Germany’s Bundesliga, one of Europe’s big five, returns Friday with the season opener between perennial champ Bayern Munich hosting serial relegation escapee Hamburg SV. With these adjectives in mind, it follows, then, that few are predicting anything but a comfortable Bayern win to start the season.
In fact, few are predicting anything other than a fourth consecutive title for coach Pep Guardiola’s team: not only did the Bavarian club win the league again last season with relative ease, it has brought in some high-profile new blood in the shape of former Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal and former Shakhtar Donetsk forward Douglas Costa. When you add in youngster Joshua Kimmich and goalkeeper Sven Ulreich, Bayern’s total summer spending amounts to 79 million euros ($88 million).
According to ESPN, that’s more than one-quarter of total Bundesliga spending so far this summer—but the rest of the league has been spending this summer, too: in fact, by end of day Wednesday, total Bundesliga spending had surpassed 280 million euros ($313 million), which means that Germany’s top division will comfortably beat its previous transfer window record of 287 million euros ($319.8 million), set in 2012.
After Bayern, the second-biggest spenders so far this summer are Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke, which have each shelled out 30 million euros ($33.5 million). Bayer has added Chilean midfielder Charles Aranguiz, big defenders Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Jonathan Tah and forward Admir Mehmedi, while Schalke, which begins the season with new coach Andre Breitenreiter, has brought in 21-year-old defensive midfielder Johannes Geis, ex-Manchester City center-back Matija Nastasic, Brazilian fullback Junior Caicara, and former Werder Bremen striker Franco Di Santo.
The departure of Di Santo for Schalke is significant because it opened the door for USA striker Aron Johannsson to secure his reported 5 million euro ($5.6 million) move to Bremen from AZ Alkmaar. Though this is a great move for the Icelandic-American, not much is expected of Bremen, which finished 10th last year, this season. Incidentally, Di Santo could face a hot reception when he and Schalke head to Bremen’s Weserstadion for the clubs’ first game on Saturday.
After Bayer and Schalke, Borussia Moenchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund appear next on the spending list, with the ‘Gladbach spending 10 million euros ($11.2 million) on former Bayer forward Josip Drmic as well as 8 million euros ($8.9 million) on Thorgan Hazard, brother of Chelsea star Eden Hazard. Meanwhile, Dortmund’s biggest signing of the summer has been Gonzalo Castro, another former Leverkusen player, for 11 million euros ($12.3 million). The bigger story there has been the addition of new coach Thomas Tuchel and the retention of stars Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus.
Finally, last season’s second-place finisher, Wolfsburg, is sixth on the spending list, having spent just 14.7 million euros ($16.4 million), most of which was used on Germany international Max Kruse. Of course, any day now, Wolfsburg is expected to send star midfielder Kevin De Bruyne to Manchester City for a reported fee of 47 million euros ($56.4 million), which means the Wolves could end up with a cash windfall before the transfer window closes that it would have to spend, given the Belgian’s importance.
Of course, spending money doesn’t necessarily guarantee a good season. Though you could bet your mortgage on Bayern winning the Bundesliga again, the three UEFA Champions places underneath the Bavarian giant could be up for grabs this season. With the transfer window still open for another two-and-a-half weeks, Germany’s top clubs will continue to reinforce their squads, but the bulk of the work has already been done.
Time to let the chips fall where they may.