Croatia international striker MARIO MANDZUKIC (18) of Vfl Wolfsburg, who signed last summer from Dinamo Zagreb for a transfer fee thought to be 8.0 million Euros and finished with eight goals his first season in the German top flight, dribbles away from the Dangerous Dutchman, Holland World Cup winger ARJEN ROBBEN of Bayern Munich, during the Bundesliga match last January at the Volkswagen Arena in Lower Saxony.
VFL WOLFSBURG lifted the Meisterschale as the Bundesliga champions at the conclusion of the 2008-09 campaign but have been in decline ever since. The Lower Saxon club slumped badly last season, which prompted the board to sack STEVE MCLAREN — the first Englishman ever to train a Bundesliga team — by early February. Still, the top flight status of Vlf Wolfsburg was only assured on the very last day of the 2010-11 schedule.
Wily, old trainer FEIX MAGATH, the two-time World Cup midfielder who earned 43 caps in his career for West Germany, took over in mid-March after the one-time Bayern Munich boss had been shown the door by Schalke 04 Gelsenkirchen and steered die Woelfe to safety. Vfl Wolfsburg were bounced out of the Deutscher Fussball Bund Pokal at the first hurde by fourth division side RB Leipzig to start this new 2011-12 season on July 29. But Magath’s charges did respond with a convincing 3-0 victory on the road at 1.FC Koeln to open the Bundesliga slate last Saturday.
Of course, Bosnia / Herzegovina international striker EDEN DZEKIC, who ended up leading Vfl Wolfsburg last season with 10 goals in the Bundesliga, was peddled to English Premier League club Manchester City for the lucrative sum of 27.0 million English pounds (roughly 31.625 million Euros) just after the New Year. 32-year-old veteran Brazil international attacker GRAFITE, who scored nine goals in the German top flight last term, has been sold for 3.0 million Euros to Al Ahli Dubai of the United Arab Emirates after four seasons in Lower Saxony. And Turkey international striker TUNCAY SANLI, the 29-year-old who was bought from E.P.L. side Stoke City for 5.2 million Euros at the end of last January but managed only four games with no goals in the Bundesliga, has been sent out on loan for this season to English outfit Bolton Wanderers.
27-year-old PATRICK HELMES, who has 13 caps and two goals for Germany, had a brace in the Bundesliga opener at 1.FC Koeln and will partner Croatia international attacker MARIO MANDZUKIC up front for Vfl Wolfsburg; arriving on a free transfer is 27-year-old Croatian striker SRDJAN LUKIC, who scored 16 goals in the Bundesliga for 1.FC Kaiserslautern a year ago.
Germany international striker PATRICK HELMES, who totaled 12 goals in all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen last term before moving to Vfl Wolfsburg in exchange for 8.0 million Euros last January, jumps over 1.FC Koeln goalkeeper MICHAEL RENSING after opening his 2011-12 scoring account just seventeen minutes into the new season last week at the RheinEnergie Stadion in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Vfl Wolfsburg bit the bullet with Algeria international KARIM ZIANI, the midfielder who was signed from French Lique 1 club Olympique Marseille for 10.0 million Euros in the summer of 2009 but finished last season out on loan with Turkish side Kayserispor and has now left for armed forces club Al Jaish of Qatar. However, Lower Saxons have landed highly-experienced veteran Bosnia / Herzegovina internatonal midfielder HASAN SALIHAMIDZIC from traditional Italian giant FC Juventus of Turin on a free transfer. Vfl Wolfsburg also sent Vfb Stuttgart roughly 9.0 million Euros for versatile midfielder CHRISTIAN TRAESCH, the 24-year-old who featured at fullback for Germany in the international friendly with Brazil this week.
Vfl Wolfsburg, who are owned by the famous automaker Volkswagen, also spent 3.0 million Euros each on a pair of players from Eintracht Frankfurt — former Germany U-21 international PATRICK OCHS and defender MARCO RUSS — as well as another 1.5 million Euros for 21-year-old Poland international MATEUSZ KLICH, the midfielder previously with MKS Cracovia.
32-year-old veteran international JOSUE, who has earned 27 caps over the course of his career for Brazil, will be back to anchor the middle of the park in Lower Saxony but his countryman, the 27-year-old midfielder CICERO, has returned to his native land and signed with FC Sao Paulo.
