German footballers are popular with clubs from the premier league. With 25 Germans, our eastern neighbours are, for the third year in a row, purveyors of foreign players to the Netherlands, an honorary title that was once strictly reserved for Belgium and the Scandinavian countries.
Last week, the counter for German players who will be active in the premier league next season came to twenty-five. Vitesse brought in Berlin-born midfielder Idrissa Touré from Juventus and PSV attracted leftback Philipp Max from FC Augsburg for a million-dollar sum.
Why is it that German footballers have been so popular lately?
Click in the app on the visualisation below, for an image of foreign footballers in the premier league over the years:
“From our stadium, 300 meters from the border, you can be at about ten clubs from the second and third German divisions to scout” says Stan Valckx, technical manager of VVV-Venlo, the club where most Germans currently play.
Steffen Schäfer, Thorsten Kirschbaum, Lukas Schmitz, Tobias Pachonik, Christian Kum. They have two things in common: they play football at VVV and have a German passport. In recent years, Nils Röseler, Richard Neudecker, John Yeboah, Elia Soriano, Peniel Mlapa, Lars Unnerstall and Lennart Thy also played with the Venlo people.
Valckx: “Over the past few years I have been approached more often by German business managers than by Dutch ones. We are in a good position as a developing country and they know that. Here you can make a giant leap from the lower divisions in Germany to the Bundesliga”
There is a lot on offer, notes Valckx. “Clubs in the First or Second Bundesliga or Third League work with gigantic selections with a lot of young players. Those talents have a tough time in those leagues. They dont make it.”
“Check it out,” says Valckx. “Every match there are up to ten Bundesliga scouts here. Young German talents are right here in the window.”
Where are the Danes?
Ten years ago, the statistics “foreigners in the premier league” looked very different. Compared to 35 Belgians, 16 Swedes and 14 Danes there were only 5 Germans. Although the transfer market is still open for a month and therefore something can change, the counter now stands at 25 Germans, 22 Belgians and 10 Swedes. The number of Danes (4) also stands out – still the country that provided many flavors this century, but now seems to be on its way back.
Twenty years ago only one German was active in the premier league. Simon Cziommer, then midfielder at FC Twente, would become the German with the most premier league matches behind his name. In the meantime he has stopped, but still lives in the Netherlands.
Cziommer is not surprised by the strong increase of German footballers in the premier league. According to him it is a logical consequence of sophisticated football policy in his homeland.
“In my early years, the prototype German player was physically strong, conditionally fine and mentally top-notch. In the youth it was all about the changeover, being compact in a defensive 4-4-2 or 5-3-2 tactic. Something has been added to that in recent years: German youth players are technically and tactically much better trained.”
Shortly before the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the training of German football players was thoroughly reformed, remembers Cziommer. “The national policy that was introduced at that time now provides a very broad stream of players who actually master all facets of professional football”
Erik Meijer, former striker of the Bundesliga clubs KFC Uerdingen, Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburger SV and nowadays analyst of Sky Deutschland, also saw how the seed was laid for the German flight to the premier league.
“Every professional club had to get a training center about fifteen years ago. The better your education was, the more stars you got. And the more stars, the more money you received from the German Federation. As a result, there was a very large pool of players.”
“Then something else is playing,” Cziommer knows. He saw a change in mentality the last few years. Germans and Dutch see more and more each others advantages. “In German football, the Netherlands is no longer regarded as a step backwards because of its development opportunities. Internationals even come from here. Thats what counts.”
Younes, Uth and Gosens
Shining examples are Amin Younes, Mark Uth and Robin Gosens. From the lower German regions they ended up in the premier league. Last years, the three players made their debut at Die Mannschaft.
Uth played between 2012 and 2015 for sc Heerenveen and Heracles. Gosens made his professional debut in 2013 with first divisionist FC Dordrecht, which hired him from Vitesse, and then played for two more seasons for Heracles. Younes wore the shirt of Ajax two years ago.
Because of that kind of peaks, German talents are increasingly taking the gamble. “Not everyone has a place in the Bundesliga or even the Second Bundesliga,” says Meijer. “Certainly not because that league is now also attractive to big foreign players.”
And so now there is a hint of order and regularity blowing over the training complexes of clubs like Willem II, Fortuna, VVV, Heracles, Vitesse and PSV. “Ive seldom heard that a German is fourteen times late at a training session,” says Meijer. “Thats just not in the nature of the beastie.”