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January Sales Blitz?

DW staff (nda)January 28, 2008

As many of Europe's top leagues face a frantic week of dealing before the January transfer window closes, the continent's big spenders are looking to come to Germany for some last minute shopping.

Bremen's Diego is fould by HSV's Rafael van der Vaart
This season's hottest items: Werder Bremen's Diego and Hamburg's van der VaartImage: AP

The Bundesliga may be enjoying its most glamorous season in years thanks to the international stars who have chosen to ply their trade in Germany, but question remains as to how long it can maintain its new celebrity status.

While the big names and transfer coups have turned the media spotlight on German soccer in a way previously thought beyond its means, the downside of this attention is becoming obvious. The Bundesliga is in danger of turning from a glittering stage into an enticing shop window.

While the German top flight hasn't ever been exactly below the radar, other European teams looking for new players have given their German counterparts little more than a cursory glance before taking their checkbooks to Italy or Spain. More bargain basement than Armani or Balenciaga, the Bundesliga just didn't have the same appeal as Serie A or the Primera Liga.

The Bayern Munich players Luca Toni and Franck Ribery
Diamonds in the rough: Luca Toni and Franck RiberyImage: AP

But sew a few diamonds into the cut-price cloth and anyone looking for glamour will certainly spot a sparkle or two. With the likes of Luca Toni, Franck Ribery, Rafael van der Vaart, Miroslav Klose and Diego lighting up the German league, it was only a matter of time before the big spenders would spot an untapped market.

Two of the league's brightest midfield stars top the shoppers' most-wanted lists. With the January transfer window closing at the end of the week, Werder Bremen and Hamburg will be bracing themselves for "money's no object" offers for Diego and van der Vaart respectively.

Van der Vaart on Italian shopping list

Italian giants Juventus are hunting the two mini maestros and while Bremen are trying as hard as they can to hang onto their prized Brazilian playmaker, Hamburg have confirmed they have already spoken to the Turin team about a price for their want-away Dutchman.

Hamburg's Rafael van der Vaart
Van der Vaart could be Turin-boundImage: AP

"We are in discussions with Juventus, but we can't say more at this stage," Hamburg spokesman Jörn Wolf recently told German agency SID.

Van der Vaart is under contract until 2010, but can leave Hamburg next year for a fixed transfer fee of 1.5 million euros ($2 million), but the 24-year-old is reported to be worth 20 million euros in the current market and Hamburg may want to capitalize on that estimation, with Spanish giants Barcelona also interested in the diminutive Dutchman.

The midfielder, who made a shock move to the Bundesliga from Ajax in 2005 when everyone expected him to land in Spain or Italy, paved the way for other big names to come to the Bundesliga. His exit may prompt a similar spate of transfers in the opposite direction.

Diego coveted by Europe's biggest clubs

Diego, meanwhile, is being fiercely protected in Bremen with Juventus, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Chelsea all reportedly circling the Weserstadion in search of his signature on the dotted line.

Despite Juventus coach Claudio Ranieri's desire to see Diego play at the Stadio Olimpico di Torino, it will take more than covetous comments to spirit Werder's top scorer away.

Bremen's Diego reacts after scoring
Diego has let his feet do the talking at BremenImage: AP

"There is no inquiry from Juventus, and we will not talk with any clubs about signing Diego, he is a firm part of our plans," said Werder's director of sport Klaus Allofs, who reminded potential suitors that the Brazilian is contracted until June 2011.

The reported visit of Juve's sporting director, Alessio Secco, to Bremen last week fuelled the rumors further but Diego is expected to turn out for Bremen against Bochum on Sunday, ending the speculation -- until the summer at least.

Bayern pair linked to Premiership switch

Other names linked with a move away from the Bundesliga this month have been Bayern Munich colleagues Lukas Podolski and Daniel van Buyten.

Podolski has been dogged by a loss of form and a series of niggling injuries since arriving at the Allianz Arena from FC Köln in 2006. With the acquisition of strike partners Klose and Toni last summer, Podolski slipped further down the pecking order, prompting a number of audacious attempts from English Premiership side Manchester City to sign the striker in the last few weeks.

Lukas Podolski
Poldi has been the subject of frenzied transfer speculationImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

However, the Bayern higher-ups have put their foot down and have said that Prinz Poldi is going nowhere.

"I had a very good discussion with Lukas and made it clear to him he cannot leave Bayern, because we need him for the future," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "We are convinced of his quality and we are looking forward to seeing him in action again."

Van Buyten has been the subject of speculation ever since the Bundesliga paused for the winter break with Scottish champions Celtic and premiership club Newcastle United keen to take the defender back to the UK. The Belgian international played under new Newcastle coach Kevin Keegan at Manchester City in 2004 and has said he would be open to working with the coach again.

Brazilian defenders looking for pastures new

Bayern could also be close to losing veteran defender Lucio. The Brazilian told Deutsche Welle last month that it was his dream to play in either Italy or Spain and that he hoped that he could make that dream come true before the end of his contract in 2010.

"I dream about Spain and Italy," he said. "Perhaps my dream can come true a bit earlier if I can come to an agreement with the club."

Another Brazilian on the verge of leaving the Bundesliga appears to be Hertha Berlin's Gilberto. The defender is set to sign for Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur after flying to London for a medical on Sunday.

Hertha Berlin's Giberto
Gilberto is expected to be a Spurs player by next weekImage: dpa

Berlin's coach Lucien Favre confirmed the 31-year-old was in the English capital at the weekend and the 27-times capped Brazilian looks set to join Spurs for a reported figure of 3 million euros.

English clubs raid Bundesliga also-rans

Also apparently Premiership-bound is Schalke 04's out-of-favor striker Peter Lovenkrands. The Danish international is expected to put pen to paper at Birmingham City before the transfer window closes on Thursday night.

Joining him in England could be Wolfsburg's Bosnian prodigy Edin Dzeko, who is a target for Arsenal, and Borussia Mönchengladbach's Ivory Coast defender Steve Gohouri, who could end up at Wigan Athletic.