By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

January Transfer Window 2024: The Complete German Bundesliga Transfer Primer

With the start of the European transfer window just hours away, we're pleased to publish our annual comprehensive league primer for the fourth consecutive year here at Bulinews!

This year's column takes a look at the financial and sporting state of each club in the introductory section for each team. We then take a look at the sparsely used players being shopped for loans or sales via a club's "Dead-Weight Ledger".

Finally, we list all the expiring contracts on the respective rosters and take a look at potential new arrivals based on the chatter in various rumor mills.

As in years past, we proceed down through the current order of the teams in the table. Sections covering the bottom nine teams contain thoughts on their prospects in the relegation fight.
The proud Bulinews New Year's tradition of taking a flit down the Bundesliga table continues! We're pleased to once again take a look at the status of all 18 top tier German clubs in our annual transfer primer. A New Year's practice that began in 2019 over at TRS carried over here to Bulinews in 2020, 2021, and 2022. Now - for the fifth consecutive year - it's once again time to catch "transfer fever" ahead of the opening of January window in a few short hours.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€12.5 million

Matters could hardly be more interesting for the most serious title contenders German footballing enthusiasts have seen in years. Xabi Alonso's undefeated Werkself now arrive at the most critical point of the season; the month all of us have been discussing for ages. January sees four regulars depart for the Africa Cup of Nations. Defensive stalwarts Edmond Tapsoba (Burkina Faso) and Odilon Kossoounou (Cote d'Ivoire) have left to represent their countries. So too has talismanic striker Victor Bonifiace (Nigeria) and ever-reliable attacker Amine Adli (Morocco).

The league-leaders do have some positives to fall back on. Emergent attacker Nathan Tella will not be traveling with Boniface to the Nigerian national team. Czech striker Patrik Schick - after an injury-riddled 18 months - is finally back fit and scoring goals. Schick appears fully capable of filling in for Boniface. Xabi can also likely maintain a quality back-three via the use of in-form defenders Piero Hincapie and Josip Stanisic. Tella and young Belgian prospect Noah Mbamba look capable of deputizing for Adli off the bench.

The four departures nevertheless leave Leverkusen with a 24-man-roster in serious need of at least two or three more actors in order to maintain competitive depth. The negative summer transfer balance remains irrelevant for this non-50+1 side. Simon Rolfes and the B04 administrative team operate without any serious financial constraints when perusing the market. One expects at least one significant purchase to address immediate concerns. Bayer's deep pockets also always lead to plenty of proactive moves in January.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Gustavo Puerta (CM), Ayman Ahurir (ATTM)

If Rolfes can manage to get a few extra bodies in earlier, he'll almost certainly seek to park a couple of promising prospects who stand to benefit from some extra playing time. German teenager Ayman Aourir seems the more likely candidate for a loan out after Colombian talent Gustavo Puerta's last developmental move didn't work out so well. Moreover, recent trends seem to suggest that Puerta is ready for some more first team action. We might not witness any action on this front.

Expiring contracts =  Niklas Lomb (GK), Timothy Fosu-Mensah (RB), Nadiem Amiri (CM)

All three players with set-to-expire working papers have no future with the club. Despite the stated desire not to make any sales during the window, Rolfes would obviously be very happy to rid himself of no-longer-utilized fullback Timothy Fosu-Mensah and unwelcome distraction Nadiem Amiri. One assumes that the B04 sporting director won't hesitate if the right offer for either one came in. A small influx of €4-5 million cash - while not needed here - still constitutes a morale boost for the front office staff.

Further Needs =  RB, LB, CB, ADM, AM, CF

The rumor mills aren't exactly churning out as much information as one might expect in this case. This mostly has to do with the fact that German media don't traditionally devote a lot of resources to sleuthing about this club as they do to others. Some of the more reliably resourced rumors do lead one to believe that - at the very least - a new right-back should be signed in the early days of the window. Insofar as the supposed-search for an extra striker is concerned, there's nothing truly solid to report upon.

Rumored Links =  Arnau Martinez (RB), Ismail Yüksek (DM), Roony Bardghji (RB)

FC Bayern München

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€23 million

New sporting director Christoph Freund - in his first and quite possibly last transfer window helming the German giants as the club's chief personnel executive - faces serious pressure to deliver after all the failed deals on deadline day this past autumn. The record champs must make a strong statement with targeted upgrades at several positions. Sporting a roster of just 25 professionals, Bayern are actually tied with SV Werder Bremen for the smallest active roster in the league. There shall be no shortage of big names traded over the coming month.

The 11-times defending league champs find themselves exhibiting glaring deficiencies at the back as they enter their most challenging window since the 2019/20 season. FCB trainer Thomas Tuchel even loses his most reliable central defender - Min-Jae Kim - to the Asian continental championship. It's not surprising at all to see rumors involving known names crop up so early. One anticipates three to four major signings here. Unlike last year, they are not over-leveraged. Freund and Tuchel should have clearance to procure anyone they want.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Daniel Peretz (GK), Frans Krätzig (LB)

A pair of prospects should receive decent loan locales once the front office ensures that the roster won't dip below 23 players on professional contracts. Tuchel no longer has any use for Daniel Peretz now that the team has been eliminated from the Pokal. Frans Krätzig, particularly in light of Aleksandr Pavlovic's recent success, might receive a couple of extra run-outs before the administrative team ultimately decides to park him. If Freund and company can sign Tuchel's desired "holding-six", it might be the case that Pavlovic ends up getting loaned out himself.

Expiring contracts =  Bouna Sarr (LB), Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (CF)

It looks to finally be the end-of-the-line for two of Bayern's African talents. Both players - one due to injury and the other due to declining form - will not be representing their African nations as they did two years ago. Bouna Sarr's prolonged stay with the German giants is at long last nearly over. Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting's late career resurgence (and deserved one-year contract extension) shall always be a story German football lovers enjoy revisiting. It nonetheless looks as if the 34-year-old won't get another deal this year. Talk of him being sold elsewhere also probably amounts to nothing.

