If you predicted Marko Marin’s exit to Chelsea this week, then you should perhaps head off to the local casino and make some big money. But the man amusingly christened ‘the German Messi’ by the British press is hardly the biggest name to be bidding Auf Wiedersehen this summer and taking some of the shine off the Bundesliga.
The most significant of those – so far – to be confirmed as heading for the exit is Raul. One of THE transfer coups of the decade when he was brought to Schalke by Felix Magath, the Spaniard has not only performed on the pitch – 28 goals and ten assists in 68 Bundesliga games to date – but also raised standards and expectations in Gelsenkirchen. His arrival helped convince Klaas-Jan Huntelaar he could prosper at Schalke, a club he surely would not have considered but for the presence of his former Real Madrid team-mate. By the same token, Raul’s departure means the Dutchman is asking himself some questions as he mulls over a contract extension that would make him Schalke’s highest-paid player ever. Schalke need to do as much as possible to encourage ‘The Hunter’ to stay as the loss of both players would not only be a major blow to the club, but also to the credibility of the league, which has only recently taken Serie A’s place at the top table of European football alongside La Liga and the Premier League.
While Raul’s successful two-year sojourn in Germany may well convince other ageing stars the Bundesliga is the ideal staging post for a swansong before a final big pay-day – just as the Premier League was in its infancy – Lucas Barrios and, most likely, Shinji Kagawa are showing it is also an excellent shop window.
Barrios, who was unfortunate to lose his place in the Dortmund starting XI through injury and then kept out of it by Robert Lewandowski’s excellent form, is heading for Chinese club Guangzhou Evergrande. To paraphrase Monty Python’s Flying Circus, “Apart from the €6.7m a year salary over four years, what are Guangzhou Evergrande gonna do for Lucas?” At 27, it is a bizarre move from a striker who could comfortably play for a number of top sides in Europe and smacks of an astounding lack of sporting – if not financial – ambition on the Paraguayan international’s part. It also leaves Dortmund worryingly short of cover for Lewandowski, whose future is also somewhat up in the air, despite Michael Zorc’s insistence that the Pole will be with the champions next season.
In a way, Barrios’ move can be written off as a) good business for Dortmund if the circa €12m transfer fee for a player purchased for three times less is correct; and b) as being simply motivated by avarice. In a similar vein, the likely switch of Kagawa to Manchester United is equally understandable given the reigning English champions are one of the few steps up from Dortmund the Japanese international can make. Brought in for €350,000 and likely sold for €15m with a year left on his contract, it makes sound financial sense in anyone’s book, and the arrival of Marco Reus cushions the blow considerably. His €17m arrival suggests Dortmund may be able to join Bayern and Schalke, who are offering an enticing €8m a year to Huntelaar, in being able to compete with some of Europe’s bigger – if not biggest – boys in the transfer market.
Worryingly, though, should Kagawa go it does reinforce the impression of the Bundesliga, as did the moves of Edin Dzeko, Nuri Sahin and – certainly now – Papiss Demba Cissé, as a ‘selling league’, whose prize talents can be easily tempted elsewhere. Lukas Podolski’s transfer to Arsenal is another which could be cited to back up that accusation, though the Cologne star’s case is far from open-and-shut. Prinz Poldi’s not wholly unsuccessful stint at Bayern and his subsequent move back to 1.FC showed he genuinely finds it tough settling outside of the Domstadt. With a move inside Germany all but impossible – where would he go? – and with Jogi Löw pushing him to go abroad for the sake of his career, Arsenal seems like a good fit, especially – as Podolski says – “they wear the same colours” as Cologne.
In addition to sharing tales of Deutschland with Per Mertesacker, Podolski can always pop round to Marin’s if he’s feeling homesick. It is fair to say no-one even hallucinated a move to Chelsea was on the cards, though with Bremen likely to recoup nearly all the €8m they paid Mönchengladbach for a player who has failed to meet expectations in the last two seasons, nobody will be worrying too much about how it reflects on the Bundesliga.
Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator
Our live coverage of the final day of the Bundesliga season starts on Saturday from 15:30CET with champions Dortmund in party mood against Freiburg as our main match. We’ll be keeping an eye on developments elsewhere thoughout the afternoon. After the full-time whistle, we will take an hour-long look back at what has been a memorable 2011/12 Bundesliga campaign.