With Jovic, Haller gone, can Eintracht still compete?
Background photo: Dirk Ingo Franke, CC BY-SA 2.0 DE
The last two years have been fun for Eintracht Frankfurt supporters. Following the ignominy of relegation to the German second-tier in 2011, the Eagles returned and consolidated in the Bundesliga.
A second-successive Europa League campaign awaits them in 2019/20 should they negotiate their way through the qualifying rounds. That could have been avoided had they not prioritised their European run leading to a dismal run in which they produced only two points from their final six league matches.
Other factors were involved but the strike partnership of Sebastien Haller and Luka Jovic played a huge part in Frankfurt’s rise. Both signed in 2017. It’s no coincidence the club’s fortunes increased after the pair arrived.
Jovic was originally brought in on a two-season loan from Benfica where he was struggling to settle after leaving his native Serbia. Opportunities were limited during his first season in Germany but he swiftly established his reputation as one of the best young strikers around in 2018/19.
A superb five-goal haul in the 7-1 drubbing of Fortuna Dusseldorf last October garnered worldwide attention. From there, he improved, recording 27 strikes over the course of the season, including 10 in Europe. Triggering the €6.3m option to make his loan permanent became inevitable.
As was the interest from other parties. Real Madrid swooped to take him to the Santiago Bernabeu in a €65 million deal. The Serb joins Los Blancos in the middle of a rebuild, starring alongside the likes of Eden Hazard, Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy as a new generation of superstars tasked with reviving the Spanish giants’ fortunes.
Haller also cost €6.3m but was a permanent arrival from Dutch side FC Utrecht. The Frenchman was more involved from the off, playing 36 games while notching a respectable 13 goals and seven assists. Not bad for your debut season in a new country.
His second was even better. He beat those number in the league alone, while his Europa League contributions took him to 20 goals and 12 assists, putting the 25-year-old up there with some of the best forwards in Europe.
West Ham United fans will be delighted to see him at the London Stadium. His output is excellent and standing at 6' 3", he will spearhead their attack. The Hammers paid good money to get him for £45 million. Having banked €110 million from a €12.6 million outlay, Eintracht must now do it all again.
The good news is that Ante Rebic remains at Commerzbank Arena, for now. That eases the pressure to replace both forwards immediately. If he is still in black and white when the window closes, the front line won't need a complete overhaul.
The Eagles are banking that their latest Serbian will fill the gap. By cutting out the middle man and dealing directly with Red Star Belgrade this time, Eintracht saved a couple million. Dejan Joveljic arrives for €4 million. The 19-year-old is highly rated and represents another bargain find who could provide a huge profit in a few years.
Nicolai Muller is another option. He has bags of experience but isn’t a long-term fix at 31. Goncalo Paciencia was signed for only €3 million last summer from Porto, where a torn meniscus left him on the treatment table for much of the season. He should receive more opportunities now that he's healthy and Jovic and Haller are gone. Of course, they will stay gone. The question is can he stay fit?
He and Joveljic ought to be fitting replacements for Jovic and Haller. Signed on the cheap with good potential going forward, it fits the sustainability policy at the club. There are, however, whispers of a big move on the horizon.
Scouts have been visiting not-so-sunny Scotland to keep tabs on Rangers striker Alfredo Morelos. The Colombian has a burgeoning reputation as a fine scorer and the Bundesliga side see him as a man who can supply the goals lost in selling Jovic and Haller.
With a mooted asking price of £20 million, Frankfurt can certainly afford him without putting two severe a dent in their windfall. Questions remain, however, over whether any side is daring enough to risk the Colombian's monumental disciplinary issues.
They could be tempted considering he contributed 30 goals for Steven Gerrard's Rangers. The Liverpool legend found that a fair trade for his headaches. Will Adi Hutter agree?
Morelos or someone with a similar record in front of goal is almost certainly needed if the Eagles are to continue their recent progress. You simply cannot take 47 goals out of a side and expect it to achieve the same standard.
Paciencia and Joveljic are good prospects but unproven. Muller has experience but the mind is more willing than the legs. Rebic is a very good option but can’t do it alone. Frankfurt must move for fresh blood between now and the end of August if they want 2019/20 to be a success.