Players are signed, players are transferred: 294 pros have worn the Bayer 04 shirt over the course of the 40 years in the Bundesliga. But which club did the most come from? And where did a lot go to? We've had a look at the transfer records over the past four decades and talked about possible reasons for the moves with Reiner Calmund and Rudi Völler.
Lucio, Ze Roberto, Robert Kovac, Jorginho as well as Michael Ballack: Whenever the FC Bayern general manager Uli Hoeneß reached for the telephone to call up Reiner Calmund then it was rarely good news. While the now 70-year-old was in charge, a total of eight players moved from Leverkusen to Munich with over €40 million flowing back in return. "Negotiations with Uli were always painful," admitted Reiner Calmund. "You didn't jump for joy when it got serious. But it was always done in a fair and decent way."
FC Bayern signed pros from Leverkusen who had become world-class players at the club; and that gave Bayer 04 greater financial muscle to develop their own squad. Calmund always looked at the sporting aspect and he accepted the implications of the special market economy of the Bundesliga. "You can't get annoyed about Bayern if you behave in a similar way with Bochum."
Albeit with roles reversed: A total of eleven players left Castroper Straße to earn more money and pursue more ambitious sporting targets at Bismarckstraße. Eleven players, a complete line-up, spread out over 25 years. No other club has transferred as many players to Leverkusen. VfL Bochum 1848 was an informal feeder club for Bayer without any contractual obligation.
But why is that? Perhaps the proximity? The BayArena and the Ruhrstadion are 70 kilometres apart. Paul Freier and Sascha Lewandowski kept on living in Bochum while earning their money in Leverkusen. Or because of the smart stadium on Castroper Straße, which has the best currywurst in the league according to Bochum fans, and where you are so close to the action. Perhaps that made it easier for our scouts to identify the talent compared with other stadiums. Reiner Calmund favours an alternative explanation: "VfL wanted and needed transfers." Above all in the 80s and 90s, Bochum had to sell their best players. Sandwiched between the two big clubs Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund and without a title to boast of, transfers were part of the business model at VfL.
Negotiating for the Blue and Whites at the time: club president Ottokar Wüst and general manager Hubert Schieth, and later Klaus Hilpert. Present for the Black and Reds: Reiner Calmund and Günter W. Becker,who passed away in 2010, A long-standing member of the board at Bayer AG and a big supporter of football at Bayer. "When it got a bit tricky with the numbers and looked like stalling, Herr Becker always threw a bit more into the ring. And that helped matters flow much better. And the transfer was completed," said Calmund.
Dieter Bast, Christian Schreier, Martin Kree and Jupp Nehl: They all refocused their football careers via the A 43 and the A1 to the Rhine. "All of them were very important players for us at the time."According to the XXL general manager, Bast was one of the top three liberos in Germany, Bayer 04 won the UEFA Cup in 1988 with Schreier and both Kree and Nehl played a "significant part" in the DFB Cup win of 1993, according to Calmund. "These negotiations were very amicable."
However, that changed when Werner Altegoer took over the helm at the long-time 'unrelegatables'. The raw materials dealer from the Ruhrgebiet was "not at all in agreement" with the transfers of Yildiray Bastürk (2001) and Paul Freier (2004), recalled Calmund, who had a very high opinion of the then main man at VfL, who passed away in 2013. "He was always really passionate.Awkward, grumpy always with a big heart. I understood his position 1,000 per cent."In the end the arguments put forward by Bayer 04 were more persuasive. The two Bochum lads signed for the Werkself.
At the same time, not only players moved between Leverkusen and Bochum as coaches also swapped sides. Jürgen Gelsdorf, Reinhard Saftig, Klaus Toppmöller, Robin Dutt, Heiko Herrlich and Sascha Lewandowski all wore the Bayer cross and the VfL badge on their kit. Above all, the achievements of Klaus Toppmöller at Castroper Straße attracted the attention of the management board at Bayer 04. "He took them up and then qualified for the UEFA Cup straightaway," remembered Calmund. "The team played exciting football. The training was very good, the work with the media was right and the way he mixed with the fans convinced us." Toppmöller was on the radar – and he joined Bayer 04 in 2001 after a short spell at FC Saarbrücken.
