The likes of Luka Jovic, Klaas-Han Huntelaar and Sami Khedira have returned to the Bundesliga.
Club: Hertha Berlin
Admittedly, Jarstein is the only player on this list not to have moved club this winter, but he represents a change in the Hertha Berlin dugout, with Pal Dardai having been restored as coach to replace the outgoing Bruno Labbadia.
Alexander Schwolow had been the first-choice so far this season, but Jarstein was Dardai’s No.1 previously, helping the Old Lady qualify for the UEFA Europa League in 2017, and the big Norwegian was back between the posts for the first game of Dardai’s second stint in charge, against Eintracht Frankfurt last Saturday.
“I spoke with Alex, he’s a good goalkeeper,” said Dardai. “He wasn’t to blame for the goals we’ve conceded, but he hasn’t been lucky.”
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
“A technically adept, fast and physically strong defender who can be used both as a right-back and in the centre,” according to Leverkusen sporting director Simon Rolfes, Fosu-Mensah’s acquisition from Manchester United is a shrewd one indeed. A full Netherlands international, Fosu-Mensah can play across the back four and even in midfield.
Leverkusen have also recruited attacking right-back Jeremie Frimpong – another Dutchman – from Celtic. Peter Bosz likes to juggle his formation between four- and three-man defensive systems, and having his compatriots on board helps immeasurably to that end; especially with Santiago Arias injured and Lars Bender retiring at the end of the season.
A 2014 FIFA World Cup winner with Germany, Mustafi has never actually played a top-flight game in the country of his birth, his senior career to date taking him to Everton, Sampdoria, Valencia and, most recently, Arsenal.
A two-time English FA Cup winner with more than 100 Arsenal games under his belt, Mustafi nonetheless brings a wealth of experience to the Schalke back-line, whilst also helping plug the gap left by the Liverpool-bound Ozan Kabak.
So far the biggest beneficiary of Bayern’s agreement with Major League Soccer club FC Dallas, USMNT centre-back Richards has already featured eight times for the record German champions, and even assisted Robert Lewandowski in the 4-3 win over Hertha Berlin on Matchday 3.
David Alaba and Serge Gnabry have previously enjoyed successful loan spells with Hoffenheim, while Richards knows coach Sebastian Hoeneß well, having won the 3. Liga with Bayern II under him last season. With Benjamin Hübner, Ermin Bicakcic and Kevin Apoguma sidelined, Richards’ arrival is doubly welcome.
Position: Left-back/left midfielder
A Royal Blue prodigal son is back in Gelsenkirchen. Kolasinac’s three-and-a-half years at Arsenal have seen the Bosnia-Herzegovina international make over 100 competitive appearances, including 78 in the Premier League, turning the raw, powerfully built left-back that departed for north London into a mature, experienced, still powerfully built left-back.
It’s no coincidence that Kolasinac has already been handed the captain’s armband under new Schalke coach Christian Gross. And with their struggles, the 27-year-old’s big-game nous and passion will be much-needed.
“The most important thing is that we function as a team. We have to be a cohesive unit and tackle this challenge together,” said Kolasinac, who is closing in on a century of Bundesliga appearances. “No one should back down in the face of it. I want to make my presence felt and take on responsibility both in training and in the games.”
Club: Bayer Leverkusen
A Birmingham City youth academy graduate, Gray was part of the Leicester squad that shocked English football to win the Premier League title in 2016, playing 12 games in that campaign.
The 24-year-old has since racked up 13 goals and 17 assists in 169 games across all competitions for the Foxes and will now compete with Leon Bailey and Moussa Diaby for a place out wide at the BayArena.
Position: Central midfielder
Club: Hertha Berlin
Another World Cup winner coming home, Khedira will be expected to anchor Hertha’s midfield as they plot a path back up the table under Dardai. A Bundesliga champion with VfB Stuttgart in 2007, Khedira has since won league titles in Spain with Real Madrid and Italy with Juventus, racking up nearly 300 top-flight appearances across Europe’s five major leagues.
“Hertha made a lot of effort to sign me and now offer me the chance to come back to the Bundesliga,” Khedira said. “I’m very grateful for that and I can hardly wait for the moment when I can wear the blue-and-white shirt out on the pitch for the first time.”
There is also the prospect of a sibling showdown with younger brother Rani, of Augsburg, in March.
Position: Central midfielder
Another familiar face, but the ex-Schalke man has not ended his two-and-a-half year stay in England by returning to his former club. Cologne is the destination for Meyer, who – at 25 – is still developing as a player.
The Billy Goats will be hoping the four-time Germany international midfielder displays the sort of artful creativity and substantial grit he showed in nearly 150 Bundesliga appearances for the Royal Blues after coming through their youth academy with the likes of Leon Goretzka.
Position: Attacking midfielder/left midfielder
Club: RB Leipzig
Naby Keita, Dayot Upamecano… the Red Bull Salzburg connection to Leipzig has proven a fruitful one for the Bundesliga club, and they may well have plucked another starlet-in-waiting in Szoboszlai.
The 20-year-old Hungary international was named the Austrian top-flight’s Player of the Year after scoring nine times and registering a fantastic 14 assists in the 2019/20 campaign, helping Salzburg complete a domestic double.
“The move to Leipzig is perfect for my development, because I’ve got a top coach and an unbelievably ambitious team which is very young, but which has already got a lot of experience and enjoyed some success,” Szoboszlai, who has yet to appear for his new club due to a groin problem, said of his new surroundings and coach Julian Nagelsmann.
“I’ll be able to develop tremendously here and would also like to help the club be successful in 2021.”
Sit down, take a deep breath… 364 goals in 653 competitive appearances for clubs such as Real Madrid, AC Milan, Ajax and – of course – Schalke, that’s what make Huntelaar one of the greatest strikers of his generation.
Already a legend in Gelsenkirchen, where he netted 82 of those goals in 175 Bundesliga games between 2010 and 2017 before going back for a second spell at Ajax, the 37-year-old has returned to the Veltins-Arena in the role of saviour with the prospect of Bundesliga 2 beckoning.
“We need to win games and score goals to climb up the table. I want to play my part in the club staying up,” said ‘The Hunter’, who netted seven goals in 11 Eredivisie appearances for Ajax this season. “Schalke belong in the Bundesliga and it’s our responsibility to make sure that we stay here.”
Club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Jovic has spent 105 minutes back in a Frankfurt jersey, and has scored three goals. He found the net twice in 32 competitive appearances for Madrid over his bumpy 18 months in the Spanish capital. There must be something in the Frankfurt water…
“I don’t have anything to prove, because I know how good I am,” said the 23-year-old, who plundered 17 goals in 25 Bundesliga starts in 2018/19 before moving to the Spanish capital.
“I was really unlucky because of injuries and personal problems. I didn’t play a lot. At Real Madrid, the playing style was different, and the pressure was particularly high. That’s why it was good for me to come back to Eintracht.” And for Frankfurt to have you back, Luka.