Hamburg SV: The 9 Best Signings of the 2000s
Times are hard for Hamburg SV. With just one win in the Bundesliga so far this season, they are rooted to the bottom of the table. Michael Oenning has already lost his job as head coach, and, at the time of writing, no permanent replacement has been appointed. Talented players like Frank Rost and Eljero Elia left the club in the summer, and many new signings, such as the arrivals from Chelsea, Michael Mancienne and Jeffrey Bruma, have failed to make an impact.
But things haven’t always been so bad. Many exciting players came to ply their trade at Volksparkstadion (currently known as the Imtech Arena) over the course of the previous decade. Ahead of match-day nine of the 2011/12 season in Germany, here (in no particular order) is a list of Hamburg SV’s nine best signings of the 2000s.
Is there anyone I've missed? Let me know in the comments section.
Nigel de Jong
He may now be better known for his kung fu kick on Xabi Alonso while playing for the Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup Final, but when Nigel de Jong signed for Hamburg SV at the start of 2006, he was simply seen as the latest product of the famous Ajax youth system.
Originally a more attack-minded player, de Jong was converted to his now established defensive-midfield terrier role by HSV coach Huub Stevens. Stevens almost returned to the dugout at the Imtech Arena last month, and if he could have brought his hard-working compatriot with him, few HSV fans would have complained.
In a season where defensive frailties have partly been exposed due to a lack of solidity in the midfield, a player in the de Jong mould has been sorely missing. Fans in Hamburg also have good memories of de Jong’s exploits going forward—in 2006 he scored the goal against Osasuna that ensured qualification for the Champions League group stage.
His place on the list is not only due to his playing performances however. Signed by Hamburg for a fee of €1.5 million, he was sold on to Manchester City in 2009 for €19 million—a club record. In the money-driven world of modern football, it is this resale value that makes him one of the Rothosen’s best signings.
Rafael van der Vaart
Football fans all over the world raised their eyebrows when Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart signed for Hamburg SV in 2005. The Ajax Amsterdam starlet was only 22 at the time and had attracted attention from Europe’s biggest clubs, including AC Milan and Barcelona. Even his legendary compatriot Johann Cruyff wrote in his De Telegraaf newspaper column at the time "I don't know what to say about it or what Rafael van der Vaart is doing in Hamburg.”
The €5.5 million transfer was a success however, launching both player and club onto greater things. In his first season in Germany he helped guide HSV to the quarterfinal of the UEFA Cup, as well as playing an integral role in their third-place Bundesliga finish, which meant qualification for the Champions League.
After an injury-troubled start to the 2006/7 season, in which the team went out in the group stages of the Champions League (despite three goals from new captain vdV) and struggled in the Bundesliga, things picked up under new coach Huub Stevens. Eventually, van der Vaart finished as Hamburg’s top scorer as they went from second-to-last place in the table to seventh and qualification for the Intertoto Cup.
Almost inevitably, after another successful season in the north of Germany in 2007/8, transfer speculation again built around van der Vaart. The big move that had been anticipated three years earlier finally came as he switched to Spanish giants Real Madrid for €13 million. His open desire to leave may not have been endearing, but this tidy financial profit for the club only added to the legacy that the creative midfielder, now starring in the English Premier League for Tottenham Hotspur, left in the Free and Hanseatic City.
As noted in the previous slide, the 2006/7 season was an up-and-down (or rather down-and-up) campaign for Hamburg SV. The fact that the up followed so soon after the arrival of Ivica Olić from CSKA Moscow makes him an essential part of this list.
As the Bundesliga season went into its winter break, HSV were struggling, second from bottom of the table. Olić arrived for around €2 million in January, followed by new coach Stevens a month later, and fortunes soon changed. The Croatian forward netted five times in the second half of that season, and finished as the club’s top scorer in the next with 14 Bundesliga goals that took the team to fourth place in the table.
However, Olić became frustrated with Hamburg’s transfer policy. He felt that the departures of major players such as van der Vaart and de Jong damaged the team’s chances of silverware, and in 2009 he moved to Rekordmeister Bayern Munich on a free transfer.
He remains a fans’ favourite, as well as the only player to score a "German" hat-trick (three consecutive goals within one half) in the Bundesliga for HSV.
It’s only a matter of months since Frank Rost left Hamburg SV to join the New York Red Bulls in the MLS, but already fans have unveiled banners in the Imtech Arena begging him to return to Germany.
This is, of course, partly due to the unconvincing performances of his successor as the team's No. 1, Jaroslav Drobný. Nevertheless, it also says a lot about Rost’s own feats in goal for Hamburg. Like Olić, Rost arrived in January of 2007, in his case a €1.5 million acquisition from FC Schalke. In the 17 Bundesliga games before Rost’s arrival that season, HSV had conceded over a goal a game (1.3). In the second half of the season, with Rost between the sticks, that average dropped to 0.88 goals per game—including nine clean sheets.
From then on things only got better, and Rost received the weisse Weste (white shirt) award as the Bundesliga keeper who went the most matches (13) without conceding the following season. For his role in protecting HSV’s enviable record of never having been relegated from the Bundesliga, and his ice-cold composure over many years, a place on this list for “Frost” is well deserved.
