No other Bundesliga side were as busy as Eintracht Frankfurt during the January transfer window, with Die Adler bringing in five fresh faces before the deadline on 1 February. The new arrivals could well be just what is required to secure a return to the UEFA Champions League.
On paper, Dino Toppmöller’s men enjoyed a solid start to the season, finishing 2023 in sixth place, nine adrift of the top four. However, a run of just two wins in nine games in all competitions, including a DFB-Cup defeat to third-tier Saarbrücken, was cause for concern and suggested some reinforcements were necessary to push on after the winter break.
In recent seasons, Frankfurt have earned a reputation for being astute in the transfer market and, once again, they didn’t disappoint. They started early this time around, securing the loan transfer of Donny van de Beek from Manchester United in December.
It is fair to say the midfielder struggled during his time at Old Trafford, making just 62 appearances for the Red Devils since signing in 2020. However, injuries played a role in his dropping down the pecking order, and his time at Ajax indicates he has ability to perform at the highest level.
His 175 appearances for his boyhood club produced an Eredivisie and Dutch Cup title apiece, while he was a key part of Ajax’s run to the Champions League semi-finals in 2018/2019, even scoring against Tottenham Hotspur in the final four. For Frankfurt, he has already made three league starts, and should be someone Toppmöller can rely on between now and the end of May. If things go swimmingly, there is an option to makes things permanent in the summer.
While Van de Beek’s switch saw him compete in Germany for the first time, Bundesliga supporters will be familiar with the returning Saša Kalajdžić, who boosted the Hessen-based outfit’s attacking options on a temporary basis from Wolves. The Austrian enjoyed two fruitful seasons at Stuttgart between 2020 and 2022, netting 22 goals in 48 league outings prior to his departure for the English Premier League.
His 6’7” frame coupled with sound technical ability made him a hit at the MHPArena, but his spell in England was also plagued by health issues – a cruciate ligament tear suffered on his debut kept him out for the remainder of the 2022/23 campaign. The next six months will give him the opportunity to rebuild his career.
As Frankfurt took stock of the opening 16 matchdays, there was clearly room for improvement in front of goal. At that point of the term, they had found the back of the net on just 26 occasions, the lowest total amongst the top six and fewer than 12th-placed Borussia Mönchengladbach. Kalajdžić’s capture is an attempt to address that problem, as is fellow attacking arrival Hugo Ekitiké.
Like van de Beek, the 21-year-old initially links up with his new teammates on loan but could sign for good following the end of the season. He burst onto the scene at Stade de Reims before earning a move to Paris Saint-Germain, but Les Parisiens’ plethora of big-money strikers has stunted his progress. With Frankfurt still competing on two fronts – they have a UEFA Europa League play-off tie with Union Saint-Gilloise to come – he should get plenty of opportunities to impress and show what he is capable of.
The final two signings are ones to look out for in the future. Although Jean-Mattéo Bahoya, aged just 18, is something of an unknown quantity, he did well with Angers during the first half of the French Ligue 2 season, while 20-year-old Nathaniel Brown’s move from Nuremberg will provide extra cover at left-back from next term - he will remain with Der Club until this one's conclusion.
All in all, Toppmöller and his team have made full use of the window. Van de Beek and Kalajdžić have already made an impact, helping the team to two wins and a draw in January to move within five points of Borussia Dortmund in the final Champions League spot and, should the rest of the new recruits be able to slot in just as seamlessly, Frankfurt may well be one to watch in the run-in.
Bundesliga winter transfer XI
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How will Frankfurt line up with Van de Beek?
Frankfurt have signed Donny van de Beek on loan from Man Utd until the end of the season. How will they line up with the Dutchman in their ranks?