Further Needs =  LB, CB, RB, ADM, CF

The best the author could do in this case was present the "short-list".  Rumors shall not cease over the course of the next four weeks. The latest reports from most of the German insider footballing publications hold that Tuchel and Freund do maintain a strong relationship and a shared vision as the squad planning for both the second-half of this campaign and the future in general. With all the sensationalist "soap-opera-like" administrative turnover at the FCB in the last year, one eagerly anticipates finding out whether these two can bring stability and a unified vision.

Rumored Links =  Quentin Merlin (LB), Theo Hernandez (LB), Miguel Gutierrez (LB), Jonathan Tah (CB), Eric Dier (CB), Giorgio Scalvini (CB), Ronald Araujo (CB), Trevor Chalobah (CB), Raphaël Varana (CB), Arnau Martinez (RB), Takehiro Tomiyasu (RB), Estevão (RB), Joao Palhinha (DM), Joao Neves (DM), Kalvin Philipps (DM), Martin Zubemendi (DM), Frederico Chiesa (LW) Luis Guilherme (RW), 

VfB Stuttgart

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€28 million

Most of the news concerning the the league's surprise sensations in the coming month will revolve around the exit rumors surrounding star striker Serhou Guirassy; himself out on AFCON duty with the Guinean national football team. Sporting CEO Alexander Wehrle - widely regarded as a highly competent administrator in most German footballing circles - continues to handle the matter with impressive aplomb. The former Köln boss has every reason to remain calm. Many actors on this team remain capable of stepping up in Guirassy's absence.

Insofar as what we can expect from the Württembergers this coming January, Wehrle and sporting director Fabian Wohlgemuth will mostly be concerning themselves with trimming his 29-man-roster via loan-outs and possibly a couple of sales. When one considers what state this club was in at this time last year, Wehrle and Wohlgemuth  deserve to approach this window with as little internalized pressure as possible. A dip over the course of the second-half of the campaign won't diminish their "Swabian Success Story".

Dead-Weight Ledger = Laurin Ulrich (ATTM), Nikolas Nartey (CM), Luca Raimund (RW), Thomas Kastanaras (CF), Jovan Milosevic (CF)

Finding loan locales for four of the five the above mentioned players alone will hack the payroll down to a respectable 25 professionals. Young Serbian professional Jovan Milosevic counts as the most likely retention candidate. VfB trainer Sebastian Hoeneß respects the 18-year-old enough to have given him four relief deployments. Attackers Laurin Ulrich and Tomas Kastanaras can easily be parked in the lower divisions. Nikolas Nartey unfortunately won't generate much interest as he's injured.

Expiring contracts = Florian Schock (GK), Roberto Massimo (RM), Lilian Egloff (ATTM), Genki Haraguchi (ATTM)

Three young talents who didn't pan out exactly as hoped for, alongside 32-year-old Genki Haraguchi aren't likely to garner much interest. Lilian Egloff and Roberto Massimo carry injuries that render them damaged goods. Wehrle and Wohlgemuth might maintain some interest in re-signing Egloff while Massimo happens to be one of those players for whom too many chances have been exhausted. Haraguchi probably plans to return home to Japan. Schock may wish to head back to the cross-town Kickers.

Further Needs =  DM, CM, RM LW, RW, LS

Much depends on how matters with Guirassy shake out, but it's not entirely inconceivable that Stuttgart could land another big name striker such as Simon Banza, Dion Drena Beljo, Antonio Sanabria, or even former star Sasa Kalajdzic on loan. Rumors linking Japanese midfielder Ao Tanaka of Fortuna Düsseldorf with a move to the BaWü capital seem to have some weight behind them. Much of the rest of the talk appears unsubstantiated for now, though the procurement of midfielders such as Kristijan Jakic, Eric Smith, and Leandro Berreiro would make a great deal of sense.

Rumored Links = Kristijian Jakic (DM), Eric Smith (DM), Ao Tanaka (CM), Leandro Barreiro (CM), Justin Diehl (LW), Simon Banza (CF), Dion Beljo (CF), Evann Guessand (CF), Antonio Sanabria (CF) Sasa Kalajdzic (CF)

RasenBallSport Leipzig

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€65 million

The German Red Bulls have already landed their primary transfer target in the form of SSC Napoli's Eljif Elmas. The North Macedonian international cost the RB front office a reported €24 million; still paltry amount of change when one considers the hefty summer transfer balance Max Eberl left this club with, not to mention the fact that this club remains flush with corporate cash. Sporting director Rouven Schröder and staff can easily flash more cash this month. Such is the eternal "RB Reality". Germans note this fact even year through gritted teeth.

Schröder currently presides over a 27-man-roster that boasts one of the longest dead-weight ledgers in the league. The former Mainz and Schalke administrator may wish to prove his mettle by ridding himself of players with little-to-no sporting prospects in Marco Rose's squad. Even if payroll isn't a decisive factor for this company team, Schröder still has some competencies to prove. A quiet window could be forthcoming after the chief personnel executive wraps up some easy business.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Timo Schlieck (GK), Tim Köhler (CB), Nicolas Seiwald (CM), Ilaix Moriba (CM), Timo Werner (LS), Benjamin Sesko (CF)

The ongoing matter of whether Timo Werner will be moved should probably be settled sooner rather than later. Recent rumors also suggest that, given his lack of playing time under Rose, the club is amendable to loaning Benjamin Sesko out this spring. Clarity with regard to these two strikers serves as priority one for Schröder. After finding a solution for want-away attacker Ilaix Moriba, Schröder would do well to find a place to park young midfielder Nicolas Seiwald. The RB chief faces a straightforward docket of work.

Expiring contracts = Lukas Klostermann (CB), Christopher Lenz (LB), 

Leipzig continue to push German national team defender Lukas Klostermann for a decision on his future. Cashing in on the 27-year-old - who might still fetch upwards of €10 million - appears to be the better option if Klostermann doesn't wish to renew. Here we have another piece of business that, while pressing, shouldn't be too difficult to handle. It remains imperative that Schröder get the easier transactions out of the way first. Signing star PSG loanee Xavi Simons permanently will take a great deal more administrative rigor.

