With the Bundesliga having kicked off last weekend Allan Edgar editor of BundesligaUK (no relation) takes us through what we can expect from the Spanish players in the league and some of the former German based players that have arrived in Spain
Upon researching this article, I was quite surprised to learn that there are only three Spanish players currently plying their trade in the Bundesliga (using FIFA classifications). The three players I refer to all turn out for “Die Königsblauen”, FC Schalke 04.
Sergio Escudero, Jose Manuel Jurado and of course, legendary striker Raul all joined the Gelsenkirchen outfit in the 2010 summer transfer window. They endured mixed fortunes in a season of mixed fortunes; their disappointing league campaign was relieved by a DfB Pokal cup win and a Champions League run which ended in semi-final defeat by Manchester United.
Whilst the recent trickle north of players of Spanish descent has been limited in volume and success, La Liga seems to have benefited from Bundesliga players making the trip to sunnier climes. Jose Mourinho took midfield playmaker Mesut Özil to Real Madrid from Werder Bremen and also snapped up his international team-mate Sami Khedira last year – both have been steady fixtures in a forgettable first season for the Mourinho ‘Galacticos’ whilst clearly highlighting their considerable talent.
On top of this, Bundesliga winners Dortmund have this summer lost one of their prized assets in Nuri Sahin to Madrid. Sahin’s exceptional vision and drive were instrumental in the 2010/11 league winning campaign for a Dortmund side who sat comfortably atop the Bundesliga for most of the year.
How can we expect current imports to impact on the upcoming seasons?
We will begin by looking at Schalke. They boast the all-time leading Real Madrid goal-scorer and all round professional Raul Gonzalez in their ranks. The forward had a successful first year with Schalke in the Bundesliga - his vast European experience also helped them put together a memorable run to the Champions League semi-final. He managed 13 goals in the Bundesliga in a disappointing domestic season for the side.
As for his Spanish compatriots at Schalke; Sergio Escudero and Jose Manuel Jurado will be expected to contribute far more to the cause. The latter particularly has failed to match the €13 million transfer fee shelled out for him at the recommendation of famed taskmaster Felix Magath. Despite not fully cementing his place in the Atletico Madrid side, Schalke were more than willing to pay the substantial fee to secure the player.
Perhaps a more nuanced fee would have taken the pressure away from the Spaniard; he was a fairly regular fixture in the side over the course of the season although he was selected less frequently in the closing stages. Reported interest from Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger in signing the player, although unfounded, would have certainly been welcomed by many Schalke fans as they rebuild their side for the new campaign.
Schalke also have a former Real Madrid striker in their ranks, Dutchman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar joined from AC Milan for a fee of around €12 million last year and had a reasonable first season with the side. His short-lived period in Madrid, followed by a similar phase in Milan, appear to have chipped away at the confidence of the 27-year-old Ajax academy graduate. Once again, Schalke fans will hope that he can forge a more lucrative partnership with Raul as they bid to return to the Champions League again.
Moving down into Bavaria, Bayern Munich are perhaps the closest equivalent to a ‘Galactico’ side in Germany. The Bavarians boast a seemingly unlimited transfer pot and parted with around €25 million to sign Arjen Robben. Although a relative success at Real Madrid, Robben was sold to make way for new ‘Galacticos’ as Florentino Perez made his mark as President. Robben has been a great success for Bayern; he was a huge component in their 2009/10 Bundesliga winning campaign. In the same season they were defeated in the Champions League final by Inter, Robben’s spectacular goals were vital in taking them to the final.
Although recent imports from the Bundesliga to Spain offer considerable promise, this has not always been the case.
A number of German players have struggled to succeed in La Liga; former internationals Timo Hildebrand and Andreas Hinkel both had brief spells in Spain with the former cementing a first team place only to be usurped shortly afterwards. Christoph Metzelder had a three-year spell with Real Madrid plagued by injuries despite being a regular international.
Former Borussia Dortmund and Germany winger David Odonkor has had a torrid time at Real Betis in which he has undergone surgery regularly on his right knee. He has very seldom started in a consecutive run of league matches, adding further to the ‘curse’ of German players in Spain.
The ‘new breed’ of German internationals and Bundesliga players in Spain seems promising however. Mesut Özil and Sami Khedira have both shown they are more than capable of performing to the standard set by the top two in La Liga whilst the signing of Nuri Sahin would seem to complete the favoured 4-2-3-1 formation Jose Mourinho has employed. Xabi Alonso, Sami Khedira and Nuri Sahin are the likely candidates for the two defensive slots whilst all are comfortable in stepping forward when required.
As for the wider question of the link between La Liga and the Bundesliga, it would seem that La Liga is set to benefit more from the occasional relationship. Madrid boast two vital cogs in Jogi Löw’s international team whereas in the Bundesliga current Spanish nationals are sparse (although this is in line most other nations). Despite his age, perhaps Raul is the leading light of Spanish talent as his invaluable ability both on and off the pitch will help propel Schalke up the table. His experience of top-level football throughout his career will perhaps help others in the Schalke side, including his countrymen, striker partner Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and the highly-rated 17-year-old Julian Draxler.
Perhaps the relative economies of the two leagues are the most important factor in negating a more frequent link between the two nations. Successful players from La Liga are realistically (exceptions to rule) only within the financial reach of Bayern Munich. In cases when Bayern Munich are not interested then it is unlikely the player will be within the reach of another Bundesliga club.
For more on the world of German football and to keep an eye on the legendary Raul go to BundesligaUK