If there was ever a guide to the perfect Bundesliga summer transfer window, it would probably be one authored by Simon Rolfes and Fernando Carro of Bayer Leverkusen. Having pulled off the masterstroke of installing Xabi Alonso as head coach last season to succeed Gerardo Seoane, the Bayer Leverkusen management set about signing the players to match the Spaniard’s tactical vision and boy did they hit the nail on the head.
Of course it is easy with hindsight to look backwards and declare decisions taken in the summer as genius, but that is just what happened with regards Bayer Leverkusen’s transfer policy in the summer. Areas for development were identified, players were scouted and researched, and the confidence to back up their gut feelings has paid humongous dividends with the Werkself sitting atop the Bundesliga at the Winterpause as the only unbeaten side in Europe’s top five leagues and admirers growing by the week.
Recruitment is the key to any successful business and a football club is no different. A poor buy can set the club back big money with little obvious return, but if you were looking for the perfect transfer window, what Leverkusen pulled off in the summer must go pretty close to it.
Eight players were brought in for a total of €80.8 million with €68.2 million received from the sales of Moussa Diaby, Mitchel Bakker and Kerem Demirbay giving a net spend of just €12.6 million.
Having been hugely impressed by him in their European encounters with Union St. Gilloise last season, Leverkusen splashed out €20.5 million on Nigerian striker Victor Boniface. The 22-year-old needed no time at all to acclimatise to the Bundesliga scoring ten times and adding eight assists. He has had the most shots (70) in the league.
After spending seven years in the Premier League with Arsenal, Swiss international Granit Xhaka was acquired when he made it clear his family was ready to return to Germany. His experience, tackling, passing ability and drive have added a much-needed extra dimension to the midfield and he is the central cog in Alonso’s tactical set-up. The stats back up his importance with the 31-year-old having the most touches in the entire league whilst also covering the most distance individually. €15 million should be considered a bargain.
The troublesome left wing back berth finally found its missing piece with the signing of Alejandro Grimaldo on a free from Benfica. His talent has long been apparent in Portugal, but the Bundesliga is a step-up. He has however blown everyone away with his impact scoring seven goals (mostly stunners) and contributing six assists. His excellent form earned him a first call-up to the Spanish national team. He has been an ever-present this season and the fact he cost nothing just makes his capture all the more impressive.
Jonas Hofmann’s arrival from Borussia Mönchengladbach for a mere €10 million might have been seen as a downgrade from Moussa Diaby, but Leverkusen’s threat down the right has been maintained with Hofmann forming an excellent partnership with Jeremie Frimpong and fitting in superbly in Xabi Alonso’s possession-based approach where his intelligence has proved invaluable.
The signings of goalkeeper Matej Kovar from Manchester United and right back Arthur from America MG should prove very astute buys for the future with both Lukas Hradecky and Jeremie Frimpong covered. The loan signing of Josip Stanisic from Bayern hasn’t been spectacular so far, but the Croatian right back should see a lot more game time at the start of the Rückrunde with the Werkself missing key defenders Odilon Kossounou and Edmond Tapsoba at the African Cup of Nations.
Nathan Tella was the most expensive of the eight newcomers with Leverkusen forking out €23.3 million to sign the 24-year-old from Southampton. That might seem steep for an English Championship player, but Leverkusen have obviously seen enough to be confident of his future importance. The total outlay on the eight arrivals was €80.8 million, but on current market valuations, the same players are now valued at €141 million.
Now that’s how you do a transfer window!