Donyell Malen, Rafael Santos Borre and the top 5 new players to look out for in 2021/22
Bundesliga clubs have been busy recruiting this summer, with Donyell Malen, Rafael Santos Borre, Omar Richards, Stevan Jovetic and Caden Clark five of the new faces that you should keep an eye out for in 2021/22.
bundesliga.com shines a light on this star-studded quintet of newcomers who could shine in their first year in German football...
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Signed from: PSV Eindhoven
Country: Netherlands (13 caps/2 goals)
Dortmund no longer have England winger Jadon Sancho to call upon, but Erling Haaland still expects that they can be even better without their former No.7. The Norwegian superstar's confidence stems not only from being reunited with his former Salzburg coach Marco Rose, but also from the club moving swiftly to find a ready-made replacement for Sancho.
"Donyell's a player with great attacking potential who poses a real danger in front of goal," said BVB sporting director Michael Zorc. "He'll bring us his creativity and plays at a high tempo."
That description could easily be applied to the man Malen has replaced, and gives a hint of the type of explosive impact that the former Ajax and Arsenal academy player could have in the Bundesliga. He hit double figures for league goals in each of the past three seasons at PSV, scoring 19 and making eight more in his last year there before featuring in all four of the Netherlands’ matches at UEFA Euro 2020.
A childhood fan of former Brazil maestro Ronaldinho, Malen will keep opponents guessing by offering Dortmund further flexibility in attack, as highlighted by former Schwarzgelbe captain - and current head of licensed player division at BVB - Sebastian Kehl, who says of Malen: "He can be used in different systems, be it up front as a lone striker, as one of two strikers or on the wings."
Club: Bayern Munich
Signed from: Reading
Country: England (U21 cap)
The signing of Richards may have come a little out of left field but the Londoner could end up being a key component on Bayern’s left side. Injuries to Alphonso Davies and Lucas Hernandez thrust the new recruit up the pecking order, and he is now likely to get an earlier than expected turn in the limelight.
Richards played over 100 games for English Championship outfit Reading before joining the six-time European champions, clocking up 41 appearances - including 38 starts - in the English second tier last season. The hard-working full-back played in four Bayern friendlies in July - starting three - but even before then he had impressed his new boss Julian Nagelsmann in training.
"Omar's an extremely smart young man who is very eager to learn and has already integrated well," Nagelsmann told Kicker early in pre-season. "I’m very satisfied with him so far. He’s training well, has good technique, is good with the ball, and can dribble."
Richards could potentially get a chance to showcase all of those qualities again in Bayern’s Bundesliga opener at Borussia Mönchengladbach on 13 August.
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Signed from: River Plate
Country: Colombia (8 caps)
Andre Silva helped the Eagles to soar into fifth with a club record 28 league goals in 2020/21, with the Portuguese striker’s departure for RB Leipzig leaving a major gap to fill. Eintracht, though, had already lined up Colombian forward Borre, and he showed what he can bring in his very first appearance for the club.
Borre led the line in a 3-4-2-1 formation in Eintracht’s final pre-season friendly on 31 July, and almost got the opening goal against French top flight-side Saint-Etienne after only 12 minutes. Christopher Lenz snapped up the rebound after Borre’s volley was saved, but the new Eagles frontman would soon bring the 10,000 fans in attendance to their feet again by scoring from the penalty spot in a 2-1 win.
"He’s a top striker," said Eintracht defender Martin Hinteregger after the game, and Borre’s record would suggest as much, considering he finished with 56 goals in 149 matches for Argentine giants River Plate.
"I’m very adaptable and can play in a lot of tactical formations," Borre said after his arrival in Frankfurt in late July. "I can play on the wing but also through the middle. I’m very attack-minded and I feel most at home when I’m close to the opposition goal."
Club: Hertha Berlin
Signed from: Monaco
Country: Montenegro (61 caps/31 goals)
Flexible attacking signings seem to be all the rage in the Bundesliga this summer, and Hertha Berlin were no different. The capital club’s sporting director Fredi Bobic is a former striker himself, and he moved swiftly to secure Jovetic's signature on a free transfer from Monaco.
Montenegro’s captain and record goalscorer adds a wealth of know-how, having - as Bobic was quick to note - already scored in the Premier League, Serie A, Ligue 1, and La Liga. Still only 31, he could be Hertha’s answer to Union Berlin’s Max Kruse - an experienced player who took the Bundesliga by storm last term with both his quick thinking and sharp finishing. Jovetic proved as much in his Hertha debut, as he came off the bench to score twice in a 4-3 victory over Liverpool.
"He’s a really versatile player, not just a striker," Bobic said after watching Jovetic strut his stuff in front of 12,000 fans in the friendly win in Austria. "He can play anywhere in an attacking sense, gets into space and likes to receive the ball. He’s certainly confident on the ball and that’s always good."
Jovetic had plenty of people to turn to for advice before his move. Monaco’s head coach is Berlin native, former Hertha player and ex-Bayern boss Niko Kovac, while the player’s agent also lived in the German capital for many years. The Montenegrin also spoke to Monaco’s Germany international striker Kevin Volland, his friend and ex-Hertha winger Nemanja Radonjic, as well as his former Manchester City teammate and current Schalke defender Matija Nastastic before making the switch.
Club: RB Leipzig (joining after MLS season ends in December)
Signed from: New York Red Bulls
Position: Attacking midfielder
Leipzig fans will have to wait a little longer before seeing one of their exciting new signings up close, although it’s likely to be worth the wait. Clark will get more game time with New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer before moving to Germany in December at the end of the North American season. When he gets to Leipzig, Clark will have fellow Americans Tyler Adams and head coach Jesse Marsch to make his transition easier.
"He can run, he’s aggressive, he’s talented with the ball, he’s creative around the goal," Marsch said when discussing Clark’s game in July. "He’s clearly shown that he has quality. I think a combination of a really aggressive personality with an aggressive way of playing fits really well with the way we think about football in Leipzig."
Marsch describes Clark as an extremely confident teenager, which the Minnesota native backed up with goals in each of his first two MLS appearances in October and November 2020. The 18-year-old revealed shortly after his move was announced, though, that the new Leipzig boss had advised him to use his last months in America wisely.
"I just had a simple conversation with Jesse the other day - just about these next six months," Clark said in July. "I’m still an MLS player and I need to just improve my professionalism, use these six months to set yourself up for later on. So the basic things – be professional, try to be a leader at a young age. It’s not easy of course but just be a leader in some way that you can, and just be the best I can on the field. Stay healthy, just little things. Learn German, got to do that."
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