In the last few years, the VfB Stuttgart haven’t been one of Germany’s top clubs. The German national champions of 2011 were in a fight against relegation just a few years later. In the end, they had to go down in 2016. With that, a lot has changed in the club. With their relegation they started to focus on young talents from their own academy, players like Sami Khedira, Mario Gomez and Timo Werner all came through the academy into the first-team of Stuttgart. After a few successful seasons, they went to bigger clubs. Joshua Kimmich, for instance, is also a product of the VfB youth academy although he never played for the first-team. With Michael Reschke, their transfer policy changed. In this recruitment analysis, I will show you the different players Stuttgart signed.
Since 2016 Stuttgart have also recruited a lot of foreign talent and given young players a chance to develop. The best example clearly is Benjamin Pavard who played the last two years in Stuttgart and is now linked with a lot of top clubs in Europe after his impressive World-Cup performance. Last year Michael Reschke became their new manager. Before he went to Stuttgart he planned the squad and made transfers for Bayern Munich during Pep Guardiola’s time in Munich. He is responsible for players like Joshua Kimmich and Kingsley Coman moving there.
However, he’s spent most of his time working for Bayer Leverkusen. Leverkusen is probably one of the top teams in terms of making intelligent transfer decisions. Over a long period of time, Leverkusen were capable of buying young players cheap and sell them for a much higher price. For example, Arturo Vidal, Heung-min Son, André Schürrle and Julian Brandt are some examples of very intelligent business by Michael Reschke.
Last year Reschke managed to buy Santiago Ascacibar who now is a crucial part of Stuttgart´s starting eleven. During this transfer window, Stuttgart made some interesting moves too. A good mixture of experienced older players and young talents with a lot of talent. In the following piece, I will take a look at some players who will play for VfB Stuttgart next season.
Gonzalo Castro – an old acquaintance
Position: Central midfield, fullback and winger
Transfer fee: 5 million euros
Gonzalo Castro is no unknown name for people who followed the Bundesliga over the last few seasons. Before moving to Dortmund, Castro spent 13 years at Bayer Leverkusen where he began in the youth academy and made his debut for the first team. Over the last three years, he played for Borussia Dortmund. During the campaign of Thomas Tuchel, he was a crucial part in the system of the new Paris St. Germain coach.
In Dortmund he regularly played as a central midfielder who helped to connect attack and defence and was responsible for finding the balance in possession, supporting their deep-lying playmaker Julian Weigl and sometimes he could even play higher-up the pitch to support the attack. However, what makes Castro so valuable is the fact that he can play multiple positions. At Leverkusen, he often was used as a winger due to his athletic abilities and his crossing, but he could also play as a fullback. He is quick, has a high football IQ, good technical abilities and can defend quite well.
At VfB Stuttgart, they could use Castro as a central midfielder next to Ascacibar or he plays as an inverted winger/offensive midfielder in Stuttgart´s 4-2-3-1/4-2-2-2 similar to the role Christian Gentner had last season under Tayfun Korkut.
Pablo Maffeo – Reschke´s top signing
Transfer fee: 9 million euros
This transfer could evolve into one of the best businesses Michael Reschke has ever done. For only 9 million euros Maffeo moved from Manchester City to Stuttgart. Last year the twenty-one-year-old right-back was on loan at Girona. There, he played the position of the right wing back in Girona´s 3-4-2-1 and impressed with the speed, technique and game intelligence.
If you watch Maffeo for the first time you immediately notice his speed. He is extremely fast and is therefore hard to beat when it comes to passes behind the lines. Furthermore, Maffeo possesses a strengthen body although he is only 1.72 m he can easily stay balanced in 1v1 situations. Sometimes he shows weaknesses in pushing out of the line in order to press the opponent immediately when he receives the ball. As a consequence, the ball carrier can sometimes dribble towards him without getting pressured. Or he is too aggressive and can get unbalanced. However, he recovers quickly due to his speed. Those mistakes in pressuring the opponent are very rare in Maffeo’s game. Usually, he gives the opponent no chance to turn with the ball.