Further Needs =  CB, CM, ATTM, CF

The writer considers it likely that Schröder will outpace Bayern in the race to acquire his former Schalke standout Assan Ouedraogo. Such a coup - potentially combined with a deal for Xavi Simons - could enable Leipzig to rest on their laurels for a time. Most of the other links, with the exception of rumors about Barça prospect Angel Alarcon, aren't very well corroborated. Loose links with other players probably reflect speculative thoughts on this club's long-range plans.

Rumored Links = Quentin Merlin (LB),  Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe (CM), Assan Ouedraogo (CM), Kenan Yildiz (AM), Hicham Boudaoui (CM), Angel Alarcon (LW), Bilal El Khannouss (ATTM)

Borussia Dortmund

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€65 million

In an unbroken New Year's tradition, Bundesliga enthusiasts again find themselves discussing the broken nature of Dortmund heading into the January transfer window. The author wishes to point out that, at this juncture last year, we were covering a sixth-placed side. They are one place better this year. All the chatter about BVB sporting director being under enormous pressure to furnish a spectacular transfer class also isn't new. The German press commentaries are almost word-for-word identical as they were ahead of 2023.

As per usual, every last German football watcher possesses specific opinions on how to fix this roster. The two new BVB co-trainers send general  speculation in German footballing circles into overdrive. Will Kehl begin building a squad with future head-coach Nuri Sahin in mind? Edin Terzic himself insists that bringing Sahin and Sven Bender on board was his idea and that the two prominent German footballing figures aren't seen as potential competitors. We shall see about that. For the time being, we'll turn curated attention back to the roster.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Hendry Blank (CB), Abdoulaye Kamara (DM), Ole Pohlmann (CM), Giovanni Reyna (ATTM), Julien Duranville (RW)

The task of reducing the 30-man-roster begins with he dead-weight-ledger. Unfortunately, Julien Duranville's injury renders a loan-out for the Belgian prospect difficult. It would be prudent to make room on the roster for Germany U17 World Cup winner Paris Brunner, who is widely expected to sign a professional contract on the occasion of his 18th birthday in mid February. The writer can scarcely believe that he's typing these words, but one-time Golden Boy Giovanni Reyna probably needs to be shipped out along with most of the loan prospects.

Expiring contracts = Antonios Papadopoulos (CB), Mats Hummels (CB), Marius Wolf (RB), Thomas Meunier (RB), Mateu Morey (RB), Marco Reus (ATTM)

Leaving the question of whether German footballing legends Mats Hummels and Marco Reus will wish to continue on for another year, Kehl shall be immensely relieved when the season concludes. Payroll paperweight Thomas Meunier stands no chance of being re-signed. Marius Wolf's tenure draws to a close. The congenitally injured Mateu Morey will be let go. Antonios Papadopoulos might find himself the subject of Kehl's interest after a decent relief performance. The German-Greek central defender might finally be coming into his own.

Further Needs =  LB, CB, RB, RW, LW, AM CF

Virtually all the center backs listed below stand a realistic chance of joining up with die Schwarzgelben. A deal to secure Ian Maatsen on loan from Chelsea may be in the final stages. Rumors involving English defensive midfielders Archie Gray and Daniel Gore appear well substantiated. Most expect a successful window from Kehl. Immediate help in the attack and at the left-back position, followed up by some secure investments in the future. A third later season turnaround under BVB trainer Terzic remains very possible.

Rumored Links = Ian Maatsen (LB), Erhan Masovic (CB), Trevoh Chalobah (CB), Jorrel Hato (CB) Lloyd Kelly (CB), Leny Yoro (CB) Fran Garcia (LB), Archie Gray (CM), Daniel Gore (CM) Tristan Panduro (CM), Johan Bakayoko (RW), Estevao (RW), Jadon Sancho (LW)

Eintracht Frankfurt

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€86 million

Following the chaotic end to the summer transfer period, the upcoming moves of SGE administrators Markus Krösche and Timo Hardung leave football watchers across the Bundesrepublik insatiably curious. What shall the two personnel bosses do with their massive positive transfer balance? How will they find a way of reducing their excessively oversized 36-man-roster? Can they deal with the losses of Ellyes Skhiri, Fares Chaibi, and Omar Marmoush to the AFCON tournament effectively. No other club in the German top flight is strewn with as many question marks. Answers begin to emerge.

It appears as if the pressing matter of additional help at he striker position has already been handled. The competent duo should have some more answers ready for us soon. Krösche and Hardung find themselves under considerably less pressure than most of us anticipated they would be at this point in the season. Somehow, a patchy and unbalanced roster achieved success under rookie trainer Dino Toppmöller during the opening half of the campaign. That obviously doesn't mean that the squad doesn't require a great deal more work. The AFCON losses portend an end to the overachieving.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Nnamdi Collins (CB), Dario Gebuhr (CB) Elias Baum (RB), Kristijan Jakic (DM), Sidney Raebiger (CM), Marcel Wenig (CM), Mehdi Loune (CM), Pasten Aaronson (ATTM), Jens Petter Hauge (ATTM), Nacho Ferri Julia (LS), Lucas Alario (CF) Noel Futkeu (CF)

The largest dead-weight-ledger in the league regrettably contains a great deal of freight that can't be moved. Few will be interested in taking two of Krösche's biggest mistakes - Krstijan Jakic and Jens Petter Hauge - off of his hands. There's mixed news on potential park locales for talents such as Nnamdi Collins, Mehdi Loune, Marcel Wenig, Elias Baum, Sidney Raebiger, Dario Gebuhr, Paxten Aaronson, and Noel Futkeu. Injuries may lead to less than half of these players getting parked.

Expiring contracts = Makoto Hasebe (CB), Harpreet Ghotra (CM)

In stark contrast to last year's work on this front, the SGE front office have far less to worry about when it comes to extension negotiations. Whether the "eternal Makoto Hasebe" opts to sign on for another year rests solely with the player. The core of the team remains tied down to long-term deals. Krösche and Hardung can shift to the more pressing issues of what the new core of this team might look like. Many of the rumors involving arrivals have a great deal of credence attached to them.

