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Wolfsburg, Bremen and Schalke hope late signings pay off

With the transfer window's close, three of the Bundesliga's bigger clubs have brought in highly touted reinforcements. But last-minute acquisitions sometimes don't bring the intended benefits.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar celebrates

Huntelaar hopes to get his club career back on track at Schalke

Rarely has there been so much buzz around a player returning to the Bundesliga. After a lengthy tug-of-war with Italian side Juventus, 2009 champs Wolfsburg succeeded in signing playmaker Diego last week.

The skillful Brazilian was one of the German league's biggest stars when he played for Werder Bremen from 2006 to 2009, scoring 38 goals in 84 matches. So it was hardly surprising that he was inserted directly into the starting line-up for the Wolves' Saturday match against Mainz.

Wolfsburg's Diego celebrates

Diego's debut was mix of celebration and frustration

On the pitch, Diego gave Wolfsburg fans and bosses a taste of what they can expect - in both the positive and negative senses.

The Brazilian capped off a good first half by tap-dancing around the Mainz keeper to put the Wolves ahead 3-0. But he virtually disappeared in the second half, except for a laughably crass dive, as Mainz came back to pull a stunning upset.

Wolfsburg probably wished they had kept Diego's predecessor, Zvjezdan Misimovic, on the pitch for one more match. But the Bosnian wizard is being shipped to Galatasaray in Turkey and was left out of the squad.

The events in Wolfsburg on Saturday illustrate the dangers of last-minute signings. While high-profile late arrivals can inspire a squad, convincing it of management's ambitions, they often arrive ill-prepared and require weeks before they are integrated into a team.

Sometimes they don't even get on the pitch.

The waiting game

Wesley Lopes Beltrame

Bremen hope Wesley will be their next Brazilian sensation

Werder Bremen's new Brazilian playmaker Wesley spent Saturday watching his side's 4-2 win over Cologne from the stands. A crucial bit of paperwork failed to arrive from his former employer, meaning he was ineligible for the match.

Werder Bremen are hoping that the 23-year-old Wesley, who has never played outside of his home country, will follow in the footsteps of Diego - and compensate for the departure of Mesut Oezil to Real Madrid.

But Werder also reached for the checkbook for the 7.5-million-euro-rated ($10 million) Brazilian amid fears that their other major summer signing, striker Marko Arnautovic, was turning out to be a bust.

The Austrian, who came from Inter Milan, attracted loads of bad press for a lack of fitness and effort in training camp. But the specter of Wesley seems to have motivated him - he scored a pair of goals and provided an assist in Bremen's easy win over Cologne.

It was another reminder that transfers have ripple effects throughout a squad and always change team chemistry and morale, sometimes for the better. Werder now hope he will harmonize well - and quickly - with Wesley, now that the Brazilian has his work permit in order.

Bremen will also be hoping that the veteran full-back Mikael Silvestre can steady their defense - the club's traditional Achilles heel. After a nine-year stint at Manchester United, Silvestre was a bit player the last two seasons at Arsenal. At 33 he is not as spry as he once was, but Werder got him on a free transfer - and his vast experience in the Champions League (84 matches) could be crucial as their thin squad fights on two fronts.

The Schalke Shuffle

In American sports where new players are drafted, there's always a debate: do you go for the player that best plugs a hole you need to fill, or do you go for the best player available regardless of position?

Jose Manuel Jurado

Jurado starred in Atletico's run to the Europa Leage title

With Felix Magath and Schalke, the answer appears to be the latter. The Royal Blues desultory loss to lowly Hanover on Saturday strongly suggested that their reformed back four is not going to be up to the task this season.

So who was Magath targeting? A playmaker and a striker to pair up with earlier superstar signing Raul.

They turned out to be Jose Manuel Jurado of Atletico Madrid and AC Milan's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and they cost Schalke a combined 27 million euros. Schalke had already inked a deal last week for another offensive all-rounder, Ciprian Deac of onetime Champions League giant-killers CFR Cluj.

Perhaps aware that breaking the bank on a passel of creative players in the face of defensive breakdown might not be the best move, Magath did move late Tuesday for a defender - Nicolas Plestan of French side Lille.

Whether the new arrivals will help Schalke overcome the shortcomings in their 2010-11 squad is an open question, as indeed the issue of whether any of the last-minute purchases will pan out for their new clubs.

But the no one can accuse the teams in question of failing to give their all and spend what they have in the quest to become a winner.

Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Chuck Penfold

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