Ruud van Nistelrooy
Every football fan loves to see a big-name signing. This is the main reason that Ruud van Nistelrooy has made it onto this list as, in fact, the Dutchman’s time at Hamburg SV did not live up to expectations.
Having made his name scoring goals for fun with PSV Eindhoven in the Eredivisie of his home country, van Nistelrooy came to worldwide prominence as the focal point of Manchester United’s attack as they battled Arsenal, and later Chelsea, for dominance of the English Premier League.
Despite being plagued by injury problems, he maintained an impressive strike rate after transferring to Real Madrid, and hopes on the Elbe were high when he arrived at HSV on a free transfer in January 2010. Things started well, with two game-winning goals in his second match for the German club. But by the time the next January transfer window came around it was clear that Hamburg would miss out on European competition the following season, and Van Nistelrooy expressed his desire to return to the Bernabéu. He was denied a move however, and José Mourinho instead bolstered his Real attack with Emmanuel Adebayor.
Disappointed and disappointing, van Nistelrooy moved to Málaga CF at the end of his contract.
The fourth and final Dutchman on this list, Joris Mathijsen, was also the last to leave Hamburg SV. In the summer of 2011 he joined Ruud van Nistelrooy in the south of Spain, but is fondly remembered on the terraces at the Imtech Arena.
With over 70 caps for his country, Mathijsen has been a reliable central defender for many years. Now 31, his career probably reached its pinnacle as the Netherlands lost to Spain in extra time of the 2010 World Cup Final in South Africa. There may yet be highlights ahead if Manuel Pellegrini’s talented Málaga side can fulfil its potential, however.
In any case, his time in Germany can certainly be viewed a triumph. Signed in 2006 from AZ Alkmaar for around €6 million, five years of committed performances, which coincided with some of the club’s most successful times since the 1980s, turned him into a fans’ favourite in Hamburg.
The return of a club hero gives any football fan a buzz. When Jörg Albertz came back to Hamburg SV for a fee of around €4.5 million in 2001 for his second spell in the city, that was exactly what the supporters at Volksparkstadion experienced.
Famed for his potent shots from distance, which earned him the nickname “the Hammer,” central midfielder Albertz initially signed for HSV as a 23-year-old in 1993. Diligent and exuberant on the pitch, the flame-haired Mönchengladbacher had been promoted to the position of club captain at Hamburg by the time he switched to Scottish champions Glasgow Rangers in 1996. At Ibrox, too, he was adored by fans as he helped the club to a record-equalling ninth consecutive league title. When Dick Advocaat replaced Walter Smith in the dugout, however, he fell out of favour—a return to Hamburg beckoned.
They say you should never go back. And sometimes, they’re right. Perhaps the hype surrounding the transfer proved too much, or maybe Albertz failed to readjust to the style of play in his homeland. Possibly, at the age of 30, he was just past his best. Whatever the reason, after his return Jörg Albertz failed to set the Bundesliga alight as he had some years previously, and before long he had moved on to China. Nevertheless, for pure excitement value, his transfer deserves its place as one of HSV’s best of the 2000s.
If there is one player who stands out as representing Hamburg SV during the 2000s, it is Sergej Barbarez. The versatile midfielder/striker from Bosnia-Herzegovina spent six years as a player at what he described as “his” club—and then even came back after retirement.
Having signed from Borussia Dortmund in 2000 for around €2 million, Barbarez made an immediate impact. His 22 goals in the 2000/1 season made him joint top scorer in Germany's top league, and, more significantly, helped HSV avoid relegation—they ended the season in 13th place and have still never dropped out of the Bundesliga.
The quality of Barbarez’s performances remained high throughout his time with Hamburg—he was again top scorer for the club in his final season, firing the side to third place and Champions League qualification in 2005/6. Unfortunately, he missed out on that European campaign after negotiations for a contract extension broke down, despite cries from teammates and supporters for the club to hang on to him.
Barbarez returned “home” in 2009 when he was voted onto the board of directors at the Imtech Arena. Although he left the position only 16 months later, he will always remain a legend in the hearts and minds of Hamburg SV fans.
It says a lot about the world of football these days that, despite all having signed for Hamburg SV within the last decade or so, none of the players listed thus far are still at the club. To put that right, and honour his years of service to the team, David Jarolím is the final name in this slideshow.
Signed from FC Nuremberg for around €1 million in September of 2003, the Czech midfielder has proved a bargain. Having played well over 200 games for the blue half of Hamburg, he also captained the side after the departure of Rafael van der Vaart, though Heiko Westermann has since taken over the armband.
Hard-working and confident on the ball, Jarolím has been the engine in the HSV midfield for many years, allowing a succession of more creative teammates the freedom to trouble opposition defences. The energetic 32-year-old remains an important element of the first-team squad at the Imtech Arena, and whoever is appointed the new permanent head coach at the club would be well advised to extend Jarolím's contract, which is due to expire at the end of the season.