnote claiming that S04 sporting director Horst Heldt had held secret meetings with defender Benedikt Hoewedes to discuss prolonging his stay past 2014, with Bayern allegedly interested in the 24-year-old.
This was not the first link between Hoewedes and Bayern, and the rumor trail suggests the Bavarians have been keen on the defender since the days of Martin Demichelis in Munich. Unlike Lewis Holtby, Hoewedes is a leader, and his position as captain holds certain expectations. He won't leave before the summer, and little will be heard from him regarding his future before then.
From the Bayern angle, the Munich giants have plenty of defensive options now compared to three years ago. It can safely be assumed that their interest in Hoewedes will only become serious if Holger Badstuber's knee injury becomes chronic, if any of their center-backs has a falling out with the club, or if Hoewedes becomes available on a free transfer in 2014.
After extensive talks with Schalke and months of speculation as to whether he would remain in Gelsenkirchen or try his hand at a move overseas, Lewis Holtby announced last Friday that he would leave S04 when his contract expires at season's end.
Holtby has been linked with Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham in recent weeks, but the Daily Mail reported on Tuesday that Spurs are favorites to sign the 22-year-old.
There is still plenty of football yet to be played in the Premier League this season, however, and it is unlikely that Holtby will decide on his future before having a clearer view of which of his potential suitors will play in the 2013-14 Champions League. For now, the only thing clear is that the playmaker will certainly not play at Schalke next season.
Robert Lewandowski has long been linked with a move to Manchester United, and on Boxing Day, Bild reported that the English giants had offered the striker a €5 million-per-year contract that the player was ready to accept, while Dortmund would receive €22 million in exchange for his release.
The report was eyebrow-raising, and begged the question of what United would do with Lewandowski joining a full house of strikers that includes Robin van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Javier Hernandez and Danny Welbeck. Nonetheless, Sir Alex Ferguson humored the rumor, declaring it "absolute nonsense."
It should be noted that Ferguson stated that reports Lewandowski had already agreed to a deal were nonsense; the trainer was not commenting on the prospect of bringing the player to Old Trafford at some point.
Regardless, it's safe to say that Lewandowski, who is cup-tied anyway, will not be permitted to leave Dortmund in midseason while they fight to extend their run in the Champions League.
To say that Marko Marin's experience at Stamford Bridge has been frustrating since leaving Bremen in the summer would be an understatement. The once-promising youngster has barely played, and instead of reviving his international career has completely fallen off Joachim Loew's radar.
Numerous reports have linked the 23-year-old with moves away from Stamford Bridge in January. QPR are among the possibilities, according to Bild, while the Daily Mail have claimed interest from Leverkusen and Sky linked the player with a return to his former Gladbach.
While coach Lucien Favre admitted "a player like Marin would be a good fit" at Gladbach, little more has been reported on the possible transfer since early November.
Leverkusen are a more complicated option, due to the presence of Andre Schuerrle and the in-form Gonzalo Castro on the wings at the North Rhine-Westphalian club. It's only been six months since Marin left the Bundesliga, and returning this early would be crushing and embarrassing to him. A loan to QPR or another modest Premier League club is more likely at present, with a return to the Bundesliga perhaps a possibility in a year or two if his fortunes do not turn for the better.
Along with the Emre link to Leverkusen, Bild reported a second big Christmas Eve transfer rumor in revealing interest from Wolfsburg in Dortmund winger Ivan Perisic.
According to the report, new Wolfsburg sporting director Klaus Allofs is keen to table a €7 million bid for the Croatia international, who publicly criticized BVB coach Juergen Klopp in November and was fined €15,000.
Perisic is unhappy with his limited playing time at Dortmund, and with his situation unlikely to change anytime soon, he will probably be allowed to leave in January to help fund reinforcements the Ruhr side actually need.
Wolfsburg have enough money to make an attractive offer to both Dortmund and Perisic, and absolutely have need for the 23-year-old given the lackluster performances of Ivica Olic during the fall campaign.