After a frustrating final season with Julian Nagelsmann at the helm, Director of Football Alexander Rosen has taken the summer to revamp the squad, with many key players leaving (and many new faces in the squad). With former Erik Ten Hag assistant, Alfred Schreuder coming in from Ajax Amsterdam as new head coach, Hoffenheim look to be setting their sights on more consistent top-six finishes.
Transfer Business Overview
Much of the squad's upper crust has been sold off for great profit, a common phenomenon in Hoffenheim at this point. Past sales like that of Carlos Eduardo almost a decade ago and Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland in the last few years have kept the club financially stable.
This year, Joelinton left for Newcastle United, bringing in €44 Million, a new record sale for the Kraichgauer. Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri both left for league rivals Bayer Leverkusen, bringing in €32 Million and €9 Million, respectively. Nico Schulz also left, transferring to Borussia Dortmund for €27 Million. Particularly the departures of Joelinton, Demirbay and Schulz, three integral squad members last season, will be felt.
Young talents Gregor Kobel and Kasim Adams, who sporadically impressed last season, also departed to VfB Stuttgart and Fortuna Düsseldorf, respectively, both on loan deals.
To make up for these numerous departures, Hoffe has primarily looked towards smaller leagues throughout Europe to find some budding new stars. Diadie Samassékou, signed for €12 Million from RB Salzburg, becomes the club's new record signing. Robert Skov joins for €10 Million from FC Copenhagen, an attempted replacement for Joelinton. Ihlas Bebou joins from newly relegated Hannover 96 for €8.5 Million, and Sargis Adamyan joins from Jahn Regensburg for an economical €1.5 Million. Philipp Pentke and Konstantinos Stafylidis also join on free transfers from Regensburg and FC Augsburg, respectively.
One of the less glamorous, but most exciting transfers for Hoffe may be the return of Sebastian Rudy on a year-long loan from FC Schalke 04. Rudy spent almost a decade at Hoffenheim, moving up from a youth talent to a versatile midfield man before commanding his transfer to Bayern Munich a number of years ago. Seeing him in a Hoffenheim kit again is sure to warm the hearts of many fans. No doubt he will also become a leader on the pitch with his experiences in the Kraichgau.
Alfred Schreuder made a name for himself in the past years as assistant manager to the renowned Erik Ten Hag, repeatedly being seen whispering on the sideline. Ajax's impressive performances last season in both Eredivisie and UEFA Champions League were enough of an advertisement for Schreuder in themselves, but personal history also drew Hoffe to the man.
Before taking his job at Ajax in 2018, Schreuder worked for almost three years as an assistant under Julian Nagelsmann. Not only is Schreuder familiar with the club and the region, but he has learned and developed tactical knowledge with the most influential manager in recent history at the club. In the DFB Pokal game against the Würzburger Kickers last week, Schreuder had the squad playing in a 3-5-2 formation, though there will also be some tactical rotating done to see what lineups the squad is best suited to.
Player(s) to Watch
Austrian Florian Grillitsch has impressed immensely in his past years at Hoffe, maturing into a stellar defensive midfielder with a strong ability to tackle and defend, yet also direct play and even foster counter-attacks from midfield. He even showed his goal instincts last year, netting an exquisite chip in the Champions League group stage against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Of course, Andrej Kramaric continues to be the star attacking man in the squad, with an impressive record last season and an ever-climbing market value to attest to that. Though surrounded by transfer rumours all summer, it seems he will stay around at Hoffe for at least another season. His goals and assists will be critical to a Europa League spot in the table.
One For The Future
Hoffenheim's squad is perennially loaded with young, promising talent, and every year multiple players impress and fight their way into the lineup. In the past two years, Dennis Geiger has risen from a teenager in the U19s to the first-choice midfield maestro in a 3-5-2. Though hampered by injuries last year, this season he will definitely impress if he manages to stay fit.
Austrian Christoph Baumgartner may make a name for himself this season if granted some play-time by Schreuder. Though he fell into disrepute following a sending off on the final matchday of last season, if he matures he may find himself repeatedly selected for Bundesliga and DFB Pokal games. However, should he be unable to control his temper it may be another season spent at the U19 level.
Though it might seem worrying to some, Hoffenheim's fire-sale of key players this summer is nothing new at the club. The sale of stars for large sums to England (see: Joelinton, Firmino, Demba Ba years earlier) is merely the final step in a cycle that repeats itself every couple seasons at Hoffenheim. The reaction of Alexander Rosen and Schreuder to look mainly to smaller leagues (2. Bundesliga, Austrian Bundesliga, Danish Superliga) to compensate for the lost players is the first step in a new cycle. In a number of years, we may see Robert Skov and Ihlas Bebou moving on from Hoffenheim to big-name clubs as well.
The question remains if, for the coming season, these signings are enough to edge out Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Eintracht Frankfurt and VFL Wolfsburg for the Europa League spots. Though the lineup may not be as recognizably strong and deep as in years past, the tactical ingenuity of Alfred Schreuder should allow Hoffenheim to clinch a fifth or sixth-place finish.