As the Bundesliga resumes for the 2016-17 campaign, talk has inevitably turned to the battle for supremacy between champions Bayern Munich and their nearest challengers, Borussia Dortmund.
Moreover, great intrigue surrounds the transfer business the two clubs have done with one another this summer. Bayern have snatched Dortmund’s captain and star defender Mats Hummels, while BVB have manufactured a Signal Iduna Park return for Mario Götze, who controversially left the club to join the Bavarians in 2013.
Dortmund have also signed reliable 25-year-old central midfielder Sebastian Rode from Bayern for around £10 million.
But aside from these headline grabbing deals, there has been some fantastic work done throughout the Bundesliga this transfer window, and here are the five new signings to keep an eye on as the new season commences.
Kevin Volland – Bayer Leverkusen
After four impressive seasons with Hoffenheim – in which he twice broke double figures for goals scored in a season for Die Kraichgauer – 24-year-old striker Kevin Volland has joined Bayer Leverkusen for €18 million.
The hefty fee has set a new club record for Leverkusen, so what are they getting for their money?
Volland is a strong and powerful striker with a tireless work ethic and a calm finesse in front of goal.
That work ethic will be key to fitting in at the BayArena, as manager Roger Schmidt demands that his team press their opposition relentlessly throughout 90 minutes.
A full international with six caps for Germany, Volland is yet to register a goal for Die Mannschaft. But the former 1860 Munich player’s pedigree was evident at under-21 level, where he netted 11 times in 22 games. He also demonstrated his leadership skills when captaining the German side at the 2015 Under-21 European Championship, where he finished as the second highest scorer and was named in the team of the tournament.
With his industry and creativity, Leverkusen fans will be hoping Volland turns out to be the perfect partner for Javier “Chicharito” Hernández.
Ousmane Dembélé – Borussia Dortmund
Dortmund have been extremely busy in the transfer market this summer; the loss of Hummels, Ilkay Gündoğan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan has been offset by the arrivals of Götze from Bayern, record signing André Schürrle from Wolfsburg and Marc Bartra from Barcelona.
In addition to the more experienced, ready-made incomings, BVB have also signed a raft of young players with huge future potential. The most exciting of which is French winger Ousmane Dembélé, who has been brought in from Rennes for £12.75 million.
Dembélé only made his senior debut for Rennes in November last year, but the teenager immediately became a key player for the Ligue 1 club, as he went on to net 12 goals and register five assists.
The 19-year-old is genuinely two-footed, and able to play on either wing or centrally as a number 10. With his blistering pace and bamboozling dribbling ability, Dembélé is widely regarded as one of the future stars of the world game. Dortmund’s capture of the youngster represents a real coup and, despite his tender years, he is capable of helping BVB close the gap on Bayern this season.
Breel Embolo – Schalke
Swiss forward Breel Embolo was linked strongly with moves to Manchester United and Bundesliga newcomers RB Leipzig earlier this summer. But, with a bid of €20 million plus add-ons, it was Schalke who secured the signature of the exciting Basel player.
Embolo featured heavily for Switzerland at Euro 2016, playing on the right-wing and demonstrating his pace, directness and impressive physicality. The 19-year-old is equally comfortable playing centrally as a striker, and possesses strong finishing skills and the eye for a pass of a much more experienced player.
Though still in his teens, Embolo has already racked up over 80 senior appearances for Basel, and has scored 30 goals for the Swiss club.
Embolo’s versatility will prove a useful asset for Schalke this season, where he will be expected to play on the right-wing following the loss of Leroy Sané to Manchester City, while also offering an alternative to Dutch veteran Klaas-Jan Huntelaar up front.
Renato Sanches – Bayern Munich
Bayern Munich have not made many moves this summer, with only two new players coming through the door at the Allianz Arena. The first, Mats Hummels, is very much one for the here and now, who will be expected to come straight in to the starting line-up and improve the team.
The other is one for the future, but whose impressive maturity could see him having a big impact much sooner than anticipated.
Renato Sanches has been signed from Benfica for €35 million plus a string off add-ons that could see the eventual cost sky-rocketing beyond the €60 million mark.
But the monumental fee could come to represent a bargain for Bayern if Sanches delivers on his immense early promise. Much like Dembélé, Sanches has less than one full season of senior football under his belt, but he has already played a key role in Benfica’s Portuguese title triumph, as well as his country’s first ever major trophy at Euro 2016.
Sanches, a central midfielder, is blessed with explosive pace over short distances, a rocket of a left foot, and is so positionally aware that it is hard to believe that he has only just turned 19. Although at his best in a box-to-box role, Sanches is also able to fill in out wide or as a dedicated defensive midfielder.
Sanches is set to develop into one of the best midfield players on the planet over the next few years, and at Bayern, under Carlo Ancelotti, there is no better place for him to grow.
Mario Gomez – Wolfsburg
Mario Gomez’s Bundesliga record is outstanding: 63 goals in 121 appearances over six seasons with Stuttgart – including a title win in 2007 – and 75 in 115 for Bayern Munich, with two league titles and a Champions League in four years.
But the veteran poacher struggled to find his best form upon joining Fiorentina for €20 million in 2013, scoring only seven Serie A goals in two seasons.
A loan spell in Turkey last season proved to be the tonic for restoring Gomez to his former glories, however, as he helped Besiktas to Super Lig success, becoming the league’s top scorer with 26 goals in the process.
Now, the man who was once the most expensive player in Bundesliga history after joining Bayern for €35 million in 2009, has moved back to Germany to join Wolfsburg in a deal worth around £6 million.
At 31, Gomez still has plenty of gas in the tank. And although he’ll never be the quickest or most dynamic striker around, the 68-cap Germany international still knows where the net is.
About the author – Ryan Baldi
Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications.