Munich – The festive element of the winter break is fast drawing to a close for the German game's top-flight professionals, who are already gearing up for some seriously hard work prior to the recommencement of league action in late January.
Bottom-end activity to be expected
Alongside the fitness programmes and tactical fine-tuning, the coming weeks also offer the final opportunity of the campaign for clubs to freshen up on the personnel front. Germany's winter transfer window officially opened on 1 January and runs through to the end of the month and, while not traditionally such a hive of big-spending activity as the likes of the English Premier League, it does invariably see some intriguing deals closed as the clubs seek to optimise their options for the long charge down the final season straight.
Things have been relatively quiet in the run-up, with Jan Kirchhoff the most significant confirmed mover thus far, the Germany U-21 central defender swapping FC Bayern for FC Schalke 04 on loan for the next 18 months. The pace will doubtless pick up as the month unfolds, but even as the rumour mill kicks into its annual winter overdrive, the Bundesliga's coaches and sporting directors are likely to be focusing on similarly solid, low-key arrangements at this juncture.
Extrapolating from the recent past, much of the wheeling and dealing ahead will be done by the sides currently ensnared in the dogfight against the drop. This time last year, for example, struggling trio 1899 Hoffenheim, SpVgg Greuther Fürth and Fortuna Düsseldorf were all leading the way on the incoming transfer table, each snapping up five or more players, often on a half-season loan, in an all-out bid to turn around their fortunes. It proved to no avail for Fürth and Düsseldorf, but Hoffenheim pulled through by the skin of their teeth, thanks more perhaps to Markus Gisdol's promotion to head coach than the mid-season influx of new faces.
Mid-winter return for Bundesliga old familiars
As a rule, the large-scale winter overhaul is a measure that has met with limited success in the past. On the other hand, though, there have been some eye-catching one-off coups ahead of the league restart. One obvious case in point was Nuri Sahin's return from Real Madrid to Borussia Dortmund at the start of 2013, again on an initial 18-month loan agreement. After a period of readjustment, the Turkish international is now getting back to the kind of form that made him such an inspirational contributor to BVB's 2010/11 title triumph.
Generally speaking, temporary deals on players looking for more regular game time or simply a fresh start can be a particularly profitable vein for clubs to mine during the winter transfer window. Raffael, for one, made best use of his half-season on loan at Schalke to reconfirm his Bundesliga credentials following a brief intermezzo in Ukraine with Dynamo Kyiv. This season, however, it is Borussia Mönchengladbach rather than the Royal Blues who are profiting greatly from the Brazilian attacking midfielder's talents.
New stars on the horizon
Whether as a short-term stop-gap or with an eye to developments further down the line – as with Bayer 04 Leverkusen's loan-with-option-to-buy signing of South Korean forward prospect Seung-Woo Ryu – the vast majority of Bundesliga clubs will likely add to their ranks in some shape or form before the end of January. And while not every move will pay off, the chances are that fans of at least some of Germany's finest will be chanting the names of a few new heroes before the season's end.