Decisions in the transfer market can make or quite literally break clubs, and in the first game since the close of the transfer window, Bundesliga fans got a look at some of the new faces who will cause them untold joy and misery in the coming months.
As ever, Felix Magath was the man who racked up the biggest credit card bill with 12 in and a symmetrical 12 out at Wolfsburg. His most recent purchase, Rasmus Jönsson, looked good value for money on his debut as Wolfsburg used the stick-like Swede – “He could eat a bit more,” according to Magath – to beat Schalke. The visitors, too, did their bit to vindicate the Wolfsburg coach’s extravagant wheeling-and-dealing in Gelsenkirchen. “The last game they played, all but two players were ones I’d bought or kept at the club,” Magath had said pre-match. “That proves my decisions were right.” A fair point, especially given the Magath-lured Raul then tucked in Jefferson Farfan’s delicious lobbed pass to put the visitors ahead at the VW Arena.
The subsequent ‘performances’ of another summer 2010 collection member, the €13m addition known as Jose Manuel Jurado, have led many to question Magath’s judgement. How foolish we were! It was obviously all part of a masterplan that became clear when the Alice-band-sporting Spaniard committed the foul that led to the free-kick from which Mario Mandzukic – whose own purchasing power was hit by a €10,000 fine recently for not tracking back – deflected in the winner to allow his current coach to say ‘I told you so’ to the club that sacked him last season. “We simply didn’t invest enough,” said Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt of his side’s defeat. That’s not an accusation that you could level at Magath.
Nor Bayern Munich, who were among the summer’s biggest spenders as they strengthened their defence. Having conceded just a single goal to date and thrashed Freiburg 7-0 last weekend, the Bayern board – like my wife when she wants that extra pair of new shoes – should be asking themselves: ‘Do we need them?’ Unlike my wife, they may well do, however, with a fine clean sheet kept in midweek at Villarreal while Manchester City and Napoli also lurk in the wings in the Champions League, a competition which Jupp Heynckes rightly believes is within Bayern’s grasp. Before one can pass a firm judgement, though, let them play a decent Bundesliga side. Four successive clean sheets have come against Wolfsburg, Kaiserslautern, Hamburg and Freiburg, who boast all the firepower of your average family barbecue. The only in-form side they have faced, Mönchengladbach, won 1-0 in Week 1. This week’s encounter at Schalke may give us more of a clue as to whether they really are stronger than last season. As for Freiburg, they were watched by Wolfgang Seebacher, the man who won kicker magazine’s fantasy league last season. Marcus Sorg should perhaps be looking over his shoulder.
While Bayern’s board will be mightily glad they overrode Louis van Gaal’s desire to send Mario Gomez to Liverpool in exchange for a large wedge of cash and some Beatles memorabilia in summer 2010 – 36 goals in 34 games for the German international forward since he got back into the team in September last year – Dortmund may be regretting taking Real Madrid’s lucre in exchange for Nuri Sahin.
Hamburg’s plight puts the champions’ impressive opening-game win into context, and – as suspected – Jürgen Klopp’s men simply aren’t as good without their Turkish international talisman. They showed it again against Hertha Berlin, who became only the 12th newly-promoted team in Bundesliga history to win at the reigning champions. Admittedly, there was a touch of fortune about Hertha’s goals, but Dortmund clearly are not the force they were last season – a fact the 1-1 Champions League draw at home to an Arsenal side currently under construction does not hide.
Having rifled through the bargain bin at Stamford Bridge with a rare fervency and given away all their old-stagers to charity and Malaga, HSV’s ‘renovation project’ is – if you listen to Michael Oenning – heading in the right direction. “I think there’s definite progress,” he said rather indefinitely after his team’s 2-0 ‘Nord-Derby’ defeat to Bremen. Given Hamburg had thrown away a 3-2 lead to lose 4-3 against Cologne, Oenning’s men had given themselves plenty of scope for improvement, but they did at least match their hosts in the first half with Slobodan Rajkovic looking like he may be the partner for Heiko Westermann in central defence that the team sorely needs.
Rajkovic certainly looked more dependable than Pedro Geromel, who had a game to forget for Cologne against Nuremberg. After initial fears the match would be ‘one for the purists’, the entertainment was embellished by Michael Rensing, who must rate as one of the bargains of 2011. When Adil Chihi’s penchant to play joga bonito outside his own penalty area led to him being dispossessed, Rensing exploded. “I’ve told him a 1000 times,” ranted the ex-Bayern keeper. “‘Don’t f**king dribble in your own half!’”
Sidney Sam was another to give the F-word a public airing after spying a Chelsea shirt in the Hamburg store of a well-known sportswear manufacturer. Sam thought it would be a good idea to post a pic on his Facebook page of himself giving the shirt the thumbs down, and – just for good measure – added a ‘Who the f**k are Chelsea?’. John Terry was probably asking the same of Sam on Tuesday as the Leverkusen man discovered scoring twice at the SGL Arena is much easier than at Stamford Bridge.
Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator
Our live coverage of Week 6 begins with Freiburg v Stuttgart in the Baden-Württemberg derby at 20:30CET on Friday before there is another derby with Leverkusen and Köln going head-to-head on Saturday (15:30CET). We’ll have all the action from Saturday’s early games in our Half-Time show from 17:30CET before Kaiserslautern and Mainz (18:30CET) round off things with another derby. Hannover and Dortmund get Sunday’s action underway from 15:30CET before Manuel Neuer returns to Gelsenkirchen for the first time as Bayern play Schalke at 17:30CET.