The German Bundesliga starts on August 5, and heinnews is providing extensive coverage in the buildup to the 2011-12 season with a club preview each day. Today is second placed Bayer Leverkusen.
As solid and consistent as Bayer Leverkusen were last season in holding on for second place in the German Bundesliga and a spot in the Champions League, that’s how turbulent the off-season has been for Leverkusen who will try to finally grab their first ever league crown.
First off there was the transition at the top of the team with head coach Jupp Heynckes heading to Bayern Munich and replaced by Robin Dutt from Freiburg. Then there was the retirement of veteran defender Sami Hyypia.
Those two were not a surprise.
But Leverkusen had to deal most of the summer with Bayern Munich and Heynckes trying to steal away Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal – he eventually left for Juventus Turin – and then came a much publicized war of words between Leverkusen veteran Michael Ballack and German national team coach Joachim Löw, who booted the former Germany captain out of the team for good.
As if all that wasn’t enough, Leverkusen’s German international keeper Rene Adler suffered a knee injury and underwent surgery and could miss up to six months. Unless they go and get another keeper, Leverkusen will be starting the season with either 21-year-old German Fabian Giefer or American David Yelldell between the posts.
But, things are not all bad for Leverkusen.
Dutt still has a strong core to work with in returnees Ballack, Tranquillo Barnetta, Renato Augusto, Sidney Sam, Simon Rolfes, Manuel Friedrich, Lars Bender, Stefan Kießling and Eren Derdiyok.
Leverkusen will finally have the services of Andre Schürrle. The up-and-coming German forward star agreed early last season to a long-term deal with Leverkusen before completely a superb campaign with Mainz. And Schürrle will undoubtedly help the Leverkusen attack as will Under-21 Danish international Nicolai Jörgensen, who was a reserve last season with Bayer.
Another new addition is 20-year-old midfielder Karim Bellarabi, who arrives from Eintracht Braunschweig and is expected to do big things down the road in Leverkusen – if perhaps not this up-coming season
Dutt brought with him from Freiburg defender Ömer Toprak, a 22-year-old who he hopes can help fill the loss of Hyypia. Bastian Oczipka is returning to Leverkusen after being on loan with St. Pauli and could provide depth on the left side of the defense.
But Dutt will have to find a way to replace Vidal.
After finishing runners-up five times in the Bundesliga (1997, 1999, 2000, 2002 and 2011), Leverkusen are looking to finally shed their moniker from the English language media “Neverkusen”.
“It’s about time for a title,” said captain Rolfes.