English Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspurs have announced they will sign Lewis Holtby on a free transfer at the end of the season. Bayern Munich will also snap up a 22-year-old by the summer, Jan Kirchhoff.
Tottenham announced on Friday that it had won the race to sign outgoing Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby.
"We are delighted to announce that we have reached agreement with Germany Under-21 captain Lewis Holtby to join the Club in July from Bundesliga side Schalke, subject to a medical," Spurs wrote on the north London club's official website.
Schalke announced one week ago that negotiations with Holtby on a contract renewal had broken down, and that he would be leaving in the summer or even sooner. Reports in Germany varied on the reason for the failed talks; some pointed to a desire to play in the English Premiership, others to more mercenary motives about wages.
Instead of securing a fee for the player in return for an immediate transfer while under contract, Schalke will lose their star midfielder for free once he's played out the season.
Longstanding Germany Under-21 captain Holtby, who now has three senior Germany caps to his name, has an English father and could have played for either country.
Top talent, yet to make final step
The left-footed playmaker pulls the strings for Schalke in the middle of the park. Though commonly classed as an attacking or creative midfielder, Holtby tends to sit comparatively deep; he played in a very withdrawn role in the previous Bundesliga season to accommodate Raul and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar in front of him.
Holtby boasts a wicked shot, even with his weaker right foot, and has a good eye for a pass, but he's sometimes criticized as selfish in the attacking third.
Touted as a future star since his teenage years, Holtby first rose to major Bundesliga prominence two seasons ago when on loan at Mainz. He, along with fellow German rising star Andre Schürrle, helped spearhead the little club's improbable charge into European competition.
After this breakout season, Holtby returned to Schalke and established a regular starting spot at the Gelsenkirchen club.
Schalke are winless in seven Bundesliga games and languishing a disappointing seventh in the league. The club sacked coach Huub Stevens in December and managed to extend the contract of star striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but losing midfield maestro Holtby for free was a big blow to the already cash-strapped side.
Now 22, Holtby will join a competitive and star-studded Spurs midfield, including international stars like Gareth Bale, Moussa Dembele, Scott Parker, Sandro, Clint Dempsey and others. His German national team ambitions might suffer so far away from the eyes of coach Joachim Löw - with competition for the German midfield fierce as it is.
Kirchhoff to Bayern Munich in July
Bayern Munich announced on Friday that they would sign Mainz central defender Jan Kirchhoff, seemingly on a free transfer in the summer. The precise details of the move were not made clear immediately, though Kirchhoff would be able to leave on a free like Holtby in the summer. Football magazine Kicker reported after the deal that it might be fast-tracked in the January transfer window, meaning Mainz would receive at least a portion of the player's market value.
The 22-year-old defender, who played a few games together with Holtby early in his career, made it clear shortly after Christmas that he would not renew with Mainz.
"This is a player we desired. He is a highly interesting player - a raw diamond with some very, very good skills," Bayern's sporting director Matthias Sammer said at a training session on Friday. "His courage, the fact that he believes in himself, was even more important. We are delighted that he is taking on this challenge."
Apart from a few weeks out with a strained muscle, Kirchhoff has been a regular in the starting line-up, with Mainz currently punching above their weight in sixth place in the Bundesliga.
Under-21 Germany player Kirchhoff might struggle to establish a regular spot in the Bayern back line, competing with senior German internationals like Holger Badstuber and Jerome Boateng as well as Brazilian Dante. With Belgian veteran Daniel van Buyten likely to leave in the summer, though, the Kirchhoff purchase represents a solid addition to the Bayern squad in an area with comparatively little depth.
Schalke were among the sides rumored to be in the hunt for Kirchhoff, but the news of his move to Bayern might still be well received in Gelsenkirchen. The Bavarian behemoths were previously linked with Schalke captain and defender Benedikt Höwedes, an interest that might subside after Bayern's Kirchhoff acquisition.