Ranking the 15 Best Bundesliga Transfers This Summer
As is the case with any of Europe's elite leagues over the summer transfer window, the Bundesliga saw an influx of comings and goings across July and August.
While some of these moves were nothing to write home about, German football fans were also treated to a few absolute humdingers.
This article attempts to rank the best of the best in Germany this year, taking into account the impact that the transferred player has already had on the side, as well as the potential for greatness in the seasons ahead (this of course applies much more to superstars of a younger age).
While some names on this list are fairly obvious, there may be a few quieter players higher up the rankings than some fans might expect. Remember, the players with the most impact do not always steal the limelight (think of Michael Carrick at Manchester United).
There may also be some players missing who a lot of you would naturally assume instantly stroll into the top 15.
For example, while many would cite Luiz Gustavo's move to Wolfsburg as one of the biggest transfers of the summer months, whether or not he was worth the money spent on him, or has thus far performed well for his new side is in doubt.
As such, he remarkably does not find a place in the rankings (let's just say he was 16th for the sake of it).
So, without further ado, let's take a look at the 15 best transfers that the league has witnessed so far in this campaign.
No. 15 to No. 11
15. Christian Clemens
The 22-year-old midfielder joined Schalke this summer from 2. Bundesliga side Köln and has already started to find himself playing some regular first-team football. While his contributions have been nothing out of the ordinary, it is fairly apparent that he could have a genuine influence on Schalke in the years to come.
14. Francis Coquelin Much like Clemens, Coquelin is a player who, despite his tender age, has already seen some serious game time for the struggling Freiburg. Francis is on loan from Arsenal for the season and more than likely will be looking to return to his parent club at the end of the campaign. Nevertheless, his contributions this season from a defensive standpoint may be enough to eventually keep Freiburg in the top flight.
13. Halil Altintop/Vaclav Kadlec Altintop is no rookie to Bundesliga football, having played previously for Kaiserslautern, Eintracht Frankfurt and Schalke in the German top flight. This experience, coupled with Altintop still (just about) being in his prime, makes his move from Turkish side Trabzonspor to the Bundesliga a wise move on the part of his new club, FC Augsburg. Despite not being in the goals much yet, when Halil hits his stride, his contributions could be the difference between playing Bundesliga or 2. Bundesliga football next year for Augsburg.
I couldn't separate the Czech striker from Altintop in regards to their position on the list, so they both get a joint slot at unlucky No. 13. Kadlec joined Eintracht Frankfurt from Sparta Prague in August for a fee believed to be around €3 million. Having already netted three times in six appearances for his new side, he appears to be another one of these crucial transfers which—although not headline-grabbing—may prove clinical come the end of the campaign. An experienced striker to Vaclav is exactly what the Hessian side need to maintain their place in the top flight next year.
12. Daniel Schwaab The former Leverkusen right-back joined up with Stuttgart this summer on a free transfer and has already played every minute of Die Roten's league season so far. While not having the best of times at the beginning of his Stuttgart career, both he and the team have drastically turned their fortunes around in the past few match-days, with the side rising from the relegation zone to seventh in the table.
The former Milan and Werder Bremen right-back may not have a regular slot in the BVB first team right now, but his contributions when he has played have been more than notable. In truth, it if weren't for that aforementioned lack of game time, the Greek International would more than likely find himself higher up on this list. So far, the full-back has been successful in 72 percent of all tackles, 86 percent of passes and 100 percent of crosses—stats to rival a player of any caliber. If he continues to exhibit this kind of form, then Jurgen Klopp may soon hand him a regular starting XI position in the near future.
10. Thiago Alcantara
And now we get into the real big guns.
Thiago Alcantara has not had much of an impact with Bayern Munich this year. But then again, did anyone really ever expect him to?
It was always baffling for me that, having listed a lack of regular first-team football as his main desire to leave FC Barcelona, the Spaniard decided to hook up with the one team in the world whose first XI was actually harder to break into.
The presence of a former friend and mentor in the form of Pep Guardiola clearly had a huge impact on the young man's eventual decision to join the European Champions.
But, having made only one first-team start and playing only 87 minutes of football (less than a full match) this season in the league, it seems as though the plan to leave Barca has backfired somewhat for Mr. Alcantara.
In fairness to the Spaniard, a large proportion of this time away from the game comes as a direct result of an injury picked up shortly after his arrival at the Allianz Arena.
This forgivable discrepancy, coupled with the potential to be great for Bayern in the future, is what earns him a spot ahead of the likes of Sokratis and Schwaab.
Sure, Thiago isn't getting a regular run out in the first team right now—but give it a year, maybe less, and the 22-year-old will be a much more developed and mature player.
He took the under-21 European Championships by storm this summer before his move, and if he can progress as much as he's expected to in the future, Bayern might have made a real coup with his acquirement.
€25 million may seem like a lot right now, but I am sure that in time that money will be more than paid back.