Further Needs =  LB, CB, CM, LW, ATTM, LS

Imminent signings of players such as Donny van de Beek, Rafiu Durosinmi, and Sasa Kalajdzic should get Eintracht off to a solid start to the window. The likes of Sheraldo Becker and Sasa Kalajdzic may follow soon. A third striker in the form of AZ Alkmaar's Tangelos Pavlidis can quickly turn this into a blockbuster window for the club. Of the defensive links, Nathaniel Brown and Zeno Debast appear to be the strongest candidate to realistically don an SGE tricot. On paper at least, a roster worthy of contending for a title may come together.

Rumored Links = Nathaniel Brown (LB), Thilo Kehrer (CB), Nino (CB), Jose Cordoba (CB), Zeno Debast (CB), Pascal Groß (DM), Marcel Hartel (CM), Leandro Barreiro (CM), Donny van de Beek (CM), Hidemasa Morita (CM), Sheraldo Becker (ATTM), Vangelis Pavlidis (CF), Sasa Kalajdizc (CF), Can Uzun (CF)

TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€7.5 million

TSG sporting director Alexander Rosen, in a not-uncommon occurrence for this club, spent the offseason assembling a roster featuring many well-known names that nevertheless wasn't exactly the most balanced collection of players. The Sinsheimers continue to punch below their weight in the league table.  Seventh place at the winter break doesn't exactly qualify as a failure, but the the poor home form of this side does have much to do with the fact that TSG trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo can't seem to find his best XI amid this oddly put-together collection of actors.

Rosen has some foundational work to tackle amid the 30-man-roster, getting a few of the more promising talents parked in locales at which they can better hone their skills. In an interesting twist, barely-used footballers such as Diadie Samassekou and Kasim Adams have the opportunity to re-establish their form whilst away on AFCON duty. Signs point to a quite window in Kraichgau, though the trend of other organizations dumping high salary players with this club still persists. We could see a few significant moves take place near the deadline.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Nahuel Noll (GK), Stanley Nsoki (CB), Joshua Quarshie (CB), Marco John (LB), Diadie Samassekou (DM), Umut Tohumcu (CM), Julian Justvan (ATTM), Bambasé Conté (LW) 

The top-tier success of recent loan returnee Maximilian Beier (one assumes) leaves Rosen interested in getting names like Marco John, Umut Tohumcu, and Julian Justvan over to lower league sides with which they can earn some valuable minutes. Rosen actually did an excellent job taking care of this in the summer with loan-outs for Muhammed Damar, Fisnik Asllani, and Jacob Bruun Larsen. Young prospects Matarazzo himself tends to favor such as Tom Bischof and Finn Ole Becker might be added to the "park list".

Expiring contracts = Luca Philipp (GK), John Anthony Brooks (CB), Kasim Adams (CB), Robert Skov (LWB)

Luca Philipp, John Anthony Brooks, and Robert Skov - some inconsistent form notwithstanding - all count as players Rosen should strongly consider extending with. Brooks and Skov maintain worth to the team far above whatever Rosen can obtain for them on the market. Short-term deals for both seem in order. The cases of Philipp and Adams may be addressed later in the spring. Bundesliga fans with African inclinations - this one included - personally root for both Adams and Samassekou to find their feet again at the continental tournament.

Further Needs =  LB ,CB, RB, AM, RW

Polish defensive midfielder Jakub Piotrowski serves as the lone name to consistently pop up in the rumor mills. Despite having Florian Grillitsch back, one can still feel the absence of the departed Angelo Stiller on this team during most league matches. Rosen requires a defensive midfielder/sweeper above all else. Matarazzo's rearward deployments of more offensive-minded midfielders like Anton Stach and Grischa Prömel counts as a massive resource misallocation. The front office must get this targeted acquisition sewn up quickly.

Rumored Links = Jakub Piotrowski (DM)

SC Freiburg

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€35 million 

A capricious set of results for the team that (few will recall) spent the previous winter break in second place in the table means that we're discussing an eighth-place side here. Results are different, yet the main problem Christian Streich faces remains the same. Streich's Breisgauer suffer from a dearth of options in central midfield. Rumors that Klemens Hartenbach, Jochen Saier, and the rest of the SCF transfer committee presently make a play for Manchester Unite's Hannibal Mejbri generates excitement among plenty of us. That would be a huge coup!

The Bresigauer - following six consecutive parsimonious windows - may opt to make a major signing this time around. The SCF are long overdue for a splash. Freiburg's link-list runs longer than just about any of us can recall over the past five years. Prudent personnel work on a shoestring budget remains the standard order-of-business in south Baden. Every so often, however, the famously quiet committee dips into the savings for a splurge. This feels like one of those years. We might even witness two to three midfield signings

Dead-Weight Ledger = Kenneth Schmidt (CB), Max Rosenfelder (CB), Jordy Makengo (LB), Fabian Rüdlin (DM), Maximilian Breunig (CF)

A 26-man-roster leaves little wiggle room for loan-outs. Kenneth Schmidt's injury further suggests that there shall be no departures over the coming months. Most rumor mills don't even list any names on the separation front. The quintet of young loan candidates will have to wait until the summer to find developmental destinations unless the club can beef up the roster by two to three additional players. If this ends up transpiring, Jordy Makengo and Maximilian Breunig will probably be the priority ship-outs.

Expiring contracts = Yannik Keitel (DM)

Reduced playing timed and some ill-timed injuries for homegrown defensive midfielder Yannik Keitel renders the 23-year-old's future uncertain. A new contract and immediate loan-out can only serve as a viable option if (one reiterates) if the front office can take on some more players. The most likely scenario for the Germany U21 international, who does maintain a decent relationship with his head-coach, might be a one-year-extension. Most German football watchers hold a favorable view of the one-time U21 captain despite some of his recent set-backs.

Further Needs =  LB, RM, CM, AM, ATTM, RW, LW

Rumors linking attacks Michel-Ange Balikwisha and Wilfried Gnonto with moves to Breisgau appear to have some heft behind them. Mejbri, Ermin Gigovic, Ardon Jashari, and VfL Bochum's Patrick Osterhage may very well end up officially joining this club soon. The time seems right to recruit some larger names to the Schwarzwald. Some useful pick-ups may even enable Freiburg to compete for a Champions' League place this year. Such an opportunity might not present itself again soon.

