While the Premier League remains one of the most competitive leagues in Europe – despite Manchester City’s waltz to the title this season – the Bundesliga can rightly claim to be the most entertaining.
The German top flight is packed full of sides who play – or at least attempt – high-energy attacking football. Often these teams have several young players from Germany and beyond, all of whom have been given a chance to impress.
Youngsters in the Bundesliga have a first-team pathway those in England don’t, which is why the division boasts several of Europe’s brightest young talents.
However, the majority of German clubs don’t have the financial might to compete with those from the Premier League, and that is why players from smaller sides are cherry-picked for relatively modest fees.
It’s like hunting in the discount aisle. While not every purchase is going to be the right one, there is ample opportunity to find a bargain.
And with that in mind we have identified several players from the Bundesliga who, with their contracts set to expire in the summer of 2019, could be available at a knockdown price come May.
We’ll start with Sokratis Papastathopoulos. The Greek international, who turns 30 in June, was an Arsenal and Chelsea transfer target last summer and Premier League sides could return 12 months on for the Borussia Dortmund defender.
His form has been patchy during the 2017/18 campaign and the signings of the much-improved Ömer Toprak and Manuel Akanji have put his place in the starting XI in doubt. So with just a year remaining on his deal, he may wish for a move away and one last pay day.
The big problem would be that Sokratis isn’t a ball-playing centre-back, which many of the top sides now desire. While his passes completed per 90 stands at an impressive 87.4 per cent in the Bundesliga, he is predominantly playing safe passes that do not advance his side up the field. That is left to his defensive partner.
However, if clubs look beyond Sokratis’ limitations with the ball and put him in a system that gets the best out of his assets, namely his strength, tackling and ability to make interceptions, then he could prove a shrewd summer addition for many sides, just not those with title ambitions.
Schalke’s Thilo Kehrer is perhaps the most promising. This season he is averaging 3.2 successful tackles per 90, one of the highest totals for central defenders in the German top flight.
His talent with the ball also stands out, however, and that is aided by the fact he can play as a deep-lying midfielder, as he does for Germany’s Under-21s.
It means when sides attempt to press Kehrer he is able to find a way out. It’s why he is completing 0.9 successful dribbles per 90 from 1.1 attempted, figures which matches Bayern Munich and Germany star Mats Hummels.
He is by no means the finished article, however. The 21-year-old’s ability in the air is the weakest part of his game and he wins just 60 per cent of his duels, which is below the 67 per cent average for centre-backs in the Bundesliga.
Kehrer has, according to RevierSpor, turned down a contract offer with Schalke and the club will have a decision to make in the summer. They can accept low-ball bids from clubs or risk losing him for nothing in 2019.
Another Schalke defender, and a name more familiar to Premier League fans, that could be available is Matija Nastasić.
The former Manchester City centre-back has taken some time to fully recover from the Achilles tear that kept him out for all of the 2015/16 season, but has looked solid this season.
A calculated centre-back, the Serbian wins 73 per cent of his duels and 75 per cent of the 3.5 tackles per 90 he attempts. His passing is somewhat safe but, next to a more well-rounded defender, that wouldn’t be an issue.
At full-back, Freiburg’s attack-minded defender Christian Günter should be available.
The 25-year-old is attempting 3.1 tackles and dribbles per 90 and has a 34 per cent success rate on his 2.5 crosses per 90. They are similar numbers to Hertha Berlin’s Marvin Plattenhardt, who has featured for the German national side.
He is also playing an impressive 1.42 key passes per 90 and, given Freiburg have one of the lowest budgets in the Bundesliga and a tendency to lose their best players, it would be no surprise to see him depart at the end of the campaign.
Eintracht Frankfurt’s Omar Mascarell is also expected to leave the club this summer, but he is first likely to return to Real Madrid, who have a buy-back option on the player they sold in the summer of 2016.
Mascarell, a one-time Liverpool transfer target, is one of the Bundesliga’s most aggressive players – he racked up 13 yellow cards last season – but is also one of the best at reading the game, which is why he averaged seven interceptions per 90 during the 2016/17 campaign.
He’s also a fine distributor and is happy to receive the ball from his centre-backs and start attacks. Comfortable in a box-to-box role or as a pivot, the 25-year-old has struggled with injury for most of this season. However, when fit, he would be a smart addition for many a mid-table Premier League side.
Marco Fabián, also of Eintracht Frankfurt, and Miloš Jojić, who plays for seemingly doomed Köln, would be intelligent pick-ups for sides battling relegation or newly promoted top-flight clubs, but only on heavily-incentivised contracts given their injury problems and inconsistent form respectively.
Meanwhile, up front, Emil Berggreen could be worth a gamble. The hulking 24-year-old striker, who missed nearly two seasons due to knee injuries, returned for Mainz in November and has an expected goals per 90 of 0.34.
Despite his size – he stands at 6ft 4ins – he has the dynamism to run in behind defenders and open up space for wide players. His intelligence with the ball allows him to be involved in quick combinations; he is an excellent finisher and a threat from set-pieces too.
Berggreen should get plenty of minutes during the remainder of the season and beyond, if he stays injury free.
And with a little help from his agents, he could follow his fellow Danish players in venturing into England, either this summer or in 2019.