9. Mario Götze
Much as with the previous player on this list, Mario Götze has not has the most impressive of starts for his new side.
Again, like Thiago, he has struggled to find a regular spot in the Bayern first XI, and he looks like a shade of his former BVB self when he does.
This was probably the biggest move of the German window in regards to notoriety—with one of the standout players of the second best team in the division moving to the one side who were superior to them.
It angered many, as it appeared that Bayern were starting to once again monopolize the Bundesliga (and perhaps these claims were with good reason).
Whatever your view on the transfer, it again manages to reach a higher spot than Götze's contributions thus far deserve, purely based on the caliber of player that the club has managed to secure at such a tender age.
Mario is still only 21 and is already a fully-fledged member of the German national team, as well as somebody who is already used to playing in those big matches which define greatness in his time at Dortmund.
While he may struggle for now to break into the Bayern starting line-up, it would be a foolhardy man that questions his future contributions to this scarily talented Munich team.
When you have players like Thiago and Götze sitting on the bench, you know a team means business!
8. Henrikh Mkhitaryan
Armenian midfielder, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, has split opinions since his €27.5 million switch from Ukrainian Champions, Shakhtar Donetsk.
While some are heralding the new BVB man as another great Jurgen Klopp signing, others are suggesting that he fails to fill the void left behind by the departing Mario Götze.
In truth, I'm not exactly sure what to think of Mkhitaryan right now. We are, of course, still at an incredibly early stage of the season, and inconsistent performances from the Armenian have posed as many questions as they have answered.
However, in those games where Henrikh has shone, there has been a notable level of class on display, and hints that perhaps he may be the real deal after all.
To ensure that the 25-year-old does live up to his weighty billing, he will have to continue to turn out these kind of performances, and make the "off days" a thing of the past.
Remember also that having arrived from the Ukrainian league, the Bundesliga is a huge step up in class.
The fact that he has already netted an impressive three times from the middle of the park, and set up a whopping 38 goal-scoring chances, shows that in the long-term, Mkhitaryan could be a great signing for Dortmund.
While he still needs to work on his crossing and tackling abilities, his offensive game is already at a standard which could help BVB to regain their Bundesliga crown.
7. Adam Szalai
Adam Szalai is probably not one of the most memorable names in world football right now.
The Hungarian joined Schalke from fellow Bundesliga side FSV Mainz 05 this summer for a fee in the region of €8 million.
If you're expecting a goal for every million spent, then in just five starting appearances for Schalke, Szalai has already managed to attain half of that asking price, netting an impressive four times.
Aged 26, Adam is slowly creeping towards the peak of his career, and as such, 8 million doesn't seem like too much of a price to pay for a striker who will be bagging goals for Die Koenigsblauen for a few years to come yet.
Szalai was initially only brought in as cover for Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but if his performances continue to excel, then he may be challenging for a regular first-team place upon the Dutchman's return.
Having already proven himself in German football, Szalai will fight tooth and nail to ensure that Schalke can make it into the top four of the Bundesliga table for their third successive season.
6. Emir Spahic
Emir Spahic is one of those players that a lot of fans may not have expected to see this high up the list.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina captain joined up with Bayer Leverkusen from Sevilla this summer for the poultry fee of €400,000.
Okay, the 33-year-old isn't exactly going to go down in history as a Leverkusen legend. Already entering the twilight of his career, the big center-back is well and truly on his last legs.
So why is this such a creditable signing for Leverkusen?
For the relative peanuts that he was acquired, Spahic has already been one of the driving factors in what has been a resolute Leverkusen defense so far this season.
While this is very much a short-term solution to a long-term problem, Spahic's introduction to the Leverkusen back four has brought with it a touch of maturity and experience.
Winning nearly 80 percent of challenges in the air, and with a pass succession rate (a criminally underrated ability for a center-back) of 83 percent so far this year, its apparent how Bayer have been able to keep toe-to-toe with BVB and Munich.
Okay, this isn't all down to the improvements at the back (Sidney Sam and Stephan Kiessling have been out of this world so far), but as any true fan of the game will tell you: A good offence is a solid defense.
Spahic is just one cog in the new and improved Leverkusen rearguard.
Borussia Mönchengladbach have exceeded most people's expectations of them so far this season.
Currently residing in the fourth spot in the table, and coming off the back of a fantastic 2-0 home victory against Dortmund, the side has a lot to thank Brazilian midfielder Raffael for.
Arriving from Dynamo Kyiv and costing Gladbach just €5 million, Raffael may turn out to be one of the best bits of business of the summer window in Germany.
With four goals already to his name, and plenty more on the horizon, the 28-year-old midfielder is starting to hit the peak of his career at just the right time for Borussia.
His link-up play with Juan Arango, Max Kruse and Patrick Herrmann has given rise to the belief that Gladbach has found a new "fantastic four".
Not since the club lost the great Marco Reus to Dortmund have they shown this level of dominance on the attack, and if the hype is true, we could be witnessing something special this season.
