By Matthew Wilson.
In Europe, some of the best football teams often come from a nation’s capital cities.
Paris Saint Germain are the dominant club in France, Real Madrid are a dominant force in Spain, and in London, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham are some of the biggest sides in world football, all reaching European finals last season.
But in Germany, their capital, Berlin, has struggled to field a team which reflects the magnificence of the great city.
It has been close to 100 years since Berlin’s biggest club, Hertha, were German league champions. Hertha has never won the German Cup and they have qualified for the Champions League on just one occasion.
The man once dubbed the “German Bill Gates”, Lars Windhorst, took up the mammoth task of giving the German capital a football club to be proud of when he purchased a significant share of Hertha last summer, in what was the largest single equity transaction in Bundesliga history.
Just a few months later Windhorst increased his stake in the club to the maximum 49.9% permitted by the protective 50+1 rule. This rule, unique to german football, prevents buyers from taking a majority stake in German football teams.
Things have not gone as well as anticipated on the pitch, considering the level of investment. The experienced Bruno Labbadia is the club’s fourth manager in the space of a year. Hertha’s managerial carousel is material evidence to signify what a baptism of fire it has been for the new ownership.
Legendary German player, and former manager of Bayern and the national team, Jurgen Klinsmann, lasted just 10 games in charge of the Hertha experiment before he quit in February.
It seems clear that this project will take some time, but Hertha’s fans can be optimistic about the quality of player coming into the German capital since the takeover.
Newly promoted Union Berlin may have received most of the attention thanks to their underdog story this season, but Hertha have done some business which should stand them in good stead going forward.
Let’s have a look at some of the new faces to Hertha Berlin since Windhorst and his partners announced themselves on the scene.
Hertha Berlin’s club-record signing in the summer, the 22-year old Lukebakio built a reputation in the Bundesliga as being the man for the big occasion. Last season, on loan with Fortuna Düsseldorf from Watford, the speedy left-footed attacker scored four goals in two games against multiple German champions Bayern Munich.
This included a sensational hat-trick in the Allianz Arena, which was also the only hat-trick ever scored past Manuel Neuer in the Bundesliga.
The opening game of the Bundesliga this season saw Bayern face Hertha and yet again the Belgian found a way to get onto the score sheet.
The talented 20-year old Brazilian was starting to find his feet at RB Leipzig when Hertha convinced the striker to join their revolution.
The transfer took place while Cunha was in South America participating in the Olympic qualifiers for the Brazilain U23 squad. He finished as the tournament’s leading goal scorer as Brazil booked their place in the now postponed Olympics.
The highest-profile transfer the German club managed to pull off was that of AC Milan centre-forward Krzysztof Piatek. Zlatan Ibrahimović’s return to Milan meant that Piatek’s future was uncertain, and after a host of rumours linking him to some of Europe’s biggest teams, Piatek decided to join Hertha.
Another Polish striker, Robert Lewandowski, is one of the greatest goal scorers in German football history and Hertha hope their own Polish international can make a similar name for himself in the Bundesliga.
France’s former U21 captain has been a staple in Lyon’s midfield for the last few seasons and has been brought to the German capital to do much of the same.
At just 22 years old, Tousart has the potential to be a cog of this team in the coming seasons. A major part of France’s U19 European Champions team that also contained Kylian Mbappe and Bundesliga star Amine Harit, Tousart looks a super pick up for the Old Lady’s midfield.
The tough tacking Argentine Ascacíbar has also brought his talents to Berlin. Relegated with Stuttgart at the end of last season it was a surprise to see no one manage to lure Ascacibar away until now.
As was the case at Stuttgart, he has been a regular in the lineup at Hertha, playing every minute of every game as a midfield enforcer.
While he may not be found on the scoresheet, Ascacíbar has the ball-winning qualities every top team needs.
The controversial former Celtic centre-back finally finished what felt like it would be a never-ending transfer saga when he left the Scottish champions for Hertha in the summer.
29-year-old Boyata, with his age and experience, should be one of the leaders of this team going forward, although, for many, he never managed to reach the potential he portrayed in the Manchester City academy.
Often overshadowed among Belgium’s unbelievable generation of centre-backs, this move can silence his doubters if he and his club are successful.
19-year-old Daishawn Redan is more of a long-term acquisition for the new group, but one that shows how attractive Hertha has become to Europe’s top young prospects.
Redan excelled in the youth teams of Ajax, Chelsea, and the Dutch national team, before signing a long-term contract with the ambitious Bundesliga club.
Redan has scored an outstanding 42 goals from 53 caps across U15, U16, U17 and U19 levels for the Dutch national teams. He also captained them to the U17 European Championship in 2018.