The Germany international will be a target for many clubs this summer, having already come onto Liverpool’s radar in the past few years
By the time the transfer window closes this summer, thousands of signings will have been made. These will range from multi-million pound deals to free transfers. Some clubs will overpay as agents and sellers show off their negotiation skills, while others will pick up some impressive bargains.
Though the transfer window doesn’t officially open until July, some of this summer’s business has already taken place. Bayern Munich, for example, have spent over €100 million (£87m/€113m) on a pair of defenders – Lucas Hernandez from Atletico Madrid and Benjamin Pavard from Stuttgart – while Juventus have stuck to their tried-and-trusted method of picking up out-of-contract players.
Having signed Emre Can from Liverpool last summer on a Bosman, Juventus will bring in Aaron Ramsey this year when his Arsenal contract expires – paying the player a large salary rather than a transfer fee to the club. The 28 year old will be missed by the Gunners, following 11 seasons in London where he played over 300 games. The Welsh midfielder won three FA Cups with the Gunners, but stands a much better chance of lifting a league title in Turin.
As well as Ramsey, Adrien Rabiot is another player who is destined to move for free this summer, with his Paris Saint-Germain contract expiring at the end of June. PSG are likely to move on from the midfielder, who has been a troublesome figure off the pitch and has not played a Ligue 1 game since December after falling out with head coach Thomas Tuchel.
Any club who signs Rabiot will have to deal with all his off-field baggage, including his mother, Veronique, who regularly issues critical statements to the media and used to act as the 24 year old’s agent before the midfielder moved on from her when she was unable to get him his desired move to Barcelona.
Instead of signings players for free and then paying massive agent fees and wages, teams would be wise to look for bargains elsewhere. One such player is Germany international Julian Brandt, whose relatively-low release clause means that he is available for much less than his market value. The 22 year old signed a new contract in 2018, extending his stay at Bayer Leverkusen to 2021 and doubling his release fee to €25m (£21.6m/$28m). In today’s inflated transfer market, €25m is a bargain for a player of his calibre.
Brandt’s humility off the pitch is the reason this clause is so low. He is not concerned about big wages and is conscious of how fortunate he is to earn a great living doing what he loves. “In the end, money is just a number in an account that definitely doesn’t make you a better person,” Brandt told Bild. “Everyone, including a footballer, has the right to treat themselves to something: a car, a smart watch. You can treat yourself as long as you behave normally with other people. You should say ‘hello’, ‘good day’, and not be snobby.”
On the pitch, he is a hugely talented midfielder, with his versatility allowing him to play on both flanks as well as in the centre. For Germany, he is usually deployed on the left of midfield and it was there he featured at last year’s World Cup, being one of the few German players to come out with any praise after their dismal group stage performance. Leroy Sane’s inclusion in recent teams has pushed him onto the right wing, but it is in the centre of the pitch where he has played best this season.
New Leverkusen coach Peter Bosz has put Brandt into a more central position since taking over during the winter break. He has flourished here with three goals and nine assists in 13 Bundesliga games. For comparison, Rabiot had just three goal ‘involvements’ (a goal or assist) in 14 league matches before being sent into the wilderness at PSG. Ramsey’s season has been a successful one for him at Arsenal, but he has less goals and assists than Brandt across all competitions – with both competing in the Europa League this season.
Bosz revealed that he always saw Brandt as a central midfielder rather than a winger, even when the young German talent was on the opposition side: “I’ve seen a lot of games involving Julian,” he told reporters. “During my time with Dortmund when we played against Bayer, in Leverkusen. Back then he was playing on the wing, but I saw him as a midfielder. He’s such a good player and you’ve got to give good players the ball as much as possible.”
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The move to the middle earned Brandt the Bundesliga Player of the Month award for February, but despite recent accolades, the 22 year old is aiming for to improve even more. He has already played over 200 club games as well as 24 international ones, but is aware that he still has a lot to learn.
“I think I still have a lot of potential and I have not reached my ultimate aims in the last few months,” he told the Bundesliga’s official website. “I still have room to grow, but I don’t think you can call me a rising star anymore at my age. I have been playing in the Bundesliga for almost five and a half years, but I am still young and can still learn a lot. As I have been here for such a long time, I have automatically taken on some responsibility. You mature over time, so although I am no longer a rising star, you cannot forget that I am still young.”
That combination of youth and experience will make him one of the most in-demand players this summer as teams look to find a bargain in the market. He is being watched by many of Europe’s top clubs, with Liverpool keeping an eye on him since he was an Under-19 international with Germany, deciding to sign Mohamed Salah instead in 2017. The return of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain from injury makes a move unlikely for the Reds, but with Brandt available for €25m, he is sure to have no shortage of offers.