Manuel Neuer to Mario Gotze, the fabulous to the flops from Bundesliga's last 10 big summer transfers

Matt Jones - Editor 00:27 17/08/2019
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Ah, the summer. It can be the best and worst time to be a football fan. For those who can’t stomach three months without seriously meaningful games to others who despise the constant scheming, planning, rumour-mongering that is the incessant transfer market.

And yet, there’s something so captivating when your club signs a new player – be it someone the manager has coveted for a while, a surprise coup who has been stolen away from under the nose of a rival or an up-and-coming talent.

Of course, that excitement can rise or decline depending on how well the player performs in the ensuing season and how much money is forked over.

When you shell out a lot of money on a player, you expect a return. But as you can see below, it doesn’t always work out that way.

In the latest of our series, we take a look at the 10 most expensive Bundesliga signings in each of the last 10 summers, and deliver a verdict on whether they’ve flourished or flopped.


ABDOU DIALLO (Mainz to Borussia Dortmund)

Fee: €28m

Abdou Diallo

From Mainz, to Dortmund to Paris Saint-Germain in two seasons, that is some rise for Diallo. Well, not really. Sure, his 2017/18 campaign with the Karnevalsverein (Carnival club) was an exciting ride that convinced Dortmund to part with a hefty sum for his services, but he looked all at sea in a youthful, inexperienced team last season which was horribly exposed at times.

They conceded 44 goals in the Bundesliga and results including April’s 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Bayern Munich and a 3-3 draw in February with Hoffenheim (they had led 3-0 in the 74th minute) ultimately put paid to what, at one stage, had looked a strong title challenge from Lucien Favre’s men.

The Frenchman’s trust in youth is admirable, but his young stars didn’t repay the favour, certainly the defence where Diallo and, more pointedly, Dan-Axel Zagadou looked undercooked.

The club’s fans may see his departure as a waste after only one season but a return to his home country – he’s hardly likely to get much of a look in at the Parc des Princes ahead of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos et el – in exchange for the return of prodigal son Mats Hummels, is a no-brainer.



CORENTIN TOLISSO (Lyon to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €41.5m


A player with huge promise and still a huge future ahead of him, but after an impressive bow in Bavaria following a big-money move from Lyon, last season was unfortunately curtailed by a horrible injury for the industrious French midfielder.

It had all started so brilliantly at Bayern too. He followed up a 14-goal final season at Lyon with 10 goals in 40 appearances for the German giants in 2017/18 and completed a brilliant 12 months by playing a significant role in Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph last summer, providing an assist for Antoine Griezmann’s goal in the 2-0 quarter-final win over Uruguay.

But in just the third game of last season Tolisso ruptured a cruciate ligament in his right knee in a 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen and missed the entire season.

Undoubtedly a fine signing and a future star should he come back and continue on his upward trajectory. But we’re staying on the fence for now.



MATS HUMMELS (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €35m

Hummels during his Dortmund days with Jurgen Klopp.

Hummels during his Dortmund days with Jurgen Klopp.

He’s back where it all began – well actually that’s not true as he was originally plucked from Bayern Munich’s production line in 2008 after a successful loan spell. But the Westfalenstadion is where Hummels became a hero, although he turned villain three summers ago when he swapped an exciting project at Dortmund for the big lights and big bucks of Bavaria. Three titles followed as well as one DFB-Pokal.

In the days of Jurgen Klopp, when Dortmund took Bayern all the way in the 2013 Champions League final, the two-horse title race in Germany was genuinely fascinating.

But since the asset-stripping of BVB went into overdrive with Mario Gotze, Robert Lewandowski and Hummels joining the mighty Munich in the space of four summers, it’s almost become as pointless as the Juventus and PSG processions elsewhere in Europe.

The fact Hummels’ sale only tightened Bayern’s grip on the Bundesliga and extended the chasm between the two sides, not to mention swelled the mighty Munich trophy cabinet, saw the Yellow Wall crumble.

