Winter transfers

Staying with the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich's hopes of winning a third straight league title have taken a knock with the decision by Sebastian Deisler to quit football.

I have had to smile a bit just lately. In Germany they say football is enjoying a winter break. Yet I have been watching, with interest and at times some amusement, just what is happening in football internationally.

Take England for example, where there is no winter break in the Premiership season. Here nouveau riche champions Chelsea are having problems staying on the heels of Manchester United in the league.

Coach Jose Mourinho of all people is complaining that his wish to buy two new players in the winter transfer period has gone unfulfilled.

This is a club, remember, in which hundreds of millions of euros has been spent on new players by owner Roman Abramovich. It is some consolation to the competition to see that success cannot be purchased.

I have also been looking on with interest at Spain, and especially at Real Madrid. Club president Ramon Calderon has managed to get name players up in arms against him with some provocative statements in their direction after poor performances.

Ronaldo could be on the way out soon. I would be interested to see if he regains his top form should he move to AC Milan.

David Beckham may also be looking back in anger. I can understand Beckham. I, too, left for the United States in the autumn of my playing career. The football in the USA then cannot be compared to the MSL of today. But I can empathise with Beckham's desire for a new footballing existence beyond familiar football terrain. He is also being amply rewarded by new club Los Angeles Galaxy.

Meanwhile the Bundesliga is modestly looking in from the outside. There may not be any Ronaldos in Germany but the most spectacular transfer also concerned a Brazilian, even if the clubs involved are not exactly among the elite in Europe.

The player concerned is Marcelinho, once of Hertha Berlin, who has returned to German football by joining Wolfsburg from Turkish side Trabzonspor, a move made possibly by Wolfsburg's sponsor Volkswagen.

The transfer market has been relatively quiet otherwise. In the end Brazilian defender Gustavo did not join Schalke 04, although he had signed a contract. The player has decided instead to stay in Brazil and move to Palmeiras rather than set off to distant Germany. Sometimes all these developments fill me with concern. The leagues in England, Spain and Italy are, thanks to the money they receive from television and sponsors, in a better position to invest in new stars.

Bundesliga teams are in danger of losing touch with their European rivals. Only my side, Bayern Munich, are still in the Champions League. France have overtaken German football at club level. Romania and Portugal are the next who could push Germany further down the UEFA rankings. It's a process which leaves me at a loss.

Staying with the Bundesliga, Bayern Munich's hopes of winning a third straight league title have taken a knock with the decision by Sebastian Deisler to quit football.

He was the most talented footballer in German football of the past few years, but at 27 he is hanging up his boots. The many serious injuries have taken their toll. I very much regret his decision, and I have not given up all hope that he will reconsider one day and return to Bayern when he feels up to it.

Without Deisler, Bayern will not have it any easier in the race for the league title against Werder Bremen and Schalke, especially as both these sides do not have the additional pressure of playing in the Champions League.

Bayern on the other hand now come up against Real Madrid in Europe's premier club competition. Matches like these take a lot out of players, and could leave them short at the end of the day in the league.

I have to admit that Werder Bremen have been playing the best football in Germany this season. Forty-seven goals in 17 games speak for themselves. It's an outstanding quota.

Goals are always the salt in the soup, as we say. They make the game attractive. Schalke meanwhile have had the potential to be champions for some time. But they have always managed to trip over themselves as a result of internal problems. This season though they seem to be more stable.

Nevertheless neither Werder nor Schalke are unbeatable. Both have to visit Munich, and in these home games Bayern have it in their own hands to close the gap. The chances of winning the league are still high. This despite Bayern not having bought a new playmaker in the transfer period as many fans would have wished.

There is little sense in rushing into a purchase. Bayern have enough good players to challenge for the title. And there is bound to be some big changes at the end of the season when Mehmet Scholl retires and players like Hasan Salihamidzic, Ali Karimi and maybe others leave the club. Hopefully as champions. The relegation battle is going to be exciting. I hope that Thomas Doll manages to turn things round at struggling SV Hamburg. I still have a soft spot for Hamburg where I ended my playing career in Germany.

But it is going to be difficult for the northerners, as it will be for Mainz, Borussia Moenchengladbach and quite a few others who perhaps don't yet see themselves as relegation candidates.

The relegation fight is all about attitude. Arrogance or a false sense of security can prove disastrous.

It's going to be an exciting second half of the season, and I am really pleased that the Bundesliga action is resuming again. The winter has been so mild we could easily have continued playing.

Now the same thing will probably happen as usual. As soon as the winter break is over, it will start snowing.

GMS/Asia Features