Fortuna Düsseldorf’s two-year stay in the Bundesliga came to an anti-climatic end with a lacklustre performance against Union Berlin. Despite being in the driving seat for the relegation play-off spot going into the fixture, the side stalled in the biggest game of the season. Three cheap goals meant that Fortuna will be playing second division football next season. This may well have just delayed an inevitable relegation, but Uwe Rösler will no doubt be frustrated that his side failed to at least give themselves an extra shot at survival.
Fortuna will certainly look back on a number of missed opportunities over the season, where they really should have gathered enough points to beat the drop, let alone make the play-off. Alas, at the end of the day the table doesn’t lie, and Fortuna go down automatically as the second worst side in the league.
Relegation will bring plenty of changes to the club. We will outline below the players who have likely played their last game for the side. One area where a change isn’t likely to be made is with the head coach. Rösler, while failing in the task of keeping the side up, has probably done enough to convince the board that he should be given the opportunity to lead the side into the next campaign. He will certainly be under some pressure to compete for an automatic return to the top flight.
This in itself is by no means a formality. Sides that have gone down over the past few seasons have struggled to get to grips with one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world. Hamburger SV, 1. FC Nürnberg, Hannover 96 and even VfB Stuttgart, despite their promotion, have had to fight for every single point.
Recruitment over the summer will be key, as it is unlikely that some of the squad will be returning. Marcus Suttner and Kevin Stöger are out of contract and will leave the side. Stöger has been one of the most underrated players in the Bundesliga and will no doubt be in demand. Experienced midfielders Oliver Fink and Adam Bodzek are both also out of contract in the summer. It is unlikely Fink will leave, given his status at the club, it is more likely he transitions into a coaching role or another behind the scenes job. Bodzek on the other hand may be allowed to move on. He has been a fantastic servant for the club, but the team needs to look to the future now.
One player who will no doubt interest a number of clubs will be Rouwen Hennings. The 32-year-old managed an impressive 15 goals this season, by far his best return in the top flight. Hennings himself may fancy another crack at the league next season because of this. With his contract up, the club will certainly be trying to keep Hennings next season. He has been an integral part of the club’s success over the past few seasons and is a real leader. If Hennings gets offers from the Bundesliga, he should go with the club and fans blessing after all he has done for Fortuna.
Loan players Zanka, Aymen Barkok, Steven Skrzybski, Valon Berisha, Erik Thommy, Zack Steffen and Kasim Adams will all return to their respective clubs. In the deal to bring Thommy to the club there was an option to buy, however whether Thommy wants to sign for Fortuna instead of potentially playing Bundesliga football with Stuttgart next season is debatable. With six goals and five assists Stuttgart themselves may prefer to keep him and give him assurances of first team football that will deter him from agreeing a deal with Fortuna.
Defender Zanka also has an option to buy that Fortuna may be interested in. Zanka would certainly be an asset in the second division, especially if other defenders leave the club. With Robin Bormouth also out of contract and unlikely to sign a new deal given his lack of playing time, the side is looking light on defenders next season already.
Valon Berisha also had an option to buy from Lazio. Prior to relegation he indicated his desire to make the move permanent. However, going down to the second tier is unlikely to persuade a player like Berisha to become a full-time Fortuna player. He was even left out of the final match against Union, failing to even make an appearance when the side desperately needed to get back in the game.
Of those players under contract going into next season, there are a couple who may leave. Kaan Ayhan has long been rumoured to be a transfer target of the major Turkish clubs. He has remained loyal to Fortuna despite this interest, yet for himself and the club it may make sense for him to finally make the move. As a Turkish international he needs to be playing top level football, and with a top team like Fenerbahce or Galatasary he stands a better chance of maintaining his place in the national side. He will certainly be missed but would hopefully go with the fans blessing after all he has given to the club.
Fellow Turkish international Kenan Karaman may also make a similar move. He has also garnered interest from the Turkish league and it is unlikely if a bid came in that he wouldn’t be interested in making the move. Selling both Karaman and Ayhan could generate a good amount of income that will then need to be reinvested into the side.
With either Hennings or Karaman leaving, Fortuna will be forced into focusing on the development of Dawid Kownacki, while also making space for returning Holstein Kiel loanee Immanuel Iyoha. Both are young and deserve a shot at staking their claim as players the club build around next season. Kownacki was an expensive signing for Fortuna, and after an injury hit season really set him back he needs to prove his worth in the second division.
Within the current squad, there should be a Ghanaian influence on next season’s team. Kelvin Ofori, Nana Ampomah and Bernard Tekpetey will all be there next season, with the latter’s loan a two year with option to buy. While not much was expected of Ofori, the same cannot be said of Ampomah and Tekpetey. Neither really featured much this season, yet the club has to give them a chance in the second tier. Tekpetey was a mainstay in the Paderborn SC side that won surprise promotion and his experience of this will help the side. Ofori impressed in his few appearances and should be given plenty of game time next year to develop further.
Whatever the summer brings, relegation always forces a reset. Clubs have to transition from a squad that failed the season before into one that can bring success. Fortuna should look at both Hannover and Nürnberg to see the perils of getting such a period wrong. Get this period right, and they can just treat next season as a brief period of transition before returning to the Bundesliga. Get it wrong, and they could find themselves stuck in the 2. Bundesliga for a while.