Julian Brandt has left for Borussia Dortmund, but Bayer Leverkusen have moved quickly to strengthen for their assault on next season’s UEFA Champions League, with Moussa Diaby, Kerem Demirbay and Daley Sinkgraven arriving from PSG, Hoffenheim and Ajax respectively…
Nationality: France (7 U20 caps/3 goals)/Mali
Signed from: Paris Saint-Germain
Story so far: The recipient of the 2016 Titi d’Or as the most promising and best talent in the PSG academy – an award previous won by Bayern Munich’s Kingsley Coman and RB Leipzig’s Jean-Kevin Augustin – clubs have been keeping tabs on the French teenager for a number of years. Diaby spent the second half of 2017/18 on loan at Crotone in Italy before staring with France at the 2018 UEFA European Under-19 Championship, where he registered a goal and three assists as he was named in the team of the tournament.
He broke into the PSG first team for the 2018/19 season under former Mainz and Dortmund boss Thomas Tuchel, becoming a regular on the Parisians’ wings as he won his first major piece of silverware, France’s Ligue 1. Diaby averaged an assist every 190 minutes during the league campaign (six in 25 games) and took that form into the summer’s FIFA U-20 World Cup, where the 19-year-old scored once and assisted two more in four matches.
Role next season: “I’m sure Moussa Diaby will provide us with great joy thanks to his speed and technique,” said Leverkusen managing director Rudi Völler. It means Bundesliga audiences can expect to see the France youth international running at defenders throughout the course of his five-year contract. Diaby may be left footed and prefer that side of the pitch, but he is equally adept on the right flank and could therefore feature on either side in Peter Bosz’s 4-3-3 system. Will he provide competition to Leon Bailey or form a deadly wing partnership with the Jamaican? He may have to prove himself against the evergreen Karim Bellarabi on the right though.
Story so far: He may only be 25 years of age but Demirbay has had a rather nomadic career to date. After starting out as a six-year-old with local club Schalke, he later crossed the Revierderby divide and joined the academy of rivals Dortmund. He never featured for the first team before a move to Hamburg, where he made his Bundesliga debut in April 2014. Loan spells to Bundesliga 2 sides Kaiserslautern and Fortuna Düsseldorf, where he finished as top scorer from midfield, attracted the attention of Hoffenheim in 2016.
During three seasons in Sinsheim, the former Turkey youth international became a key cog in central midfield and even scored the goal in 2016/17 that earned Hoffenheim European qualification for the first time in their history. He was rewarded for that campaign with his first Germany caps and was a member of the team that won the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia. In his final season with Hoffenheim, Demirbay chipped in with four goals and nine assists in the Bundesliga, boasting a pass completion rate of 83.4 per cent at the heart of midfield.
Watch: Demirbay secures Hoffenheim’s place in Europe for the first time
Role next season: Völler described the signing of Demirbay as “a clear signal of our ambitions” as Die Werkself return to the Champions League in 2019/20. Sporting director Simon Rolfes added, “He will be an important factor for us in meeting our targets next season.” He has seemingly become even more crucial following the departure of Brandt, who had filled one of the three central midfield berths in Bosz’s system. Demirbay provides a ready-made replacement at the heart of the Leverkusen team, stating that Bayer’s attacking football “really suits me”.
Nationality: Netherlands (5 U21 caps)
Position: Left-back/box-to-box midfielder
Signed from: Ajax
Story so far: Sinkgraven was handed his professional debut as an 18-year-old by Marco van Basten at Heerenveen before a move to Dutch giants Ajax in January 2015. He was a regular member of the first team from the start but failed to claim one position as his own. The left footer featured in attacking and deeper central midfield roles, as well as on both wings. When Bosz took over the Amsterdam club in 2016, however, Sinkgraven was converted into a left-back and became first choice in the position as the team reached the final of the 2016/17 UEFA Europa League. His progress since then has been hampered somewhat by serious knee injuries that has seen the Dutchman play just 13 league games in the last two seasons. He did though pick up the first silverware of his career in the season just gone with the Dutch league and cup double.
Role next season: For Leverkusen, the 23-year-old is all about flexibility. “Daley Sinkgraven is a technically very versatile player and above all knows the style of play of our coach Peter Bosz,” sporting director Rolfes said of the latest acquisition. It will be interesting to see where exactly the Dutchman fits into this Leverkusen team, but Völler admitted that he was not signed with a single position in mind. “His versatility provides us with more options. We believe that’s extremely important when looking at the possibility of squad rotation because of the number of fixtures we’ll face,” the 1983 German Footballer of the Year added.
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