Fortuna Düsseldorf Season Preview: Die Flingeraner aiming to consolidate top flight position
Rouwen Hennings celebrates (Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images).

Transfer Business Overview

Much of the talk surrounding Fortuna Düsseldorf's transfer dealings so far have regarded outgoings rather than new signings. This was to be expected after the side had an excellent 2018/19 season, returning to the Bundesliga with a 10th place finish. 

When such a side overachieves, the star performers inevitably are targeted by bigger clubs. Benito Raman was key to the club's achievements last campaign, contributing 10 goals and being a vital component of the fast counter-attacking style utilised. However, the Belgian wide man has left for FC Schalke 04.

Fortuna will also miss the contributions of loanee Dodi Lukebakio, whose €20 million price tag was outside their reach. He has joined Hertha BSC instead. 

As a result, Fortuna's recruitment drive must focus on replacing the attacking talent of Raman and Lukebakio.

Bernard Tekpetey should go some way to providing attacking flair. The Schalke man comes in on loan and was important in SC Paderborn's promotion campaign. The 21-year-old netted 10 times in the second tier last campaign and will be desperate to prove himself in the top flight. Other loan arrivals include Zack Steffen and Lewis Baker from Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.

Manager

The success of the Bundesliga's oldest coach Friedhelm Funkel was one of the surprise stories of last season. 

At 65 years old, the veteran had a reputation for failure in the top flight. All in all, he has been involved in six Bundesliga relegation campaigns as a coach. His previous top division experience prior to Düsseldorf had been relegation with Hertha BSC in 2010. 

So with last year's performance, Funkel proved a number of doubters wrong. He was helped by some stellar individual player performances during the season, but much of the credit must go to Funkel for his expansive counter-attacking style. 

Funkel will hope to continue this positivity in the coming season. Helping to establish Fortuna in the Bundesliga will go some way to right the wrongs of the coach's past record.

Player to Watch

For all that has been made of Düsseldorf's departures, one key player has been retained thus far. Kaan Ayhan played a significant role in the heart of the Fortuna defence last season, and the club will be especially reliant on his performances if they are to replicate their mid-table finish. 

Key man Kaan Ayhan in action (Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images)
Key man Kaan Ayhan in action (Photo: TF-Images/Getty Images).

Ayhan is still only 24 years old, but already has a depth of experience with 23 caps for Turkey. He represents a leadership figure in the team in spite of his relatively young age. 

Strong in the air, Ayhan is likely to be dominant in either box. To supplement his defensive contributions, he scored four Bundesliga goals last season as he represented a dangerous goal threat from set-pieces.

Hanging onto Ayhan should be a priority for Fortuna, as the defender has attracted much interest from the likes of Schalke. If he is to remain at the club for the entire season and continues his consistent form, Düsseldorf will stand a greater chance of repeating last year's success.

One for the Future

Kelvin Ofori was one of Fortuna's summer arrivals. He comes from the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana after impressing on a trial. 

The 18-year-old should settle in well in Germany, as he joins three of his Ghanaian compatriots in Düsseldorf. Bernard Tekpetey, Nana Ampomah and Kassim Adams along with Ofori make up Fortuna's growing contingent from Ghana. 

Ofori operates as an attacking midfielder. With the depth of Fortuna's current midfield, he may struggle for regular league opportunities in this season.

However, he seems determined to impress when called upon in the first team. Ofori managed to score on his debut in the DFB Pokal against FC 08 Villingen.

More scoring contributions like this will encourage Funkel to give Ofori more game time. If he gains experience with minutes in the Bundesliga, the midfielder could prove an exciting prospect for the future.

Predicted Finish

16th: Fortuna may struggle to emulate the successes of the 2018/19 season. The roles played by Raman and Lukebakio should not be underestimated, and the replacements brought in such as Tekpetey may struggle to replicate the form of their predecessors. 

Funkel's performance as a coach last campaign will reward him with more patience from the club board, and it will be vital to stick by him in a potentially difficult campaign with heightened expectations. 

Fortuna Düsseldorf should have enough in their squad to avoid automatic relegation, especially given the lack of top-flight experience in the FC Union Berlin and SC Paderborn squads. However, it could prove difficult to avoid the dreaded 16th place relegation playoff spot. 

 

VAVEL Logo