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Disgruntled players set the tone for quiet winter transfer window

The big names tended to leave rather than arrive in the Bundesliga in January, while there were some prominent swaps within the league. The most disturbing trend, though, was the amount of whining that went on.

Edin Dzeko

Dzeko wanted out and he got it

By far the biggest news of the transfer window, which closed Monday, was striker Edin Dzeko leaving Wolfsburg for the greener pastures of Manchester City.

It's hard to fault Dzeko for leaving the Wolves, who have now succeeded in dismantling their 2009 title squad. Mark van Bommel also departed Bayern for AC Milan with relative grace compared to some of his peers.

Demba Ba, for instance, forced his exit from Hoffenheim, insisting he had been promised the right to leave. Bizarrely enough, he decided it was better to play for bottom-of-the-table West Ham in England than for a squad with a realistic shot at international football next season.

Michael Bradley left bottom-of-the-Bundesliga Borussia Mönchengladbach, joining Aston Villa on loan for a whole new relegation dogfight. Villa say they have an option to buy Bradley in the summer. It was no secret that the US international wanted out, and with his contract expiring in 2012, 'Gladbach might be hoping to offload him before he can leave for free.

Jefferson Farfan tried to do much the same in Schalke, showing up late for training camp with a bad attitude written on his sleeve. Rumors swirled around the Peruvian all January, but his transfer hopes died - reportedly because he wanted a payout from the Royal Blues essentially for refusing to fulfill a contract.

Hamburg's Ruud van Nistelrooy wanted a return to Real Madrid as well. Who wouldn't, most people would say. But Hamburg were wise enough not to approve his request.

Ryan Babel was the biggest name who came into the Bundesliga from abroad, joining Hoffenheim from Liverpool. Otherwise, coaches and commercial managers looked within the league and to players they know personally.

Patrick Helmes celebrating

Patrick Helmes (right) will be doing his celebrating in Wolfsburg

Helmes makes headlines

Not surprisingly, Wolfsburg were the most active on the market, having some 35 million euros ($47.7 million) in Dzeko bucks to spend.

To replace him up front they brought in Patrick Helmes from Leverkusen. Helmes had 28 goals in 57 games for the Werkself and has been capped 13 times. But an injury at the start of last season has set him back, and it's questionable whether he will ever regain his full form.

Perhaps more intriguingly the Wolves also added Tuncay Sanli from Stoke City in the Premiership. The offensive midfield striker has played for his native Turkey 70 times. The 29-year-old drew good reviews in England but was relegated to a substitute role for mid-table Stoke, so it's by no means certain that he'll make a quick mark in Germany.

Schalke, who grudgingly held on to Farfan, didn't have the same financial flexibility and could only land Ali Karimi and Greek striker Angelos Charisteas, 30, until the end of the season. The Iranian Karimi spent two seasons at Bayern Munich, back when Magath coached the Bavarians. But at 32, his best days are likely behind him.

Meanwhile, another of the Bundesliga's struggling big boys, Werder Bremen, made a move for Brazilian Samuel to shore up their hapless central defense. The 24-year-old is big but untested, having played all of his professional football thus far in his home country.

A football shoe filled with euro notes

Transfer fees could decline in future

Rules change

The lack of spectacular transfers isn't that astonishing since Bayern is the only club capable of competing against Europe's big spenders, and with the exception of adding midfielder Luis Gustavo from Hoffenheim, the Bavarians have chosen to stand pat.

But it also may reflect that the transfer market itself will work differently in the future.

Football's governing European body UEFA is gradually phasing in "financial fair play" requirements that would prohibit clubs from spending more on players than they collect in revenues. That would spell an end to teams backed by rich owners, such as Chelsea and Manchester City, buying in talent at inflated prices.

It will also likely drive transfer fees down. Thus, many Bundesliga clubs, which have a good record for financial stability, may feel it's wiser to hold on to their money for now and spend when the market swings more in their favor.

It remains to be seen, of course, when the rules are fully enacted and how strictly they will be enforced. But with UEFA President Michel Platini committed to reining in the extravagant spending of recent years, it could be wiser to wait before loosening the purse strings.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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