It would have been strange indeed had the transfer window in Germany concluded just like any other. That football is not immune to the effects of a pandemic was illustrated by a greater emphasis than ever among Bundesliga clubs when it came to loan deals, many of them secured at the eleventh hour.
Clubs up and down the Bundesrepublik scrambled to improve themselves even in a small way without committing for the long haul. Necessity is the mother of invention in these uncertain times. What is cast in stone is that Bayern have addressed their squad needs, covering up areas that needed patching but, it must be said, using the aforementioned loan market only sparingly. Douglas Costa’s return to the Rekordmeister on this basis raised a few eyebrows.
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The Brazilian winger represented something of a mixed bag in his previous spell on the Sabener Strasse, wowing fans one minute and underwhelming the next. Rarely did he cut the figure of an urbane football traveller intent on immersing himself in German language or Bavarian culture, an oft-overlooked part of the recipe for success at Bayern. But his talent is undeniable and even at 30 can provide much needed squad depth for the wide attacking positions.
Bouna Sarr, like Douglas Costa, is not in the first flush of youth at 28 years old, but he’ll provide a decent and proven option at right-back. Marc Roca helps cement the centre of midfield, and then we come to the much-maligned Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. I actually see the logic behind this move. Bayern are getting a seasoned striker with intimate knowledge of the Bundesliga, and who will be an asset in the dressing room. Crucially, in arguably the most demanding season in German football history, it means Robert Lewandowski can get a rest now and again. Since the departure of Sandro Wagner, Bayern have lacked someone they can trust on a semi-regular basis.
It would only be fair to point out that some of these signings had a “Plan B” feel to them. In an ideal world, Bayern would have paraded Sergino Dest and Callum Hudson-Odoi to their adoring fans, but you can’t always get what you want. Just ask Manchester United!
Speaking of United, Borussia Dortmund’s resolute stance on Jadon Sancho in the face of some intense wooing came as no surprise to anyone who’d been paying attention. It’s going to be fascinating to see if, over the course of the season, the Schwarzgelben can come close to damaging Bayern’s quest for a ninth successive Meisterschale.
Dortmund did their important signing business a long time ago — Thomas Meunier joined on July 1, young midfielder Jude Bellingham on July 18 and the last incoming player, Reinier, arrived on a season-long loan back on August 19 — and there’s an feeling of confidence at the club that their own judgement and decision in favour of youth will pay dividends. We saw that in spades against Freiburg last weekend but importantly, man of the match Giovanni Reyna was helped considerably by the presence of Marco Reus. As always, it’s about the blend rather than individuals.
How about some of the other clubs’ frantic last-minute shopping?
RB Leipzig, unloved but rarely found wanting when it comes to sound football strategy, seem to me to have done another admirable job and the addition of loanee Justin Kluivert (son of Patrick) from Roma completes the picture. A dynamic young winger in the Leipzig mould will only strengthen an already formidable and deep squad.
One piece of business than foundered on a disagreement over loan and buy-out option terms was that of Milot Rashica from Werder Bremen to Bayer Leverkusen. It looked all set to go through, but neither side could elbow-bump in agreement over the structure of the deal and so Rashica, who has been given the week off to clear his head, stays in Bremen for a while longer.
Two loan transactions that did pass muster involved English clubs sending players to the Bundesliga: Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi to Hertha Berlin, and Tottenham’s Ryan Sessegnon to the always innovative Hoffenheim. Both are likely to play a lot for clubs who should land in the upper half of the table when all is said and done. I particularly like the Sessegnon to Sinsheim move and can easily visualise him playing his part at left wing-back.
Outside the main Champions League aspirants, loan signings were the story. Sebastian Rudy, an ill-fitting right-back warrior will be much happier in his spiritual home, the Hoffenheim midfield again. Other loans that caught my eye include Maximilian Philipp, back in Germany with Wolfsburg from Dynamo Moscow, and the gifted Amin Younes, now at Eintracht Frankfurt from Napoli.
Economies of scale undoubtedly played a leading role in the slightly different feel to the transfer window gone by, although perhaps there’s another reason. After all, the winter window opens in a mere three months. That’s just 11 Bundesliga matchdays from now!