6 Best Bundesliga Bargain Transfers This Season
More than ever before, teams and managers are judged and evaluated by their player transfers. The pressure is bigger than ever before, and so are the checkbooks. Any team's success or failure is ultimately intertwined with either the right or the wrong transfers.
For years now, Bundesliga clubs have prided themselves on acting a bit more responsibly than their other top European league counterparts as far as spending is concerned. With strict financial regulations and a culture of youth development in place, the purse strings are tightened and the focus is on scouting.
Every year, players come out of nowhere to make a name for themselves and elevate their clubs along the way. This season is no different. With the season coming to an end, let us take a look at some of the best bargain transfers—namely players whose performances have far outdone their initial transfer prices.
6. Admir Mehmedi (SC Freiburg, €300K)
Let's start with Admir Mehmedi.
The 23-year-old Swiss striker is currently on loan from Ukranian club Dynamo Kyiv, but Freiburg have built in an option to make the deal permanent at the end of the season. And going by Mehmedi's performances in the league this year, they will no doubt utilize it.
In a very difficult season that sees Freiburg mired in the relegation battle, Mehmedi has been the only consistent source of goals. He has been directly involved in 11 of the team's goals and the star man in many of their games.
Freiburg were always going to struggle after losing their four most important players last summer, but Mehmedi has eased that transition as well as anyone could have given Freiburg's small budget. He can hold up the ball as well as play part in the build-up, and he works very hard off the ball. A truly quality transfer.
5. Johannes Geis (1. FSV Mainz 05, €900K)
Johannes Geis will appear on many "best of" lists this season, and rightfully so. The 20-year-old midfielder came to Mainz for a little under a million and has already become one of the best in his role in the entire league.
Geis has been a fixture in what has been the surprise package in Germany this year. Thomas Tuchel's Mainz are currently just three points off a Champions League spot with one of the smallest budgets in the league.
Geis is another product of Germany's assembly line of technically gifted, hard-running and intelligent central midfielders. He is a fantastic passer of the ball, times his challenges well and has shown maturity beyond his years. It will be no surprise if his value quadruples by the end of the season.
4. Halil Altintop (FC Augsburg, Free Transfer)
Halil Altintop is no stranger to the Bundesliga. He was born and raised in Germany and played there for most of his life before a brief venture to Turkey. Now back in Germany, he has been a key part in Augsburg's fantastic season.
The biggest surprise has been how easily the 31-year-old attacker has slotted into Markus Weinzierl's team. Rather than playing him up top, Weinzierl has played him behind the striker with the freedom to roam, and he has excelled mightily. Altintop has already scored nine goals and assisted two others this season and is playing the best football since his days at Schalke.
Augsburg have the second smallest budget in the league, so the fact that they are in contention for a European spot this season is a credit not only to Weinzierl but also the club's great transfer policy.
3. Max Kruse (Borussia Monchengladbach, €2.5M)
It is deja vu all over again with Max Kruse.
Two years ago, Kruse made the jump into the first division and took the league by storm. He was one of the best players in the league last year after coming to Freiburg for just €500,000.
Those performances made the €2.5 million Gladbach paid this past summer look dirt cheap. Sure enough, Kruse has continued the fine form he showed with Freiburg last year and has again been one of the league's best performers. He was arguably the league's best player in the first three months and even earned himself a spot on the national team.
Kruse has been directly involved in 16 of Gladbach's goals this season, and his partnership with Brazilian attacker Raffael is arguably the best in the league. Kruse could also be one of the surprise picks for Joachim Low's World Cup squad this summer if he keeps his form up. Not bad for a player coming from the second division just two years ago.
2. Shinji Okazaki (1. FSV Mainz 05, €1.5M)
It took Shinji Okazaki 63 games to score 10 goals for Stuttgart. With Mainz, he has already scored 11 in 24. The Japanese attacker showed plenty of potential at Stuttgart, but uncertainty within the club and deployment in different positions did not help his cause.
At Mainz, Thomas Tuchel has used Okazaki mainly up front, where he has thrived. His speed and technique are perfectly suited to Mainz's quick transition game. At the weekend, Okazaki netted his fourth brace for the club this season to move within reaching distance of a Champions League spot.
Okazaki has been worth every penny and then some.
When needed, Tuchel has also played him on the left and right and he has excelled there also. Simply put, Okazaki is a perfect fit for the club and another inspirational transfer from a manager whose reputation will reach its boiling point after this season.
1. Hakan Calhanoglu (Hamburger SV, Return from Loan)
It would be a disservice to the player to make this or any evaluation of his performances about his incredible long-range free kick goal against Borussia Dortmund earlier this season. Instead, the focus should on what a big part of Hamburg's campaign he has been so far, and in his first Bundesliga season to boot.
Calhanoglu was actually bought from Karlsruher SC by Hamburg back in 2012 for €2.5 million, but he was sent back on loan to his old club for the entire season to gain experience. He ended up scoring 17 goals for Karlsruhe that season, finishing as the fourth-highest goalscorer and helping the club achieve promotion to the second division.
His arrival at Hamburg was almost like a new transfer, then, and could not have been timed better. With the club struggling to avoid the drop for the first time in club history, team captain Rafael van der Vaart struggling with form and injury and the departure of their coach, Calahnoglu stepped in and has been a great source of energy and creativity as Hamburg look to steer the ship in the right direction.
Some have already named Calahnoglu "the next Mesut Ozil" due to his elegant dribbling with the ball, and his free kick technique has mesmerized the entire country. Hambrug recently extended his contract until 2018, but at this rate it is highly unlikely that he will remain at the club until then.
All numbers courtesy of transfermarkt.de
Follow Cristian on Twitter @cnyari
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