Hopefully his return can help them in their rebuild as they look to scale the tall task of denying Bayern an eighth-straight title.



JULIAN DRAXLER (Schalke to Wolfsburg)

Fee: €43m


This isn’t so much an argument of failing to impress, as much as it is an admittance from Draxler of accepting mediocrity. The German is only 25 and has his best years ahead of him – it’s just a shame he’s chosen to spend them on PSG’s bench, hidden beneath the considerable shadows of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe.

This was a player who was one of the most coveted young stars around at the turn of the decade when he began sparkling at Schalke. Draxler made his Bundesliga debut aged just 17 in January 2011, and in May of that year scored the first goal as his side won the DFB Pokal final against Duisburg.

He was part of the 2014 World Cup-winning squad and attracted interest from the Premier League as well as Juventus. He eventually switched Schalke for Wolfsburg where he development stalled somewhat before being snapped up by PSG 18 months later. He’s since lifted two Ligue 1 titles as well as two Coupe de France and Coupe de la Ligues.

But he’s by no means the leading man. In fact he’s about the ninth or tenth most important player in Paris and you can’t help but feel he’s wasting his talent, which at one stage seemed exponential.



MEDHI BENATIA (Roma to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €28m


Bayern beat Manchester City, Chelsea, Barcelona and Real Madrid to the signing of Benatia in August 2014 – the Moroccan was one of the most coveted centre-backs in world football at the time.

If you were to simply scan Wikipedia and see Benatia’s next move was to Italian giants Juventus, you’d happily assume he was making strides in the game. Except Benatia was loaned to the Bianconeri after failing to establish himself in Bavaria, where he made only 24 and then 22 appearances in his two seasons, unable to break through with Jerome Boateng, David Alaba and Javi Martinez ahead of him.

It was a similarly turbulent time in Turin, where 60 appearances were made before a January 2019 exit. He was supposedly close to joining Manchester United only to pitch up in the Middle East with Qatar’s Al Duhail.

Much more was expected of a player who emerged through the same Clairefontaine training centre in France as Thierry Henry, Nicolas Anelka and Kylian Mbappe.



MARIO GOTZE (Borussia Dortmund to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €37m

Mario Goetze

One of the most beautiful players Germany has ever produced, let alone during the last 20 years. Ignore the fact Gotze was the latest player to break BVB hearts when he swapped Westphalia for riches and silverware in Bavaria; the little magician’s move to the Allianz was seen as the elite stage he needed to press home his claim to be one of the standout players of his generation.

He’d switched from yellow to red in 2013 and a year later followed up a decent debut campaign in Munich with the winner in the World Cup final as Germany defeated Argentina 1-0.

Joachim Low substituted Gotze on in the 88th minute and allegedly told him: “Show the world you are better than Messi and can decide the World Cup.”

He duly did, but the World Cup is the only stage on which Gotze has got the better of Messi. He backed up his first season with another solid outing for Bayern in 2014/15 even though he received criticism from club legend Franz Beckenbauer for poor form. After an injury-plagued 2015/16 season, however, he returned to Dortmund, where in 2017 it was revealed he was suffering from a muscle disease injury.

Despite this he scored seven goals in 34 games last term – his best tallies for both in four seasons – and looks to be getting back to his best. The good news for Dortmund is Gotze is still only 27 so his peak years lie ahead.



JAVI MARTINEZ (Athletic Bilbao to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €40m

Javi Martínez (centre)

When you think of versatility, Austrian Alaba might come to mind. But at Bayern, Spanish midfielder Martinez is the proverbial Siwss army knife of footballers – equally comfortable at the base of central midfield, at the heart of central defence, even at right-back.

Even if his time at the club has been curtailed by injuries – he missed a year and five months after tearing knee ligaments in the German Super Cup clash with Dortmund in August 2014 – his importance to the team cannot be understated.

