Cologne - The transfer window may have closed a few days ago, but that did not stop SV Werder Bremen pulling off one of the more unexpected deals of the summer by re-signing veteran striker Claudio Pizarro, who was a free agent after his contract at FC Bayern München expired.
It is the Peruvian's third spell at the Green-Whites after first joining them in 1999 and then returning for a second time in 2008. bundesliga.com examines how the 36-year-old will help Bremen this season...
Seeing as Pizarro has not been tied to a club for over two months he is likely to be lacking match fitness, so Bremen fans should not expect him to complete 90 minutes every week. Nevertheless, that is not to say he will not have a role to play: the Bundesliga's all-time top scoring foreigner is a wily operator and outstanding as an impact substitute.
Pizarro has scored 14 times after coming off the bench - a figure no other current Bundesliga player can match. Indeed, that tally is only beaten by Alexander Zickler's haul of 18 goals as a supersub. Furthermore, Pizarro holds the record as the most clinical finisher in Bundesliga history after netting ten times in just 684 minutes in 2013/14. No other player to have reached double figures in a single season has ever had as good a minutes-per-goal ratio.
Mentor for youngsters
Given his vast experience in the game, Bremen are hoping to tap into Pizarro's wealth of knowledge to help the team's younger players. “In terms of charisma, Claudio fits in perfectly,” said sporting director Thomas Eichin at Pizarro’s official unveiling. “He can give our young players that little bit extra.”
Pizarro himself said: "When you have the experience I have, you have to pass it on to younger players. That's part of my job." He know first-hand just how beneficial such an arrangement can be: “As a youngster I profited from a similar situation when Bremen signed Julio Cesar (pictured, r.) in my very first year here.” As fellow attackers Anthony Ujah (24), Maximilian Eggestein (18) and Aron Johannsson (24) are still relatively young, Pizarro's arrival could prove to be very fruitful indeed.
During Pizarro’s first spell at the club he formed a prolific partnership with Brazilian frontman Ailton, with the duo going on to be dubbed “Pizzatoni”. They notched a combined total of 22 goals in their first season together, and increased that to 33 in their second year. With ‘Tony’ Ujah on the books at Bremen, fans will be hoping the free-scoring “Pizzatoni” amalgam can be revived.
The settling in period should be relatively quick for Pizarro in light of his familiarity with the city and the club. He will also be helped by the fact that he is already well acquainted with many of the coaching staff. Bremen’s new No.14 played alongside head coach Viktor Skripnik at the Weser-Stadion between 1999 and 2001, and spent six years in the same team as current assistant coach Torsten Frings, while the duo also played together at Bayern for a season. Getting the best out of Pizarro should therefore not be a problem.
Burgsmüller mark two?
When it comes to successfully signing players over the age of 35, Bremen have previous. In 1985/86, Manfred Burgsmüller joined the club shortly before turning 36. In his first season he netted 13 goals in 20 appearances, and he went on to hit a total of 34 times in 115 outings, while also winning the Bundesliga title with the club in 1988.
Incidentally, Burgsmüller is fourth in the league’s all-time top scorers chart on 213 goals after recording his last strike at the age of 39. If Pizarro, who currently has 176 Bundesliga goals, can follow in his footsteps, he could feasibly overtake him.