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Liverpool Finally Awaken to Gems in the Bundesliga

Emre Can's move to Liverpool is the first significant transfer from the Bundesliga under Brendan Rodgers' tenure at the club.

Synchronised Bundesliga transfer targets. Yum.
Synchronised Bundesliga transfer targets. Yum.
Martin Rose

The Bundesliga is one of the strongest leagues in Europe and boasts a high proportion of young, skilled German players who are generally cheaper in comparison to their English counterparts. For a number of years, the Bundesliga has been in the shadow of La Liga and the Premier League but success in the Bundesliga is seen as a badge of respect across Europe. Making it in Germany is proof that you can make it anywhere.

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For Liverpool, Emre Can's transfer could be the first of many in the coming years. Brendan Rodgers demands that his players are comfortable on the ball with the ability to carry the ball forward if needed and the Bundesliga has a reputation for encouraging dribbles on matchdays. An overwhelming majority of the clubs in the top twenty of Europe's big five leagues (Germany, France, England, Spain, and Italy) for dribbles per game reside in the Bundesliga. Is this part of some concerted effort to bring more entertainment to games in Germany's top flight or a product of encouraging aggressive, direct football with players who are trusted to use their technique to directly further the cause of their respective teams by carrying the ball closer to the opposition goal? It's certainly an interesting state of affairs and it's where players like Can have developed their game.

There are young players in all the big leagues in Europe but there has been a growing obsession with acquiring young players in Germany. It's not just that there are exceptional young players in Germany but they are given a chance to frequently display their skills. The same can be said of La Liga but it's a market that has been exploited by Liverpool and other Premier League clubs. The prevalence of precocious Germans in the Bundesliga benefits the German national team and allows young players an opportunity to develop their understanding of the game tactically and technically by playing competitive football at a high level. The English Premier League has the second highest proportion of foreign players in Europe, which goes some way to explain the "English premium" attached to the fees of gifted English players who rarely transfer abroad.

Fear not prospective purchaser of technically proficient but physically robust individuals. Germany has a solution. The Bundesliga is a physical league prioritising directness, speed, strength, tactical intelligence, and technique in the players who populate stadiums packed with enthusiastic supporters. The proportion of foreign players isn't as high so accomplished young German players usually aren't ridiculously expensive because there are other prospects who can be purchased for reasonable fees. That's not to say that German players can't fetch high fees but the value is usually reasonable to objective observers. The clauses that are put in place aren't always prohibitive and Sidney Sam's impending transfer from Bayer Leverkusen to Schalke 04 for just €2.5 million is one such example.

Where does Liverpool come in? Liverpool's particular style is one that lends itself to a lot of young players operating in the Bundesliga where clever and effective counter attacking units are prevalent. Brendan Rodgers has created a flexible, counter attacking/possession-based hybrid side that requires midfield and attacking players who can effectively understand the necessary transitions from defence to attack. Notable counter attacking talents previously or currently at Bundesliga clubs include André Schürrle, Son Heung-min, and Julian Draxler. Not all the young players in the Bundesliga creating headlines are German even if the majority of them are eligible for Die Mannschaft.

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Even if Liverpool were to pay over £15 million for a player from  the Bundesliga, it wouldn't be a deal that would be described as overpriced. Usually, only the most polished and developed players would even dare go for such fees. Marco Reus' clause that kicks in next summer is £29.4 million, which is not exorbitant at all in today's market of inflated transfer fees. Emre Can is seen as the future star of Germany's midfield and will arrive at Liverpool for circa £10 million. Comparisons have been made with illustrious names such as Michael Ballack and Bastian Schweinsteiger for a player whose potential is considerable. Imagine such a player with an English nationality playing for a club that's qualified for the Champions League and possesses Champions League experience. What would be his value to a Premier League club in a country where youngsters are rare and opportunities for first-team football are even rarer?

That's not to say there aren't capable English players with Premier League experience worthy of Liverpool's time but they aren't likely to have had much experience in European competition nor will they be moderately priced. Forget about cheap because that ship sailed long ago. Champions League level clubs in the Premier League usually don't trade with each other unless a player is unwanted at the selling club and the buying club is not seen as a threat to the selling club's ambitions.Even then, the player must have lost considerable stock with his current club to even appear to be a reasonable consideration in terms of fee and wages. Daniel Sturridge is an apposite example of such a transfer.

Southampton are suffering and benefiting in equal measure. Their recently departed manager, Mauricio Pochettino, continued to promote young players in a system that naturally lends itself to preparing players for bigger clubs. As David Moyes' history and approach to the game left him ill-suited for a demanding life at one of Europe's biggest clubs, Southampton's players have conversely been schooled in a system that belongs to the league's best teams. Players such as the impressively two-footed Adam Lallana (a curious mix of silk, technique, intelligence, attacking productivity, defensive capability, lung capacity,and  positional flexibility) and the freakish left-back train otherwise known as Luke Shaw are well-suited to the Premier League's best clubs. Their rarity in quality means they will be expensive but over a number of years, both will probably be worth the hassle of acquiring their respective registrations.

Players who are far more capable than the likes of Charlie Adam and Stewart Downing are worthy of attention of the most powerful Premier League clubs but they will be probably untested in European competition. Seeing Adam Lallana's performances at international level, it is evident that he is suited to Champions League football but hasn't had the opportunity to display his talents on that stage. The question with English players is are they worth it when other players can be brought in from a similar league with wages and a transfer fee that will enable other targets to be pursued in different positions? Probably not.

liverpool blog fc sbn

In the case of Adam Lallana, his interesting combination is hard to find and many alternative names being brought up are not similar in terms of what he offers on the pitch. Robert Firmino, a flexible attacking midfielder at Hoffenheim, is one of those rare players of excellence in that position but even then he doesn't offer the range of positions covered playing in a similar system to the one in place at Liverpool. This is not specifically about Adam Lallana because even if Liverpool did finally manage to acquire the player, the Bundesliga should be a league that is highly scouted by Liverpool. The players offer a range of technical, physical, and technical qualities at a price that would usually be termed as "affordable" for a club such as Liverpool.

Emre Can doesn't have a large number of senior appearances (45 for both Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen) compared to other young stars in the Bundesliga but it is hoped that in the years to come, other talented young players who have grown up in a league that is not too dissimilar from the English Premier League. Hopefully, Can and others who follow him will have more luck than Samed Yeşil (a striker sourced from the Bundesliga who still can develop into a fine player) has had with injuries. Liverpool and the Bundesliga could become well acquainted over the coming years to the benefit of reclaiming perches to the delight of those who pledge allegiance to the Liverbird.

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