Rumored Links = Han-Noah Massengo (DM), Ardon Jashari (DM), Ao Tanaka (CM), Patrick Osterhage (CM), Armin Gigovic (CM), Hannibal (ATTM), Mert Kömür (ATTM), Michel-Ange Balikwisha (LW), Wilfried Gnonto (LW), Fabio Silva (CF)

1. FC Heidenheim

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€2 million

Frank Schmidt's surprise BaWü borderers find just about everything going their way near the half-way point of their first Bundesliga season. The current points total leads some of us to the conclusion that the FCH may even be safely poised above the relegation fray. Heidenheim trainer Frank Schmidt - recently named the "German footballing personality of the year" by the Bundesrepublik's preeminent footballing publication - has skillfully divided up playing time among his 28-man-roster. Only a few scarcely-utilized actors comprise this team's dead-weight-ledger.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Frank Feller (GK), Thomas Keller (CB), Luka Janes (DM), Stefan Schimmer (CF)

FCH sporting director Robert Strauß can't realistically hope to fetch much of anything for some of the holdovers from the 2. Bundesliga squad. All outgoing transfer rumors continue to revolve around assist-meter Jan-Niklas Beste. Neither player nor club appear terribly interested in entertaining offers at this point. One conjectures that only something in the €20-25 million range might shift the calculus there. Barring something unforeseen, this roster looks set to stick together.

Expiring contracts = Norman Theuerkauf (LB), Kevin Sessa (CM), Florian Pick (LW), Nikola Dovedan (AM), Christian Kühlwetter (CF), Elidon Qenaj (CF)

Norman Theuerkauf, Florian Pick, and (as of late) Kevin Sessa have received enough playing time to merit potential extensions. The remaining actors - like those listed above - are essentially holdovers from the second division side. Strauß needn't expend much effort constructing a future for those who shall play no role in this club's second season in the top flight. Note that this could be subject to change. The author would have written the same thing about players such as Pick, Sessa, and Jan Schöppner until recently.

Further Needs = GK, CB, ATTM, LW, RW, LS

Now that the never-truly-believable Jerome Boateng rumors are firmly behind us, the matter of whether or not this club will pick up some additional assistance in attack or in central defense can be addressed. The rumor mills don't have much to report in this regard. A report insinuating that the club might be interested in picking up German center back Koray Günter from Hellas Verona never amounted to much other than hot air. There's nary a whisper about any other potential moves.

Rumored Links =  None

VfL Wolfsburg

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€600,000 

Niko Kovac's Autostädter stumbled into the winter break with persistently dallying form. The head-coach of the VWers only saw his job spared thanks to an unlikely victory in the penultimate league round. Germany's green company team still seeks some sort of regular tactical identity. Sporting CEO Marcel Schäfer and his direct subordinate Sebastian Schindzierlorz must work with a notoriously fickle trainer in order to somehow iron out a plan that will help them avoid last year's disappointing finish. This writer considers the odds of that working out rather long.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Nicolas Cozza (LB), Felix Lange (CB), Ridle Baku (RB), Kilian Fischer (RB), Dzenan Pejcinovic (CF), Amin Sarr (CF)

The VfL brass have no true payroll concerns in this non 50+1 organization. Shedding Nicolas Cozza and maybe finding better destinations for right fullbacks Ridle Baku and Kilian Fischer could still prove useful. A recent injury incurred by Lyon loanee Amin Sarr cancels out their hopes of ending the Swedish international's loan stint early. One slight advantage to the type of tactical football Kovac runs concerns the fact that purported pieces of dead weight can turn into contributors. Such was the case with, for example, Aster Vranckx.

Expiring contracts = Koen Casteels (GK), Pavao Pervan (GK), Ulysses Llanez (LW)

It's already been confirmed that Koen Casteels will depart the club at the end of the year. With all the reputable net-minder names being traded on the arrival front, it stands to reason that the administrative team isn't planning with Pavao Pervan either. U.S. international Ulysses Llanez is reportedly in line for a shot once his return from injury is complete. The, admittedly biased, author would love to see the once prolific USA youth international serve opposite countryman Kevin Paredes. Kovac is precisely the sort of coach to try such a thing.

Further Needs = GK, CB, DM, ATTM, LS

FC Kaiserslautern keeper Julian Krahl and former Bayern youth prospect Ron-Thorben Hoffmann are the two linked names with the most reputable reporting behind them when it comes to the club's keeper search. Much of the rumors concerning strikers have cooled off now that Lukas Nmecha is back playing scrimmage football on the training pitch. A few more central defensive links presently emerge. The VfL trainer can seemingly never receive enough depth at that position. Young Austrian taken Jakob Schöller would count as a solid pick-up.

Rumored Links =  Julian Krahl (GK), Dominik Reimann (GK), Ron-Thorben Hoffmann (GK), Jakob Schöller (CB), Leandro Barreiro (CM), Cheikh Niasse (DM), Levi Garcia (CF)

FC Augsburg

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€17.5 million 

Under new personnel management for the first time in a decade, plenty of German footballing enthusiasts maintain interest in what Marinko Jurendic plans to do during his first full transfer window. Predecessor Stefan Reuter caught plenty of flak for building unbalanced squads in recent years. Jurendic has a cache to cut up valuable bait on a 32-man-roster and grab some perfectly targeted acquisitions for new head-coach Jess Thorup's preferred tactical constellation. What Thorup has already accomplished with this team leaves the 11th-placed Fuggerstädter poised to make a big leap.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Marcel Lubik (GK), David Colina (LB), Maximilian Bauer (CB), Frederik Winther (CB), Masaya Okugawa (ATTM), Dion Drella Beljo (CF), Irvin Cardona (CF)

There's enough chatter surrounding strikers Irvin Cardona and Dion Drella Beljo to strongly suggest that Jurendic is close to offloading them. It remains doubtful that the FCA sporting director has much of a chance of riding the payroll of flops Frederik Winther, Masaya Okugawa, and David Colina. Some young prospects such as Nathanaël Mbuku and Mer Kömür count as decent loan candidates, but it would much behoove Jurendic to focus on sales before moving onto whether certain players should be parked.

