The booming Bundesliga has many virtues. Chief among them is its relative democracy: four different champions in the past five years and a fluid league table, in which bright sides of modest means, such as Mainz and Freiburg, can flourish, provides testimony to that. Then there’s affordability for supporters, packed stadia and the liberal availability of world-class pretzels. What more could a football fan want?
Well, great football, I suppose. And there’s also plenty of the latter to consume in Europe’s best-attended league. The general culture of open, progressive football which pervades the German top-flight (in stark contrast to still-staid Serie A and the conservative fare offered up by Ligue 1) helps attacking talents to thrive unhindered; as evidenced by the rapid and exciting development of die Nationalmannschaft in recent years.
All of which makes it more surprising that the flow of talent from the fiscally responsible Bundesliga towards big-bucks Premier League clubs, replete with lavish recruitment budgets, has actually been more of a trickle, to date.
It’s true that more recent imports such as the Boateng brothers, Jerome and Kevin-Prince, failed to settle in the world’s richest playground, but both have since found gainful employment, at European giants Bayern Munich and Milan respectively. Alex Hleb and Tomáš Rosický have only sporadically impressed on English soil. The jury is still out, too, on ex-Wolfsburg frontman Edin Džeko. In the ‘plus’ column, however, sit established EPL stars such as Dimitar Berbatov, Stephen Pienaar, Chris Samba and Manchester City mainstays Nigel de Jong and Vincent Kompany. Newcastle United’s ex-Hoffenheim man Demba Ba has the potential to join them.
Given the financial disparity between the two leagues, there are plenty of bargains to be had for the conscientious EPL manager. Having already missed out on the opportunity to recruit genuine gems such as the Real Madrid trio Nuri Sahin (£9m), Mesut Özil (£15m) and Sami Khedira (£12m) – not to mention free transfer signing Hamit Altintop – it would be remiss for any prudent Premier League gaffer not to follow in Jose Mourinho’s footsteps by establishing his very own ex-Bundesliga enclave. With that in mind, here are five Bundesliga buys to light up the Premier League – without breaking the bank.
Papiss Demba Cissé. Having barely registered any goals or even accrued any significant playing time in top-tier football by his mid-20s, few onlookers predicted the explosion of goals that the slick Senegalese striker produced last season. A product of the Metz youth system, the 26-year-old plundered goals with a hitherto untapped alacrity throughout Freiburg’s run to a top-half finish; mirroring the rapid, unexpected maturation enjoyed by his compatriot Moussa Sow at Lille. He has already started where he left off in May by netting in the 2011/12 season opener against promoted Augsburg.
VW-backed Wolfsburg are keen to invest some of their Džeko cash in the brightest new star in the Black Forest, so interested English clubs had better move quickly. Cissé is a lithe front-runner who has belatedly added lethal composure in front of goal to his other, more obvious, attributes such as abundant pace and technical assuredness. The new Eto’o?
Potential fee: £12m. Suggested suitors: Spurs, Blackburn, Stoke.
Marko Marin. A diminutive winger, or no.10, of Bosnian-Serb heritage, this 22-year-old has had to withstand a tremendous amount of pressure on his slender shoulders since signing for Bremen from Gladbach a couple of years ago. Constantly heralded as the ‘next big thing’ by the German football media, Marin has been prematurely invested with the playmaking responsibility abdicated by departing stars Diego and Mesut Özil.
A tough campaign for Thomas Schaaf’s charges last season took its toll somewhat on the wee man’s confidence and he was even ‘rested’ by his manager during a particularly unproductive spell of the campaign. Consequently, the likes of Mario Götze, Andre Schurrle and Marco Reus have moved ahead of him in the highly competitive national team selection stakes. Nonetheless, his is a pure talent and the young man oozes creativity in the manner of his childhood idol Dejan Savićević. Werder would be reluctant sellers, but are in no position to refuse a significant offer for their prized asset.
Potential fee: £15m. Suggested suitors: Spurs, Liverpool, Chelsea.
Marco Reus. Dynamism personified. The Dortmund-born attacking midfielder has been called up for national service by Jogi Löw on several occasions, but has yet to make his full debut. The primary reason for the 22-year-old starlet’s rapid rise into the firmament is his capacity to score spectacular goals – and important ones too. His 73rd minute goal in the second leg of the Bundesliga promotion/relegation playoff in May ensured the top-flight survival of a renascent Gladbach side.
This kid has perfected the late surge into the penalty area which personifies the style of Germany’s burgeoning new generation and can finish with both feet, from even the most acute of angles. The only mystery is why no other Bundesliga side has made a serious move for him. A true star in the making.
Potential fee: £9m. Suggested suitors: Liverpool, Spurs, Newcastle.
Lukas Podolski. Often truculent, occasionally excellent; ‘Prince Poldi’ has been a high-achiever at international level for the best part of a decade, but has singularly failed to ignite in the domestic arena. A clash of personalities and super-egos at Bayern (and, God knows, there are enough of those knocking about at FC Hollywood) led to his return to boyhood club Köln, where he bagged 13 Bundesliga goals last year, despite a turbulent start to the campaign.
The capacities of his thunderous left foot are world-renowned, but it is a questionable temperament that has held him back so far. The time is ripe, perhaps, for one last shot at the big time – given that the Poland-born striker/wide-man is approaching his late 20s and has just been controversially stripped of the Köln captaincy by new head coach Ståle Solbakken. The Premier League could be tailor-made for his power-packed game.
Potential fee: £10m. Suggested suitors: Arsenal, Spurs.
Dortmund’s young guns. OK, this is a bit of a cheat, but how do you choose between Hummels, Subotić and Piszczek, or Gündogan, Bender, Groβkreutz, Götze and Kagawa? Dortmund are back on a decent financial footing and their return to Champions League football has helped them to keep their sparkling young squad largely intact. However, Real’s purchase of Sahin demonstrates that if clubs at the very top table of the world game have serious designs on signing someone from that list, it’ll still be difficult for Dortmund to say ‘no’. And most of them would be available for half-a-Jordan Henderson or so.