5 Bundesliga Signings to Go Under the Radar
The Bundesliga's January involvement in the transfer window has been dominated by the impressive acquisitions of FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund, who have strengthened their reputation as two of the biggest clubs on the continent.
Last week, the Bavarians sent shock waves around Europe by agreeing a three-year-deal with former FC Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola to become Jupp Heynckes’ successor at the end of the season. It has been ignored, widely, that 67-year-old Heynckes—in his third spell at the club—was FC Bayern’s first choice, but the former Real Madrid boss refused an extension and will walk away from the coaching scene in the summer.
The club’s second choice is not bad either. Guardiola won 12 honours in his time in charge at the Nou Camp and orchestrated the development of one of the greatest football sides of all-time. Having won the UEFA Champions League twice, the Spaniard has the pedigree, as well as, the desire to learn about Germany and the football culture which he is admittedly an admirer of.
Whilst in Dortmund, sporting director Michael Zorc has quietly gone about his business, tying his squad down on long-term contract behind the scenes in their training camp in Spain earlier in the month.
However, the reigning champions made a massive coup in signing Real Madrid midfielder Nuri Sahin on an 18-month-deal, with the option of an extended stay. The 24-year-old is a boyhood Dortmunder and grew up less than 45 minutes away from Signal Iduna Park where he eventually become an idol to thousands.
The battle between FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund has been turned up a notch for next season with the Bundesliga on everyone’s lips at the minute.
There has been some good business done throughout the league this month—and here are five transfers that went well under the radar in the German top-flight.
Luis Advíncula (TSG Hoffenheim)
The last six months have been tough for Hoffenheim, and changes have been aplenty with Marco Kurz taking the head coach role at the club, replacing the out-going Markus Babbel.
The club have made three new signings this month: Luiz Advincula from Sporting Cristal, Guilherme Biteco from Gremio and Junior Ponce from fellow Peruvian side Allianz Lima.
Inspired by Claudio Pizarro—the highest-scoring foreign player in Bundesliga history—Advincula made the switch to Europe, committing to a four-year-deal at Hoffenheim and help them consolidate their position in the Bundesliga.
But the defender-by-nature is athletic and capable of dribbling out from the back. His powerful running has seen him used in full-back positions for the Peruvian national team, but in the main, he enjoyed a four-year career in his homeland as a central defender.
The 22-year-old is a robust figure and is not hesitant to make a challenge. In his career in Peru with Sporting Cristal, he collected an incredible 32 yellow cards with one dismissal in three seasons.
It might not look good, in that respect, for the £900,000 addition, but the physical presence and an assertive challenger is something Hoffenheim have missed at the back this season.
He has already been touted for a move to the United States and signed a contract to move to Ukraine before it fell through and he returned to Sporting Cristal.
Kurz’s revival of the club began on Saturday with a 0-0 draw against Borussia Mönchengladbach. That point was only Hoffenheim’s 13th point of the campaign and their first clean sheet since the end of September which brought an end to their six game losing streak.
Mateo Pavlovic (Werder Bremen)
Going on the evidence of their Saturday evening hammering by Borussia Dortmund, Werder Bremen certainly require some reinforcements in central defence. The other argument, though, could be that the champions were in impressive form and might have done that to any other team in the league.
But new sporting director Thomas Eichin’s first signing at the club was Croatian U21 international Mateo Pavlovic, who has been previously on the shortlist of FC Bayern, among numerous others in Germany.
Costing just £600,000, the 22-year-old was an unused substitute for head coach Thomas Schaaf in their 5-0 defeat to Dortmund, showing that Pavlovic is part of his first-team plans at the club.
Pavlovic came through the ranks at NK Zagreb and went on to play 68 times for the first-team, under his father, Luka, who is the head coach at the club.
He represented Bosnia at U17 level on three occasions, before eventually committing to the Croatian National Setup, and has pulled on the famous red-and-white chequered shirt at U18, U19 and U21 level.