Expiring contracts = Tomas Koubek (GK), Aaron Zehnter (LB), Iago (LB), Jeffrey Gouweleeuw (CB), Raphael Framberger (RB)

All players sitting on expiring deals - with the exception of 19-year-old fullback Aaron Zehnter - are near the end of their careers. Former skipper Jeffery Gouweleeuw is already a confirmed out after the season. Tomas Koubek and Raphael Framberger, having served the club well over the years, are also on their way out of the door. Iago can still generate some cash. Jurendic will hope to finish what Reuter couldn't with respect to the Brazilian left-rail-player. Seldom used summer additions such as Patric Pfeiffer and Japhet Tanganga probably also need to be moved.

Further Needs = GK, CB, RB, RW, AM

One doesn't trust the relatively quiet rumor mills as pertains to this club. The Bavarian Swabians, backed by U.S. investor Boldt Football Holdings, will almost definitely sign some valuable players over the course of this window. As they proved in the cases of Beljo and American attacker Ricardo Pepi, Augsburg are quite adept at outpacing Bundesliga competitors for hotly traded names. The case of those two attackers nevertheless proves that Jurenic and staff have some work to do convincing players that they can thrive under the FCA aegis.

Rumored Links =  Bakery Jatta (RW)

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€4 million 

While 12th-place in the table at Christmas doesn't literally translate to an end to this long-suffering club's year's of "mid-table-mediocrity", those of us keeping close tabs on Gerardo Seoane's "Fohlenelf" feel as if the BMG have their best team in place since the early overachieving of Marco Rose's inaugural season. At long last, the damage of the "Rose Era" lies behind these Borussen. For the first time since Rose announced he would be leaving for Dortmund in the middle of his second season, the roster is filled by players who actually want to be there.

What work lies ahead of Roland Virkus?

Dead-Weight Ledger = Marvin Friedrich (CB), Simon Walde (RB), Florian Neuhaus (CM), Grant Leon-Ranos (CF)

First and foremost, the BMG sporting director has to deal with the persistent transfer rumors swirling around defender Nico Elvedi and midfielder Manu Kouadio Koné. Marvin Friedrich automatically gets stricken from the "expendables list" should Elvedi depart. The same applies to recent benchwarmer Florian Neuhaus in the event that Virkus decides to sell Koné. Things get more complicated still when one considers the case of Japanese defender Ko Itakura, fit enough to represent Japan at the Asia cup and also the subject of outgoing rumors.

Plenty of moving components here.

Expiring contracts = Tobias Sippel (GK), Tony Jantschke (CB), Mamadou Doucouré (CB), Stefan Lainer (RB) Hannes Wolf (LW), Patrick Herrman (RW)

Long-time club legends Tony Jantschke and Patrick Herrmann are due to stand down and hang up their cleats at the end o the season. Thirty-five-year-old keeper Tobias Sippel - particularly after some of his performances last season - can't reasonably be expected to carry on any longer. Stefan Lainer attempts a comeback from prostate cancer. That leaves a pair of players in Mamadou Doucouré and Hannes Wolf whom (in all honesty) most of us forgot were still playing on this club's payroll following endless injury and form issues.

At least Virkus has it easy on this front.

Further Needs = LB, CB, DM, ADM,CM, ATTM, LW, RW

If one combines the rumors with reputable sources behind them (Joris Chotard, Bence Dardai, Denilson, and Ibrahim Osman) Virkus could potentially be on the hook for around €20 million in inlays. Naturally, a club with these sort of financial constraints can't hope to make any large purchases until they complete two to three major sales. The foals definitely count as one of the more interesting sides to keep an eye on during the coming month as the massive rebuilding project Max Eberl dumped in Virkus' lap continues.

Overall, Virkus and his team have done well.

Rumored Links =  Joris Chotard (DM), Ismail Yüksek (DM), Ibrahima Sissoko (DM), Papa Gueye (DM), Denilson (CM), Bence Dardai (ATTM), Ibrahim Osman (LW)

SV Werder Bremen

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€24 million 

The Hanseaten, as noted in the FCB section above, are tied with Bayern for the smallest roster in the league. With only 25 professionals on the payroll, sporting director Frank Baumann has almost no breathing space with which to work. Baumann himself has announced that he'll be leaving the club at the end of the season. As a result, a great deal of the administrative work here will center around procuring a replacement for the long-serving executive. FCU manager Oliver Ruhnert and recently sacked Darmstadt personnel executive Carsten Wehlmann have been linked with the position.

Licensing director Clemens Fritz could also be promoted.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Senne Lynen (DM), Leon Opitz (LM), Dawid Kownacki (CF), Kein Sato (LS)

A pair of transfer flops, Senne Lynen, and Dawid Kownacki, might best be parked elsewhere. Youngsters Leon Opitz and Kein Sato would benefit from better developmental destinations. It remains quite the delicate dance for Baumann as he seeks to keep this thin roster in balance. The absolute last thing the SV boss needed was all these confusing rumors surrounding lead-striker Rafael Santos Borré. One doesn't consider the league's 13th-placed side true relegation candidates. A disastrous window could chance that.

Expiring contracts = Jiri Pavlenka (GK), Dudu (GK), Nicolai Rapp (DM), Christian Groß (DM), Mitchell Weiser (RWB), Nick Woltemade (CF)

Reports suggest that the SV front office is actively trying to sign and re-loan prospects Nicolai Rapp and Nick Woltemade. Head-coach Ole Werner and the rest of the club's administrative team have also made it clear how much they value and respect veteran Christian Groß. One of the Bundesliga's mot heartwarming recent stories will probably sign another one-year-deal. Newly elevated first-choice keeper Michael Zetterer's story has proven less than heartwarming. Another extension for Jiri Pavlenka could be in the cards.

