Lewis Holtby and a cascade of trade between England and Germany
For those poor souls whose primary source of post-Christmas entertainment is the machinations of the Bundesliga, January was set to be bleak. Albeit a laudable practice, the winter break does serve to make the first two or three weeks of the year longer and colder than even nature intended. This year, indeed, not only was the football locked away as safely as the alcohol, but the German football fan was also denied the usual annual excitement of seeing half the Bundesliga swap managers with each other. Wolfsburg, Schalke and Hoffenheim had all already satisfied their trigger fingers long before Christmas.
Then Lewis Holtby arrived. Or rather left. Or rather confirmed that he was going to leave once he’d seen out his contract. After negotiations which seemed to last forever, the half English midfielder confirmed he would not be renewing his contract with Schalke 04. Indeed, next season, he would be wearing the lilywhite of Tottenham, in the home of his father.
And with that, he had set the ball rolling. The floodgates were open, and suddenly a cascade of trade was being conducted between England and Germany. Johan Djourou joined Hannover 96 on loan, Nuri Sahin ended an inexplicably silent spell at Liverpool with a return to his boyhood heroes Borussia Dortmund. Pep Guardiola snubbed the riches of England to sign as FC Bayern’s next coach. And, in perhaps the most bizarre twist of all, former England manager Sven Goran Eriksson was announced to have finally joined TSV 1860 Munich.
Sahin’s return was perhaps the most triumphant. Injured at Real Madrid, unappreciated at Liverpool, so silent has Sahin’s career been for the last eighteen months that you would be forgiven for thinking he had never existed at all. His very authenticity was now as doubtful as that of the YouTube video which brought him his first taste of worldwide fame. Those in Dortmund had kept the faith, though, and the Turkish international returned to his home town amidst nearly as much celebration as there had been when BVB won the double.
“Nuri is back”, smirked BVB general manager Hans Joachim Watzke. And the prodigal son, smiling and with hair neatly coiffed, spoke elegantly of his warm reception. He would have been grateful, though, to his Director of Sport, who warned against placing unrealistic expectations on the returning Sahin. Even with the loss of Ivan Perisic, Dortmund’s midfield is significantly more developed than it was when Sahin left, and in amongst the jubilation, there remains some doubt as to how long it will take him to cement a regular first team place again.
Djourou’s move to Germany was rather less glamorous. A six month loan deal now ties him to Hannover until the end of the season, and, however much Arsenal fans may snigger, they will be grateful for the defensive boost. Injuries to Felipe and the eternally luckless Leon Andreasen have seen their defensive resources fully stretched. And while they have comfortably qualified for the next round of the Europa League, Mirko Slomka’s side face an uphill struggle to retain European football for a third season in a row. Indeed, Djourou’s debut proved to be a baptism of fire last Friday, with Hannover producing a hapless defensive display in their 5-4 defeat at Schalke.
As for Sven, it seems most of us are about as likely to land his former job at the FA as we are to predict what he may do next. 1860’s Jordanian investor Hasan Ismaik has been courting the Swede for an eternity, and his determination to get his man brought ever more conflict upon the chaos ridden Munich club. Last week, the club announced that Sven would finally join the club in a coaching capacity – a compromise having been reached which would ensure the continued work of Alexander Schmidt. Just days later, Eriksson himself announced that he had rejected the offer of the club. The Swede had added himself to the long list of Ismaik’s major projects which have never so mcuh as gotten out of the starting blocks.
And so we come, once again, to Holtby. The Schalke midfielder described his impending move to the Premier League as “a dream come true”, and it certainly presents him with the biggest challenge of his career. While Holtby’s talent is in no doubt, Spurs fans should perhaps be wary of expecting too much too soon from their new signing. After only flashes of excellence up until now, Holtby is arguably just beginning to mature as a first team player for Schalke, and has only just broken into the national side. When he is good, however, he is very very good, and we must assume that it is his need to play Champions League football which has tempted him away from Schalke. Indeed, if Spurs were to once again squander their chances of playing at the highest level, you could forgive the odd wry smile in Gelsenkirchen. Particularly if they are beaten to the punch by Holtby’s boyhood favourites Everton.Tagged in: Bundesliga, football, Lewis Holtby, Tottenham
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