In the 5-0 thrashing of BVB in April last season – the result that handed the initiative back to Bayern in the title race – the former Bilbao man snapped into tackles, competed for headers and used every inch of his 6′ 2″ frame to bully Dortmund. He even got on the scoresheet for the third time in four games. His four strikes last term was the 30-year-old’s best return.

“He is a real personality on the pitch for the team,” gushed coach Niko Kovac. “He’s made for this level.”

Seventeen major trophies in seven seasons bookends the discussion nicely, don’t you think.



MANUEL NEUER (Schalke to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €30m

0414 Neuer

It may be engrained in our brains how badly injury has befallen the Bavarian behemoth in recent years. But none of that misery can bury how much of a colossal impact Neuer has had – not just on Bayern but also goalkeeping – since his arrival eight years ago.

The Gelsenkirchen-born goalkeeper was the best of the best between the sticks from 2011-15 before David De Gea and subsequently Marc-Andre ter Stegen and Jab Oblak took his crown. But the Octopus looks like he’ll be fit enough to get back to his imperious best in 2019/20, even if Father Time is catching up with the 33-year-old.

Neuer had long been considered one of the best rising young talents during his formative years with Schalke. But once he moved to Bayern in the summer of 2011, both player and club flourished.

He has got his hands on a glut of silverware in the ensuing eight years, hoisting seven straight Bundesliga crowns as well as 2012/13’s Champions League and the 2014 World Cup with Germany. Individually the stopper’s also grabbed a litany of awards including four UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year accolades. The easiest pick on this list.



DIEGO (Juventus to Wolfsburg)

Fee: €15.5m


Check out our review of Serie A later in this series to find the Brazilian featuring once again. And just like his trip to Turin in 2009, this does also not make delightful reading for Diego.

Had moved for the bright lights and the Bianconeri a year earlier with huge promise and potential, but failed to light up the Allianz Stadium (then the Juventus Stadium).

Skulked back to Germany and the Wolves with his tail between his legs after a torrid time in Turin, but it didn’t get much better for him – beside the wads of cash he pocketed of course. But as for footballing stardom, his career has petered out with the 34-year-old now back in his homeland with Flamengo after a fleeting European farewell with Fenerbahce.

Came to prominence at Werder Bremen and returned to a city known as the home of Volkswagen, but the road to redemption was rough upon that return. From being fined £86,000 by then manager Steve McClaren for taking the ball off designated taker Patrick Helmes in a game against Hanover 96 – he subsequently missed and Wolfsburg lost 1-0.

To leaving the club with six substitutes after he disappeared from the hotel upon finding out he wasn’t starting a relegation decider against Hoffenheim that same May, Diego and Wolfsburg’s relationship was destined to break down.



MARIO GOMEZ (Stuttgart to Bayern Munich)

Fee: €30m

0806 Gomez

Lewandowski garnered plenty of attention – nothing new there – during the 2018/19 season, for surpassing 200 Bundesliga goals, only the fifth player in history to do so after Gerd Muller, Klaus Fischer, Jupp Heynckes and Manfred Burgsmuller.

Claudio Pizarro also grabbed a little of the limelight too when, in February, he became the German top flight’s oldest ever goalscorer after netting an equaliser against Hertha Berlin. He was 40 and 136 days old, beating the record of Miroslav Votava.

Gomez’s continued excellence went unnoticed. But then, despite his gargantuan goalscoring prowess, that has tended to be the story of the 34-year-old’s career. He has bagged 299 career goals in 564 games and lies 11th on the all-time Bundesliga scorers list with 170 strikes in 328 matches – his 0.52 ratio is better than both Fischer and Burgsmuller.

And yet, he always seems to have played second fiddle. To Miroslav Klose at international level, and Pizarro, Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Muller at Bayern – although his 39 goals in 45 games overall in his second season after moving from Stuttgart was nothing short of stunning.

Won two league titles, two DFB-Pokal’s not to mention the Champions League during four seasons in Bavaria.


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