Further Needs = LB, CB, RB, LW, RM, ATTM

Former Kiel and current Hertha BSC winger Fabian Reese constitutes the most realistic of the rumored additions. Reese is rumored to favor a move to Bremen after the season if the capital city side can't achieve promotion. MLS midfielder Leon Flach and Dutch attacking prospect Sem Steijn may also find their way to the Hanseatic City State at a later time. Reports on immediate additions remain scarce. Baumann doesn't appear in the mood to risk much in his final window.

Rumored Links = Nathaniel Brown (LB), David Savic (RB), Leon Flach (CM), Fabian Reese (LW), Marco Grüll (LW), Elias Saad (LW) Sam Steijn (ATTM)

VfL Bochum

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€2.5 million 

One of the Ruhr's "cult clubs" chose to firmly stand behind current trainer Thomas Letsch. The administrative tandem of Patrick Fabian and Marc Lettau also appear firmly entrenched. Prospects for avoiding relegation obviously take a big hit with the loss of leading goal-scorer and attacking talisman Takuma "Jaguar" Asano to the Asian continental championship. Pressure builds from below for the 14th-placed Revierklub. Projected risers 1. FC Union Berlin and FSV Mainz 05 threaten to pull them back down into the drop zone.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Mats Pannewig (CM), Lys Mousset (CF)

A 30-man-roster will no viable dead-weight candidates constitutes bad news for Lettau and Fabian. As competent as this duo have proven themselves to be, the payroll cannot be easily reduced. This further complicates efforts to sign many of the key players sitting on expiring contracts. The long list below illustrates just how on-the-bubble this club happens to be. Much remains possible if they remain in the league. Total dismemberment awaits if they fall out. Matters could get truly ugly.

Expiring contracts = Michael Esser (GK), Danilo Soares (LB), Mortiz Römling (LB), Ivan Ordets (CB), Anthony Losilla (DM), Kevin Stöger (ATTM), Philipp Förster (ATTM), Christopher Antwi-Adjei (LW), Takuma Asano (RW) 

Fabian and Lettau will certainly wish to keep Asano, Christopher Antwi-Adjei, Danilo Soares, Ivan Ordets, and Kevin Stöger. Even aging captain Anthony Losilla and skilled back-up keeper Michael Esser are prioritized retention candidates. Serious cash needs to be generated. Philipp Förster regrettably counts as the lone player on an expiring deal that might generate some interest for a sale. Förster may net a couple of million. The front office partnership will look like wizards if they can fetch a sum for the former Stuttgart man and stretch it.

Further Needs = CB, CM, ATTM, CF

Rumored Links = Maxim Leitsch (CB), Adjin Hrustic (CM), Florent Muslija (ATTM) Benedict Hollerbach (LS)

1. FC Union Berlin

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€30 million

Those of us who heaped praise on manager Oliver Ruhnert this past summer now unequivocally feel like abject fools. Yikes. We lauded the FCU personnel boss for his wonderfully inventive strategy of building a "Champions' Lease" side. So much for that. Brenden Aaronson and David Datro Fofana ended up flopping hard. The Leonardo Bonucci signing suddenly appears to be one of the dumbest moves in the history of top-flight German football. Robin Gosens. Kevin Volland. Mikkel Kaufmann. Lucas Tousart. Alex Kral. It all seemed so wonderful on paper. What a complete disaster in practice!

Dead-Weight Ledger = Yannic Stein (GK), Leonardo Bonucci (CB), Alijoscha Kemlein (DM), Mikkel Kaufmann (CF)

Ruhnert finds himself beaten back into a very foreboding corner. Bonucci can't be given away at this point. Parking prospects remains impractical as the relatively young coaching regime doesn't truly know its best XI yet. A 30-man-roster is far too large for a club of this economic stature. The Köpenickers have never been built to leverage themselves to the tune of some €30 million in a single window. The chief FCU front office executive must get this balance sheet repaired before focusing on loans and additions.

Expiring contracts = Frederik Rønnow (GK), Jakob Busk (GK), Robin Knoche (CB), Christopher Trimmel (RB), Laurenz Dehl (RM), Sheraldo Becker (ATTM), Kevin Behrens (CF)

Union's #1 keeper (Fredrik Rønnow), its lead striker (Kevin Behrens), its most potent offensive force (Sheraldo Becker), its defensive linchpin (Robin Knoche), and its captain (Christopher Trimmel) are all sitting on expiring deals. Negotiations cannot even begin to commence until the team solidifies its survival prospects. All German footballing romantics maintain serious concern for die Eisernen. All the administrative missteps destroyed what was once a clear footballing thesis. Here one beholds another team on the precipice of falling apart.

Further Needs = CB, ADM, ATTM

Rumors involving Toni Martinez, Enis Bardhi, and Jan Bednarek all emanate from reputable sources. We run into a bit of basic recruiting problem as, even with guaranteed playing time, few players of potential will want to hop on a sinking ship. Some difference a year makes. World Cup stars Josip Juranovic and Aïssa Laïdouni joined this project without hesitation last January. At present, there exists no defined "project" with which to sell a move. Ruhnert's unenviable task appears unimaginably hard.

Rumored Links = Jan Bednarek (CB), Bogdan Slyubk (CB), Enis Bardhi (ATTM), Toni Martinez (CF)

FSV Mainz 05

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€14.5 million

The team currently occupying the relegation playoff-place liked enough of what they saw from interim trainer Jan Siewert to make his appointment permanent. In principle, the roster sports enough talent to facilitate a raise. Much of this depends on timely returns from injury from actors such as Jonathan Burkardt, Nelson Weiper, Andreas Hanche-Olsen, Maxim Leitsch, and Joshua Guilavogui. Siewert also banks on attackers Karim Onisiwo and Ludovic Ajorque to regain their lost form. Loads of "ifs" in this case.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Aymen Barkok (CM) 

Regrettably, Christian Heidel and Martin Schmidt don't have many moves. The sole marketable player will miss out on AFCON duty this time, yet remains in far too poor a run-of-form to liquidate. Everyone other hand on this 26-man-roster shall be required on deck if Siewert can maintain hopes of a turnaround. The Rheinhessen pocketed a useful enough transfer surplus this summer. It nevertheless amounts to a small amount of change for a small-market club that ran deficits in practically every other window since COVID.