The towering defender is unlikely to be a regular for the Green-and-Whites immediately, but the promising youngster will be a useful addition and fits the transfer strategy of Schaaf and his new sporting director.
Nikola Djurdjic (Greuther Furth)
It might be too little, too late, but Greuther Fürth have certainly made a big effort of things in the January transfer window.
Lacking a main forward option, Nikola Djurdjic joined from Haugesund in Norway but had spent last season on-loan with Swedish Allsvenskan side Helsingborg, impressing against Celtic and Bundesliga side Hannover 96 in the early rounds of European competition.
In Europe for Helsingborg, Djurdjic scored four goals in eight matches, in addition to 10 goals in 11 league games for the Swedish giants. The Serbian U21 international netted 46 goals in 97 games for Haugesund, taking his overall career record to 86 in 189.
At 26, the striker is reaching the peak of his career, able to use his dynamism and pace to good effect, something he showed against quality opposition in the UEFA Europa League in 2012.
With Fürth opting for a counter-attacking system, Djurdjic will give the bottom-placed team a strong out-ball, something that has been missing for them this season. Alongside Zoltan Stieber, Fürth have developed a decent set of options with Djurdjic scoring on his debut for the club in a mid-season friendly.
Djurdjic missed the club’s 2-0 defeat to FC Bayern with an illness but returned to training on Thursday and should be fit for next weekend.
Genki Omae (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
The legacy of Shinji Kagawa—and the PR Agency led by former German player Thomas Kroth—have led to a major influx of Japanese players moving to the Bundesliga. The likes of Astuto Uchida and Shinji Okazaki have settled in Europe, becoming regular features at their respective clubs, FC Schalke 04 and VfB Stuttgart.
His stocky 5'5" presence might not look much on paper, but Genki Omae, a new addition at Fortuna Düsseldorf this month, is a bit of a handful. The lively striker has pace, upper-body strength and can play in the channels.
He is the perfect fit for Norbert Meier’s counter-attacking side, who have the best shots/goals ratio in the Bundesliga—not surprising given their style to sit-deep and spring quick, clinical breaks.
The 23-year-old Yokohama-born forward made his name at Shimzu S-Pulse in the J-League as a teenager, but his physical attributes were not so developed early in his career. He began to find the net between 2010 and 2012 at Shimzu with 11 goals in 42 games in 2011 and a further 18 strikes the following season.
Omae has signed a two-and-a-half year contract at the ESPRIT Arena and prefers to play on the right-hand side of the attack. It will be interesting to see how the Japanese forward can link with the impressive Australian Robbie Kruse, who likes to play on the opposite side of the attack.
Arkadiusz Milik (Bayer Leverkusen)
FC Bayern’s closest challengers Bayer Leverkusen continued to march on in the Bundesliga with a 3-1 win at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday. The game was a carbon-copy, efficient Leverkusen performance with the Werkself clinical in-front of goal.
Sascha Lewandowski has moulded a strong side, focusing on a deep defensive line, compact midfield three, with an attacking trio capable of making things happen on the counter-attack. The finishing of Stefan Kiessling—the highest scorer in the Bundesliga for 2012—is an essential factor in that.
Lewandowski, though, and sporting director Rudi Voller looked to add some depth to their attacking options with Gornik Zabrze striker Arkadiusz Milik moving to the BayArena for around £2m.
The 18-year-old is one of the hottest properties in Polish Football and has enjoyed a rapid rise to stardom, making his league debut at just 16, with two goals on his debut in the Third Division.
Milik was scouted by the biggest clubs in Poland, as well as other trials organised across the continent, but chose to develop his career at Gornik for a season. In 18 months, he scored 11 goals in 38 games, earning him an international place. He has already broken his account for the Polish National Team.
Milik has signed a five-year-contract at the BayArena and looks to be a fantastic coup for Leverkusen.
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