Bundesliga clubs are usually known for their efficiency in the transfer market, with the majority of teams not having the same sort of spending power as those in other leagues, they rely on players out of contract and loans to make a big impact in their team. An example of this is the number of quality players that are signed on a free or on loan: Joao Cancelo to Bayern Munich, Niklas Sule to Borussia Dortmund, Randal Kolo Muani to Eintracht Frankfurt, Janik Haberer and Danilho Doekhi to Union Berlin. The list goes on and on.
To make these types of deals, you need to have a medium- to long-term plan, otherwise you run the risk of losing quality players on free transfers. One club in such a predicament is Borussia Monchengladbach, with their biggest players such as Ramy Bensebaini and Marcus Thuram able to leave the club for nothing in the summer.
Look further into Gladbach’s team sheet and you realise five of their players are pending free agents and eight more have contracts expiring after the 2023-24 season. Of these, six have importance to the squad and starting XI.
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This is puts the Foals in a predicament, losing two star players this season and facing the possibility of losing a further four next year — and that’s before you count Julian Weigl, who is on loan from Benfica. With so many influential players leaving the club in such a short period, Gladbach’s squad will be without any real assets or value in the near future.
For a club without significant financial backing, this can be devastating, as players leave without compensation or for a transfer fee that’s a fraction of their market value considering their contracts have so little time left to run. This puts the club under further pressure, forcing them to act quickly on major decisions.
For example, if Gladbach fail to negotiate new contracts for players like Nico Elvedi or Florian Neuhaus, they likely would have to transfer them to avoid losing them to free agency. If the club do move them on, though, they will need to find replacements who are not only affordable but also strengthen the squad.
The situation of ex-Gladbach goalkeeper Yann Sommer was a prime example on how difficult this balance is to achieve. With his contract expiring in the summer, Gladbach were pushed to transfer him to Bayern Munich, but only once the Foals themselves had found a replacement. If they hadn’t, Sommer surely would have joined Bensebaini and Thuram in leaving this summer as a free agent.
Gladbach have already mitigated some risk associated with the upcoming problem by extending the contracts of Alassane Plea, Christoph Kramer and Jonas Hofmann. While this gives the squad stability and continuity, it has implications on their overall squad structure by age. In football recruitment, the peak age of players tend to be between 25 and 29 years old for consistency of performance, and players of that age should receive a majority of minutes played.
Outside of this age range is where more inconsistencies lie. Losing the likes of Weigl, Thuram and Bensebaini takes away their best performing players within the peak age group and ensures more of their squad falls outside this range. The Foals will need to sign players in this age group, players who tend to command the most expensive transfer fees, and do so without the assets they might have received from transfers of Thuram and Bensebaini.
From the squad analysis above, Manu Kone and Joe Scally are the only players with enough minutes and talent to fill the void left by players departing in their primes. The pair also have the transfer value to be moved on as a means of funding further squad building.
When we see these types of structural problems within a team, they’ve usually developed over years rather than months. Monchengladbach’s success under former sporting director Max Eberl ultimately led to this team’s pending demise, with Gladbach being in a similar position just two years ago. At that time, four players’ contracts ended at the end of the 2021-22 season, nine more due to end the year after — this current campaign — for a total of 13 players whose mismanaged contract statuses harmed the overall financial value of the club.
There were other factors to consider as well, from the losses suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic to two difficult seasons without qualifying for European football. Both made the club a less desirable destination for new recruits, the first from a financial perspective and the latter from a sporting perspective.
How can those in recruitment fix a tricky situation like this one? Based on Gladbach’s current squad makeup, they need to give more minutes to the bulk of young players they have, such as Nathan Ngoumou and Luca Netz. That seems to be a problem for the club, though, amid reporting from Sport Bild that Conor Noß, another young talent, has been sent down to the U23s with no such reasoning or communication from head coach Daniel Farke or Virkus.
It is not an easy problem to solve, and it won’t be helped by the lack of relevant experience from sporting director Roland Virkus, who was promoted from the club’s academy. Borussia Monchengladbach need to reshape their identity and find creative ways to recruit players, potentially preying on rival clubs’ mismanaged pending free agents like Bensebaini and Thuram.