Expiring contracts = Stefan Bell (CB), Joshua Guilavogui (DM), Leandro Barreiro (CM), Merveille Papela (CM), Jonathan Burkardt (CF)

The man Bo Svensson once built the Nullfünfer defense around, Stefan Bell, reportedly doesn't maintain much interest in renewing. Leandro Barreiro, along with Ajorque, remains the subject of outgoing transfer rumors all across Germany. Jonathan Burkardt must first prove that he can rebuild himself into the player he once was after his long injury layoff. Even if the best-case scenario comes to pass, Burkardt may wish to test the market. What extension negotiations we will see will surely have to wait until after the window.

Further Needs = LB, CB, DM, ATTM, RW

Mainz fight against the same recruiting problems any relegation-threatened side must face. What links do crop up come from more speculative sources. Rapid Vienna winger Marco Grüll might be persuaded to hop across the Bundesrepublik to the larger league. Heidel and Schmidt must use all of their lobbying talents to convince both players to come aboard and the board to release funds. The loss of attacking midfielder Jae-Sung Lee to the Asian continental championship pretends immediate pain for the squad.

Rumored Links = Etienne Youté Kinkoue (CB), Seung-ho Paik (CM), Marco Grüll (LW)

1. FC Köln

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = +€100,000

The beleaguered Domstädter enter the new calendar year without a head-coach in place and without the ability to sign any new players. Not even famous Bundesliga "fire-men" like Friedhelm Funkel can hope to save the cathedral city side from the drop this time around. No trainer possessing any degree of sanity will possess any interest in taking the Effzeh head-coaching position. Part of the reason Steffen Baumgart cashed in his cheques in the first place related to the fact that Christian Keller actively seeks to break this team apart this month. The Geißböcke require a true miracle to survive.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Jonas Nickisch (GK), Matthias Köbbing (GK), Luca Kilian (CB), Elias Bakatukanda (CB), Jacob Christensen (DM), Mathias Olesen (CM), Florian Dietz (CF), Damion Downs (LS)

The fact that sporting director Keller already seeks to organize the roster for the second division doesn't necessarily render the topic of loan-outs moot. Part of Keller's proactive work involves cutting the payroll down in order to bring the balance sheet in better order. He's already accomplished some of this via the ridding of Dimitrios Limnios. Florian Dietz, Jacob Christensen, Mathias Olesen and Noah Katterbach - given their lack of usage - probably need to be shown the door as well.

Expiring contracts = Philipp Pentke (GK), Dominique Heintz (CB), Noah Katterbach (LB), Benno Schmitz (RB)

Without the resources to re-sign any of the first-team talent, Keller's primary task remains whoring up the youth ranks. Baumgart's departure does accord the sporting director another crack at disaffected youth star Justin Diehl. Keller should promise Diehl a place with the senior side right away. Jaka Cuber Potocnik - the subject of the transfer ban - should also immediately be promoted to the first team. The club must simultaneously clear a path for the youngsters by liquidating their valuable assets.

That likely translates to departures for all of the players on expiring contracts, as well as players with some value such as Dejan Ljubicic, Jan Thielmann, Steffen Tigges, Linton Maina, and Eric Martel. Much clarity about Köln's future will have to wait until we learn which actors possess contracts valid for the second division. Such information usually becomes available in the final few weeks of the season. Assuming that Keller still has a job at that point, we'll discover how effective he is at organizing the downsize.

Further Needs = N/A

Rumored Links = N/A

SV Darmstadt 98

Estimated Autumn Transfer Balance = -€1.6 million

The news surrounding the other Bundesliga side currently sitting in the automatic relegation place isn't terribly sanguine either. Penniless Darmstadt just fired their sporting director, still have almost no one in their striking corps who can score a goal, and remain without their most effective player until March at the earliest. Club President Rüdiger Fritsch essentially waved the white flag of surrender in a recent interview with Germany's Kicker Magazine. The team prepares for a return to the 2. Bundesliga. Period.

Dead-Weight Ledger = Andreas Müller (DM), Fabio Torisello (LS)

Former sporting director Wehlmann did his club a great service by getting striker Filip Stojilkovic off the payroll and parring the roster down to 30 active professionals. Fritz and the rest of the front office staff have the chance to cut two other players via loans or outright releases. Unfortunately, no chance to generate any funds exists. A 28-man-roster could still enable them to take another useful actor on loan. While speaking to Kicker, Fritz strongly suggested that one more addition was being targeted.

Expiring contracts = Alexander Brunst (GK), Morten Behrens (GK), Emir Karic (LB), Jannik Müller (CB), Thomas Isherwood (CB), Frank Ronstadt (RB), Klaus Gjasula (DM), Fabian Schnellhardt (CM), Mathias Honsak (LW), Braydon Manu (CF), Aaron Seydel (CF)

The Lillies remain something of a black box when it comes to which players they can hope to retain after relegation. In this space, the author shall spend a few words on whether or not relegation is indeed a forgone conclusion. Some encouraging facts about Darmstadt include the recent form surge of Union Berlin loanee Tim Skarke, the fact that the team has scored three goals in two league fixtures, and a total of 20 league goals for the season. Relegation rivals Mainz, Union Berlin, Köln, and Bochum have all netted fewer league tallies.

Further Needs = LB, CB, RB, DM, AM, RW, LW, CF

Needs exist everywhere. Resources preclude much in the way of addressing that. We can again return to some of the less dire news surrounding the club in this final section. Skarke's rise now pushes him to six league goals for the season. Luca Pfeiffer - at long last - scored his first Bundesliga goal in the round 16 3-3 draw with Hoffenheim. Darmstadt have not only netted more league tallies than four of their direct relegation rivals, but also scored as many goals as Wolfsburg have this season. Some faint flickers of hope twinkle.

Rumored Links = Filip Jagiello (CM), Seung-Ho Paik (CM)

Thanks so much for reading! You can catch the release of all Peter's columns (and occasionally catch him goofing off) on whatever the hell they're calling twitter these days @PeterVicey.

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