There may only be three matches of the Bundesliga season remaining but there’s still plenty to play for. Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund are battling it out for two Champions League places and the final round of fixtures sees Julian Nagelsmann’s side play host to BVB in what could well be a winner-takes-all tie.
But with all eyes fixated on goings on at the top of the table, it’s easy to overlook the battle at the bottom. Köln’s relegation might not be official just yet but Die Geißböcke need to take maximum points and hope those above them fail to pick up a single point if they’re to avoid the drop into the 2.Bundesliga.
Their form this season has come as a surprise after they finished fifth during the 2016/17 campaign, earning a place in the Europa League, and managed to keep hold of key players.
However, they didn’t have the squad to juggle European football and their domestic form took a hit. Their points-per-game tally dropped from 1.44 last season to just 0.70 this time around.
The aren’t the only surprise team to be near the foot of the Bundesliga. Hamburg occupy 17th position and Der Dino’s record of being the only side in the Bundesliga never to have been relegated since the division’s inception in 1963 is under serious threat. They finished just a point clear of the relegation play-off last season but, on paper at least, appeared to be in a better place at the start of the current campaign.
Mainz, Wolfsburg and Freiburg are the three teams in danger of having to take part in a play-off to retain their position in the German top flight with the trio all having 30 points. Wolfsburg, who challenged for the Bundesliga title with the likes of Kevin de Bruyne not so long ago, finished 16th last season and only survived after defeating Eintracht Braunschweig over two legs.
These teams have an abundance of talent at their disposal and are ripe for the picking during the summer months after a disappointing season. Premier League clubs aren’t shy when it comes to flexing their financial muscle and they could raid the German league again.
After all, not all players are as loyal as Jonas Hector. The Germany international, who starts at left-back, recently signed a contract extension with Köln despite courted by the likes of Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund.
With this in mind, we’ve taken a look at five players who could be up for grabs this summer.
The 22-year-old only joined Bundesliga strugglers Köln for a fee in the region of €3.3million in January. It was a move that went under the radar but one that no doubt raised a few eyebrows. The midfielder starred for Nice during the 2015/16 campaign, playing playing over 2700 minutes in Ligue 1 and finishing the season with an impressive 92 per cent pass success rate.
His form resulted in him being named as an AC Milan and Arsenal transfer target. But the appointment of Lucien Favre saw his playing time at the Allianz Riviera take a hit and his stock dropped.
His move to Köln hasn’t gone to plan either. With the club fighting for their survival he’s not been given the chance to bed in with the first team and he’s appeared in just 531 minutes since the transfer.
Standing at 5ft 5ins, there’s a risk he would get lost in the land of giants. But there’s room in the middle third for efficient players. Leicester City, managed by Koziello’s former manager Claude Puel, could offer the player a new home; Wilfred Ndidi could be the brawn while the ex-Nice man could be the brains.
The Köln shot-stopper has been linked with a move away from the Müngersdorfer Stadion for a number of years now. Liverpool reportedly had an interest in him before opting to sign Loris Karius and Borussia Dortmund are long-term admirers of the 24-year-old.
According to reports, Chelsea and Arsenal are in the market for a goalkeeper this summer. The links makes sense.
There’s uncertainty surrounding the future of Thibaut Courtois with the Belgian tipped to move to La Liga to be close to his family. He’s stalling on a new contract and with just two years remaining on his current one now would be a good time to cash in.
Petr Čech was once of the best goalkeepers in the Premier League but over recent seasons he’s started to show his age. The former Chelsea man turns 36 at the end of the season and perhaps now is the ideal time to begin the transition from first to second choice.
Spurs might be forced to delve into the goalkeeper market this summer, too. Though Hugo Lloris is a match winner on his day, inconsistency has been slowly creeping into this game. Mauricio Pochettino is already in the market for shot-stopper to replace Michel Vorm but in Horn there’s a chance for him to bring in someone who can really rival Lloris for a start.
He’s been likened to Mats Hummels and a host of Premier League clubs are already interested in the 21-year-old. The Freiburg centre-back is expected to be hot property this summer with Manchester City, Liverpool and Arsenal all reportedly keeping tabs on the former Altınordu S.K. man.
It’s clear as to why the Turkey international has such a fan club. As highlighted in a recent profile on the young defender, despite his inexperience there are clear signs he’s maturing.
His positional awareness has improved and he’s relying less on tackles this season – averaging 1.65 this term down from the 2.04 last season – while his interceptions per 90 have improved.
He’s a colossus in the air, too, averaging 3.1 aerial duels won per 90 minutes since moving to the Bundesliga in the summer of 2016 – only 20 players can better this over the same period of time.
If reports are to be believed, Manchester United, Everton and West Ham United are in the market for a centre-back this summer. If Freiburg drop into 2.Bundesliga then expect to see Söyüncü on their wish list. He could potentially be one of the bargains of the summer.
The versatile Mainz man has flip-flopped between centre-back and centre-midfield this season yet he’s impressed in both roles. His idol is Yaya Touré and there are similarities between the two, but Gbamin, due to his age, isn’t quite as refined just yet.
He’s a powerful presence in the middle third and he patrols the pitch in a not too dissimilar way to Steven N’Zonzi. He was a track and field athlete during his youth and this experience helps him cover a lot of ground and smother attacks on a regular basis.
The 22-year-old seems ideally suited to the Premier League. Not only would he shore things up defensively, he’s also progressive on the ball. With some players it’s one or the other but not with Gbamin. He plays 41 per cent of his passes forward showing he’s eager to get things going.
Granted he’s played a number of matches at centre-back and this should be taken into account, he’s also started 16 games in midfield. The likes of Jordan Henderson (30 per cent), N’Golo Kanté (27.6 per cent) and Fernandinho (29.1 per cent) can’t match Gbamin’s forward passing figures.
He’s contracted to Mainz until 2022 but the club will sell him if a suitable offer is on the table. He fits the profile for a plenty of Premier League clubs.
Mutō is by no means a prolific striker but he’s worth a gamble. The 25-year-old has 19 Bundesliga goals in just over 4,000 minutes but he gives off the vibe of an all-rounder. He does a lot of his work off the ball and he comes alive inside the penalty area.
He’s currently outperforming his xG (expected goals) tally for the season, again, showing that he adds values to chances. Mainz signed him to replace Shinji Okazaki and the two do share a similar work rate. The Leicester City forward wasn’t a regular goalscorer in Germany either but his move hasn’t turned out too badly.
He’s been linked with a move to Newcastle United but the Magpies might have competition for his signature, especially with the many clubs in the English top flight realising the value to having hard working forwards leading their line.