His positioning defensively is also very solid, and his speed again helps him to cover the depth and defend quick attackers like Goncalo Guedes for instance.
But, Michael Reschke would not make Maffeo the most expensive signing in VfB club history if he could only defend well. The young man from Spain is an offensive threat for all opponents. He has great technical abilities, his first touch even after long switches is really good. But not only the first touch also his passing, crossing and dribbling skills promise a complete fullback who will definitely improve VfB Stuttgart offensively. At Girona, his main task was crossing the ball from the right side. Due to his technical abilities, Maffeo can cross the ball with both feet which makes him hard to defend because he can either go through to the baseline or he cuts inside and crosses with his left foot in the space behind the last line.
But not only did his pure technical abilities persuade Michael Reschke to spend that amount of money. Maffeo combines skill with a high football IQ. He rarely makes the wrong decision even under pressure. With him, Stuttgart now has a right-back who can cover the whole right-side on his own, which is the task of the fullbacks in Korkut’s system. Furthermore, the fact that Maffeo is great in combinations on the right-side will lift Stuttgart´s attacking game to a higher level.
Nicólas González – the talent with potential
Position: striker, right-winger, left-winger
Transfer fee: 8.5 million euros
Besides veteran, experienced Bundesliga players and talents who have some experience in Europe top-leagues the VfB Stuttgart focuses on young talents from lower leagues with less experience. Last year they signed Santiago Ascacibar who evolved in a crucial part of the team. This year they again managed to sign an Argentine talent in Nicólas González. González moves from Argentine side Argentinos to VfB Stuttgart where he will try to take the next step.
He feels comfortable when he plays up-front either as a striker in the centre or on the wing. However, he is not the classic striker in the box. Much rather Nicólas González is that type of quick additional striker who can support another striker in a, for instance, 4-4-2 system. Last season Tayfun Korkut always used two strikers with Daniel Ginczeck and Mario Gomez. One of those two, usually Gomez had to move to the wing to support or to use the space during counter-attacks. Gomez is great in counter-attacking situations with his intelligent movements and his ability to push the ball while still being capable of secure long-balls.
Ginczeck moved to Wolfsburg so Gomez will probably stay more in the centre. With Anastasios Donis, Stuttgart has one quick striker in their squad but Michael Reschke wanted to add another supportive striker. With González VfB Stuttgart now has a player who is quick, technically gifted with a good ball control and dribbling skills.
At Argentinos, he usually played as a winger either on the left or on the right side. His dribbling from the left side was extremely dangerous. By cleverly using body feints González was capable of blowing by the defender and then accurately cross the ball or continue to dribble until he found the space to shoot. Most of his actions looked quite intelligent.
He didn’t stress to shoot on goal moreover he tried to make the best decision. His vision can develop into one of his strengths. Especially, after he uses open space by dribbling around a defender or taking the defender out with his first touch he immediately tries to continue the attack by passing the ball to a teammate.
What makes him so interesting is his game intelligence in the centre. Nicólas González can also play between the lines and is able to dribble in tight spaces. He showed that potential in Argentine, however, he will need time to adjust his game to Germany because defenders will make fewer mistakes. And in Germany, the defensive shapes are more compact, and he will be pressured quickly.
Those three signings are just examples of VfB Stuttgart´s strategy. They sign three different types of players. The experienced Bundesliga player who can help immediately. Besides Gonzalo Castro, they also got Daniel Didavi who was involved in the deal with Daniel Ginczeck. With Marc-Oliver Kempf they get a young German defender for free who has played in the Bundesliga so far. Furthermore, they spent 6.5 million euros on Borna Sosa a 20-year-old Croatian left-back from Dinamo Zagreb who looks also very interesting.
What Michael Reschke does at VfB Stuttgart is just great business. He spent a lot of money, but those signings make absolute sense. Because he spent the big money on young talents who can develop. Stuttgart can potentially sell them for a much higher price somewhere in the future. It will be interesting to see how those talents evolve and if VfB Stuttgart can be again one of the top eight teams in Germany next season.