While the record in relation to VfL Bochum was 11 to 9 (arrivals and departures), the picture is completely different with Fortuna Düsseldorf. Only three players (Sven Demandt, Frank Juric and Robbie Kruse) moved up the Rhine to Leverkusen, 17 Werkself pros went in the other direction to the state capital. The explanation is obvious for Reiner Calmund: "They wanted to have their own space." There are only 45 kilometres between the former Rheinstadion and the Arena on Bismarckstraße. Players did not have to move house after transfers and their families remained in familiar surroundings.
Reason number two: "With almost no exceptions, there was a good relationship with the relevant people on the board." From Werner Faßbender, who was the main man at Fortuna for almost a quarter of a century, through the long-standing members of the board Peter Frymuth and Paul Jäger to the general manager Wolf Werner. Many players towards the end of their careers (like Schreier or Andrzej Buncol), or because it didn't work out at Bayer 04 (as with Markus Anfang, Mike Rietpietsch and Mario Tolkmitt), "looked to make it at Fortuna," said Reiner Calmund.
While Calmund was responsible for transfers at Bayer 04 until he left in 2004, Rudi Völler took over that role after his return from Rome. The World Cup winner of 1990 was able to look over the shoulders of Calli for several years before his turn came in 2005. The fact five players joined Bayer 04 from FC Nürnberg between 2006 and 2014 and five Hamburg SV pros signed for Leverkusen in a similar timescale (2006-2015) is a coincidence according to Völler. "We were primarily looking at positions. when spaces became available in the squad or we recognised the necessity for change then we looked at the market." Of course, personal contacts are of great importance. That not only applies to different members of club management but the relevance of agents and scouts has grown significantly in recent years.
Equally significant for Völler in this regard: "Players today are much more mobile and flexible. That's happened due to the market." And international transfers continue to grow. "Everything is much more interlinked. There's much more information and everything is more systematic. That makes it easier to reach a decision." Of course, it can happen that clubs with good youth development are increasingly on the radar but Völler does not recognise a particular blueprint.
A look at recent transfers supports the thesis of the former sporting director and now managing director sport. The last player to join Bayer 04 from VfL Bochum was Tomasz Zdebel. And that was over ten years ago. Not very impressive for a feeder club…
The most transfers to Bayer 04:
VfL Bochum 1848 (11) – Ulrich Bittorf, Dieter Bast, Wolfgang Patzke, Christian Schreier, Martin Kree, Jupp Nehl, Zoran Mamic, Yildiray Bastürk, Paul Freier, Theofanis Gekas, Tomasz Zdebel
FC Nürnberg (10) – Alois Reinhardt, Anders Giske, Robert Kovac, Jacek Krzynowek, Stefan Kießling, Vratislav Gresko, Angelos Charisteas, Philipp Wollscheid, Josip Drimic, Thorsten Kirschbaum
Hamburg SV (9) – Wolfgang Rolff, Manfred Kastl, Hans Jörg Butt, Ingo Hertzsch, Sergej Barbarez, Sidney Sam, Heung-Min Son, Hakan Calhanoglu, Jonathan Tah
Followed by: FC Köln (7), Eintracht Frankfurt (6), Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin and SC Freiburg (5 each)
The most transfers from Bayer 04:
Fortuna Düsseldorf (17) – Uwe Greiner, Rudolf Wojtowicz, Jürgen Luginger, Sven Demandt, Christian Schreier, Andrzej Buncol, Thorsten Judt, Markus Anfang, Holger Fach, Mike Rietpietsch, Mario Tolkmitt, Thorsten Nehrbauer, Andreas Gellert, Sascha Dum, Fabian Giefer, Michael Rensing, Joel Pohjanpalo
Eintracht Frankfurt (13) – Ralf Falkenmayer, Thomas Reichenberger, Dirk Heinen, Christoph Preuß, Du-ri Cha, Ingo Hertzsch, Jermaine Jones, Pirmin Schwegler, Theofanis Gekas, Constant Djakpa, Bastian Oczipka, Stefan Reinartz, Danny da Costa
Followed by: FC Nürnberg, Hannover 96 and SC Fortuna Köln (11 each), Borussia Mönchengladbach (10), Hertha Berlin, VfL Bochum and MSV Duisburg (9 each)