Vfl Wolfsburg welcome once again the Iranian-born former Germany U-21 international ASHKAN DEJAGAH, who was the second-highest scorer in midfield on the team with three Bundesliga goals last term. 22-year-old JA-CHEOL KOO, who has eight goals in 19 games for the senior national team of South Korea, enters his first full Bundesliga campaign. Also available to Magath are the experienced Czech international with 57 caps, JAN POLAK, in addition to the former AJ Auxerre midfielder, Denmark international THOMAS KAHLENBERG.
The future of Brazil international midfielder DIEGO with Vfl Wolfsburg is undecided at the moment. The 26-year-old with 33 caps for his country, who scored 38 Bundesliga goals in three years with Werder Bremen before leaving for Serie A and FC Juventus in the summer of 2009, is reportedly looking for a new club and does not figure in the plans of Magath. Diego, who did not feature in the opener against 1.FC Koeln, found the back of the net six times in 30 league contests for Vfl Wolfsburg last term.
Vfl Wolfsburg goalkeeper DIEGO BENAGLIO, who has been capped 35 times so far by Switzerland and has spent time in Portugal with CD Nacional Funchal after starting his professional career with Vfb Stuttgart, is expected to make his 100th Bundesliga appearance opposite Bayern Munich on Saturday at the Volkswagen Arena in central northern Germany.
Three of the five players comprising the Verteidigung of the Vfl Wolfsburg Startelf who appeared against 1.FC Koeln are veterans of the last FIFA World Cup.
MAKOTO HASEBE, the 27-year-old who captained the Japan contingent in South Africa last summer, featured at fullback for Vfl Wolfsburg in Cologne. Denmark central defender SIMON KJAER, who was reported to be unhappy in Lower Saxony last month, was signed from Italian Serie A side US Palermo for the considerable fee of 13.0 million Euros last summer. And goalkeeper DIEGO BENAGLIO of Switzerland is certainly one of the better shot-stoppers in the Bundesliga.
The regular left back is 27-year-old MARCEL SCHAEFER, who has been capped seven times by Germany. Also on the books with die Woelfe is Slovakia World Cup defender PETER PEKARIK, the 24-year-old right back added from MSK Zilina in January of 2009. Meanwhile, Germany international defender SASCHA RIETHER has been transferred by Vfl Wolfsburg to 1.FC Koeln in exchange for 2.0 million Euros and took the field against his former club in the opener at the RheinEnergie Stadion.
FELIX MAGATH has returned to Lower Saxony for a second tour of duty with Vfl Wolfsburg, with whom the trainer won the Bundesliga title in 2009; the former West Germany international has also been in charge at SV Hamburg, 1.FC Nuremburg, Werder Bremen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Vfb Stuttgart, Bayern Munich and Schalke 04 Gelsenkirchen in his career.
df – Marco RUSS —————————————————– fr Eintracht Frankfurt
mf – Patrick OCHS – Germany int’l ————————– fr Eintracht Frankfurt
mf – Christian TRAESCH – Germany int’l —————- fr Vfb Stuttgart
mf – Mateusz KLICH – Poland int’l ————————– fr MKS Cracovia (Pol)
mf – Hasan SAHLIHAMIDZIC – Bosnia/Herz int’l — fr FC Juventus (Ita)
fw – Srdjan LAKIC – Croatia ———————————— fr 1.FC Kaiserslautern
df – Sacha RIETHER – Germany int’l —————- to 1.FC Koeln
df – Fabian JOHNSON ————————————— to TSG 1899 Hoffenheim
mf – CICERO – Brazil —————————————- to FC Sao Paulo (Brz)
mf – Karim ZIANI – Algeria int’l ———————— to Al Jaish (Qatar)
mf – Nassin BEN KHALIFA – Switz int’l ————- to SC Young Boys Bern (Switz)
fw – GRAFITE – Brazil int’l ——————————– to Al Ahli Dubai (U.A.E.)
fw – Tuncay SANLI – Turkey int’l ———————- to Bolton Wanderers (Eng)
fw – Dieumerci MBOKANI – Congo D.R. int’l —– to RSC Anderlecht (Bel)
(Cierco had been on loan from Brazilian club FC Tombense, Mbokani had been on loan from French side AS Monaco; Ben Khalifa and Sanli are out on loan for this season)
Bosnia / Herzegovina midfielder HASAN SALIHAMIDZIC is no stranger to Bayern Munich having contested 234 Bundesliga matches for the Bavarian club before moving to Italy in the summer of 2007. Including his time with SV Hamburg, the 34-year-old veteran has appeared in over 300 games in the German first division. Salihamidzic is currently wearing a cast to protect the left arm broken in the first Testspiel of the new season for Vfl Wolfsburg last month.