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Ambitious Hamburg get a jump on rivals ahead of the new season

After enduring a dismal season last time out, Hamburg appears to be planning for the future with intent. Coach Armin Veh has stolen a march on many of his rivals by hitting the summer sales early.

Armin Veh

It's all up here: Veh knows the players he needs for Hamburg

After watching last season's campaign descend into ignominy after a strong start, Hamburg is casting its net far and wide in a bid to maintain their title challenge beyond the second month of the coming season and bring the right players into a team which last won the championship in 1983.

The North German side consistently plays attractive football and with a style of play worthy of greater rewards and a fanatical fan base deserving of some long-absent glory, last season's seventh-place finish was another bitter blow. A season which promised much, with Hamburg enjoying an early spell at the top of the league, soon went the way of so many others in recent years with a pre-Christmas collapse leading to mid-table mediocrity for the remainder of the campaign.

The loss of form cost coach Bruno Labbadia his job with two games to go. Despite finishing the season with a win and a draw, it was too late for caretaker manager Ricardo Moniz to work a miracle. The damage had been done, and Hamburg finished outside the Europa League places.

The club filled its managerial vacancy in the offseason with Armin Veh. He's won the title in 2007 with Stuttgart, but had since had a terrible spell filling the shoes of Felix Magath at Wolfsburg, so the appointment puzzled many observers. But Veh and the Hamburg board have already made many astute offseason moves, and the team that runs out against Schalke 04 at home on the first day looks promising.

Hamburg show good business sense with Westermann deal

Heiko Westermann of Germany, left, and Szabolcs Huszti of Hungary, right, fight for the ball during a friendly soccer match between Hungary and Germany in Budapest, Hungary, Saturday, May 29, 2010.

Heiko Westermann will be an important and stabilizing signing in Hamburg's defence once he joins

After selling Jerome Boateng to big-spending Manchester City for 12.5 million euro ($16million), Veh is already shaking up this under-performing team. His biggest signal of intent has come from the 7.5 million-euro transfer of German international defender Heiko Westermann from Bundesliga rivals Schalke 04 as Boateng's replacement.

Westermann's transfer, when it is officially confirmed, will be seen as a good bit of business as the Schalke man is more experienced than Boateng, only slightly older at 24, and leaves Veh with a little more spending money.

The Hamburg coach, backed by an ambitious boardroom, will be looking to put the profit from the Westermann deal to further use along with the funds made available by the purse string holders.

Defensive cover sought both home and abroad

Among many potential targets, Veh is rumored to be lining up a 6.2 million-euro move for Algerian international defender Madjid Bougherra from Glasgow Rangers, although both clubs are remaining cagey over the transfer's progress. The combative Bougherra is attracting a lot of attention and would be somewhat of a coup should he move to the Nordbank Arena to help plug Hamburg's often leaky defense.

Rangers' Madjid Bougherra reacts at the end of the match during their soccer match of the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

Madjid Bougherra would add much-needed steel to a Hamburg team which faltered last season

Also coming in to shore up the backline is a Germany Under-18 defender, the Hamburg-born Lennard Sowah. The young defender returns to Hamburg on a free transfer after three years with English club Portsmouth, where he gained top-flight experience.

The defense will be further enhanced by the 2.5 million-euro capture of highly-rated 20-year-old right-back Dennis Diekmeier from Nuremberg. Widely acknowledged as one of Germany's top defensive prospects, Diekmeier's signature shows that Hamburg are looking to secure future talent ahead of the pack, with a number of Bundesliga rivals now regretting that they didn't move sooner. This signing will certainly be their loss and Hamburg's gain if Diekmeier can make good on his youthful promise.

Behind the new-look back four, vying for the right to protect the Hamburg goal this season, will be new signing Jaroslav Drobny from Hertha Berlin. The Czech keeper moves to HSV after leaving relegated Hertha on a free transfer. Drobny will offer competition for number one Frank Rost.

Experienced bargains and future stars on Veh's radar

Another potential arrival on a free transfer is William Gallas, the former Chelsea and Arsenal defender. The hugely experienced former France international is rumored to be on Veh's radar by France Football magazine and if the Hamburg coach can fight off interest from Paris Saint Germain and Panathinaikos, it will be another fine piece of work. Gallas, even at 32, remains one of the best in his position available on a free this summer.

Veh has also been looking into the prospect of bringing in Liverpool's misfit midfielder Albert Riera to bolster his wing play and it has been rumored that the Hamburg coach has enquired about the possibility of bringing the 3.9 million-euro rated Spaniard to Germany. But with Olympiakos seemingly in the driving seat, Veh may abandon his pursuit of Riera and increase his efforts to bring Hertha Berlin's Serbian midfielder Gojko Kacar to Hamburg. Kacar, the jewel of Berlin's midfield, won't come as cheap as Riera however. HSV will have to stump up around five million euros for his services.

Serdar Tasci

Serdar Tasci played under HSV coach at Stuttgart but the defender is unlikely to join him at Hamburg

Attempts to sign VfB Stuttgart's international defender Serdar Tasci also continue but the 14-million-euro rated star seems increasingly likely to stay down south for at least another season. Tasci, who was nurtured to senior level by Veh during his spell as Stuttgart coach, was said to be keen to join up with his mentor again but the 23-year-old is now saying that he will honor his contract at VfB which runs until 2014, unless someone meets his buy-out clause before that.

As well as wheeling and dealing to bring in new playing staff, Veh has chosen to recall a number of loan players to boost the squad ahead of the new season. Maxim Choupo-Moting and Mickael Tavares have been called back from Nuremberg while midfielder Änis Ben-Hatira will be returning from Duisburg. Meanwhile, South Korean Heung-Min Son has been promoted to the first team squad from Hamburg's second string.

Given that there is a lot more business to be done before the end of the summer transfer window, it would be foolish to rule out Hamburg and Armin Veh boosting their championship credentials with more savvy deals before the start of the season.

Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Rob Turner

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