In truth, if it weren't for somewhat of a lackluster defense, then its highly likely that Die Fohlen would be a lot closer to Bayern, Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund at the summit in regards to points.
Raffael and co. have netted 19 times in 8 games, making them the third highest goal-scorers in the division. If this form continues, then they can definitely challenge for fourth place this season.
4. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
Much like that of fellow Borussia Dortmund new boy Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang's Bundesliga introduction has been something of a hit and miss affair.
Having burst onto the scene with an opening match-day hattrick, The Gabonese International has since found himself in and out of form for the yellow menace.
Joining from French side Saint-Etienne for just €13 million, Aubameyang has his share of critics and supporters.
But whatever your opinion of the 24-year-old is, five goals and two assists in what is effectively six matches is terrific for any striker, let alone a young player who came to a team for cheap (He's featured for BVB for just over 549 minutes so far, which is nine minutes more than six fixtures).
For this continued goal return alone, Pierre earns a spot in the top four of this list. If he continues to score at this rate, then the loss of Lewandowski—while still a blow for Dortmund—will be severely softened.
He still has a lot to learn, but the best way to do that is through experience.
Come the end of the 2013-14 campaign, we will more than likely be looking at a much more rounded and lethal individual. It was wise for Klopp to give him this year to become accustomed to conditions first.
3. Anthony Modeste
Who would have thought that when Hoffenheim—a side that barely avoided relegation to the 2. Bundesliga last year—purchased Anthony Modeste from Bordeaux for €3 million, he would become one of the leading Bundesliga goalscorers with nearly a quarter of the season played.
What has made Modeste's goals so important for Hoffenheim is the regularity with which he is netting them.
As opposed to some players on this list who have perhaps had a stellar game which saw them boost their tally, Modeste has consistently been scoring game after game after game.
With six goals so far to his name, Anthony is one of the joint leading goal-scorers in the division.
I have a friend who's a Blackburn Rovers fan, and all I recall of Modeste's contribution to football before this season, was a lackluster loan period that saw him play five games with the Lancaster side, before being shipped off on a second loan spell to French team Bastia, never to be seen again.
How times have changed.
His efforts have seen a Hoffenheim side that were pinned for relegation currently finding themselves just three points off a place in the Champions League.
Okay, it's still very early days, and any supporters of Markus Gisdol's side who genuinely think that the team can challenge for the top four probably need a reality check.
But with the talents of Kevin Volland, Roberto Firmino and Modeste all in top form, relegation fears should be well and truly alleviated.
2. Kevin Prince-Boateng
Kevin Prince-Boateng has probably had one of the most inconsistent careers in the history of the game.
Having at one point been lambasted as an absolute failure with a Portsmouth side that would later go on to be relegated, Boateng somehow managed to completely re-invent himself at the 2010 FIFA World Cup—with his performances for Ghana encouraging AC Milan to snap up the then 23-year-old midfielder.
After a few good years with the Italian giants, form started to waver again and—having fallen out of favor with Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri—Kevin was shipped off to Schalke to the tune of €10 million.
Since his arrival, the extrovert character has already netted an impressive three times in five league games. He's also contributed greatly to Die Königsblauen's terrific start in the UEFA Champions League, which has seen them take all six points from their opening two fixtures.
Ever erratic, it's hard to really decide at this point whether letting Boateng go was a mistake or not on the part of Milan.
Certainly with the skills that the Ghanaian does at times exhibit, one would have to surmise that for just 10 million Euros, this is an absolute steal for a Schalke side whose attack already includes the likes of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Julian Draxler and the previously listed Adam Szalai.
Boateng may well be that pivotal final cog with which Schalke could challenge once again for that coveted fourth position, come the end of the campaign.
1. Max Kruse
It really shouldn't come as a surprise to many who have been keeping even the laziest of eyes on the Bundesliga this year, that Max Kruse tops this list.
The German International was the driving factor in Freiburg's incredible performance last season, which would eventually see the side finish just outside the Champions League places.
It wasn't much a shock that Kruse moved on from the Brazilians of Breisgau this summer—but what might have perhaps caught fans off guard was his eventual destination.
With the greatest of respect to Gladbach, before the start of this season they hardly looked like a team that would be challenging for a spot in Europe's elite footballing competition.
So when Borussia somehow managed to get their man for a staggeringly minimal sum of €2.5 million, a few of the more eager-eyed German football fans spat out their morning coffee.
In what will probably go down as one of the best pieces of business in recent years, Kruse linked up with Gladbach, and instantly propelled them into a potential top four side once again.
With five goals and five assists so far this year, Max is not only the most instrumental player among the new transfers this season, but within the league as a whole.
If he can continue to maintain this sort of form throughout the remainder of the year, then the 25-year-old may genuinely be battling for a spot in the German first-team ahead of Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez come the 2014 World Cup.
That's a big "if", but if Max has proven anything so far this season, it's that he is more than good enough to compete with the best in the world on his day.