Franck Ribery is to take on a new challenge in Serie A at the age of 36, having agreed a deal to join Fiorentina.

The winger has signed for La Viola on a free transfer after leaving Bayern Munich at the end of last season.

Ribery enjoyed 12 hugely successful years in Munich but is excited by the prospect of playing for "a big team" in "a beautiful city", while others of a similar age elect to wind down their careers on less high-profile shores.

The former Marseille man says he spoke with ex-team-mate Luca Toni before accepting Fiorentina's offer - a wise decision, given Toni is one of only four people to have represented both clubs as player or head coach.

Below, we look at how the others got on...

Stefan Effenberg
Bayern: 1990-92
Fiorentina:1992-94
Bayern (again): 1998-02

Although best known for his success at the heart of the midfield of Bayern - where he won three Bundesligas and the 2001 Champions League among nine trophies in total - Effenberg did spend two years in Tuscany.

Joining at the age of 24 after Lothar Matthaus had returned to Bayern to take his place, Effenberg endured a miserable first season as Fiorentina were relegated from Serie A. He helped them bounce straight back to the top flight as Serie B champions, though, before returning to Germany with Borussia Monchengladbach.

 

Mario Gomez
Bayern: 2009-13
Fiorentina: 2013-16

Gomez won the treble in 2012-13 in his final season with Bayern before heading to Florence, having scored 113 goals in 174 appearances in all competitions and lifted seven trophies.

The striker's time in Italy was unlucky, though, with knee ligament damage restricting him to only 21 starts in Serie A before he was loaned to Besiktas for the 2015-16 campaign. He helped them win the Turkish Super Lig.

 

Franck Ribery
Bayern: 2007-19
Fiorentina: 2019-?

Winning 23 trophies in 12 seasons is remarkable by anyone's standards, and it highlights just how important Ribery has been to Bayern's restoration as the pre-eminent force in German football over the past decade.

The treble of 2012-13 was his crowning achievement and should, arguably, have seen him win the Ballon d'Or. Since then, injuries have begun to take their toll, and it is unclear just how effective the Frenchman will prove to be in Italy.
 

Luca Toni
Fiorentina: 2005-07
Bayern: 2007-10
Fiorentina (again): 2012-13

Toni won the World Cup with Italy midway through an impressive first spell with Fiorentina, prompting Bayern to spend a reported €11.6million to take the striker to Germany.

Three domestic trophies in his first season were followed by a more fallow spell, however, while an Achilles injury and disagreements with coach Louis van Gaal led to his departure in 2010. A return to Fiorentina would come three years later, where he enjoyed a single productive season before heading for Hellas Verona.

 

Giovanni Trapattoni
Bayern: 1994-95
Bayern (again): 1996-98
Fiorentina: 1998-00

For a man who turned out for just two clubs as a player, Trapattoni has certainly enjoyed a nomadic coaching career.

He was twice Bayern boss, winning the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and DFB-Ligapokal in his second spell, before he returned to Italy with Fiorentina. Those two years in Florence ended trophyless, but they were enough to land him the job with the national team.

Barcelona are officially making a move for Neymar and Paris Saint-Germain are set to reject their offer.

The Neymar saga is seemingly no closer to ending as the Brazil star looks to leave the Ligue 1 champions before the transfer window closes on September 2.

Barca are set to at least make a bid as they aim to get a deal done for their former star, but it will be rejected.

 

TOP STORY – PSG TO REJECT BARCELONA'S LOAN BID FOR NEYMAR

PSG have no interest in initially loaning Neymar to Barcelona, according to Le Parisien.

It was reported the bid from LaLiga's champions would be for a temporary move, but PSG want an outright transfer so they can find a replacement for the forward, amid reported interest in Juventus playmaker Paulo Dybala.

Barcelona are willing to accept a purchase option if €160million can be paid in instalments, according to Sport.

Meanwhile, the cover of Marca says Neymar is entering "Zone Florentino", referencing Real Madrid president Perez as Barca's rivals maintain hope of signing the 27-year-old.

ROUND-UP

- There could be plenty of movement at Barcelona late in the window. Juventus are discussing a potential swap deal to land Ivan Rakitic and see Emre Can head to Camp Nou, according to Tuttosport, which says the Catalans also put Luis Suarez on the table.

- One midfielder not leaving Turin is Blaise Matuidi. RMC Sport reports the France international will stay at Juventus amid links to PSG and Bayern Munich, with Can seemingly more likely to depart the Serie A champions.

- Mariano Diaz's future is uncertain. AS claims Mariano is not in Real Madrid's plans for this season, but no club has come close to meeting a €20m valuation of the forward.

- Franck Ribery is set to become a Fiorentina player. The former Bayern Munich star has agreed to a deal with the Serie A club, according to Sport Bild and Gianluca Di Marzio, with the Frenchman set to sign on Thursday.

- Amid reported interest from Manchester City and Manchester United, Jadon Sancho is said to be re-signing with Borussia Dortmund. The 19-year-old England international has sealed a £190,000-per-week long-term deal with Dortmund, according to the Daily Mail.

- Michy Batshuayi is not ready to give up on his Chelsea career. The Belgium striker wants to stay and fight for a place in Frank Lampard's team, according to the Evening Standard.

Renato Sanches' public criticism of Bayern Munich for apparently not letting him leave the club has been met with bafflement by sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic.

The 22-year-old joined Bayern to much fanfare in 2016 after impressing with Benfica and Portugal, establishing himself as one of the world's most promising teenagers.

But things have not gone to plan for Sanches in the Bundesliga, struggling before and since an unsuccessful loan spell at Swansea City in 2017-18.

Niko Kovac's appointment at Bayern last year appeared to provide Sanches with hope of kickstarting his career in Germany, but again his impact was underwhelming.

After a five-minute cameo in Friday's 2-2 draw with Hertha Berlin, Sanches complained about his playing time and questioned why the club had twice refused to let him leave, much to Salihamidzic's confusion.

"Renato has played three times since the start the season," Salihamidzic told reporters during the presentation of new signing Mickael Cuisance, midfield challenger to Sanches' place in the squad.

"Against Borussia Dortmund he was subbed on, in the DFB-Pokal he started and this weekend, although it was only for five minutes, he was also subbed on.

"Therefore, I didn't really understand why he had to make these remarks. We will see [if he stays], I already explained on Monday that we'll keep all our options open until September 2 [when the transfer window closes].

"Other than that, I don't want to say much more about it."

Cuisance, 20, will be hoping to not fall short of expectations at Bayern like Sanches, with Salihamidzic revealing the club to be long-time admirers of the France youth international talent, who joins from Borussia Monchengladbach for a reported €12million.

"We always tried to get him to Bayern," Salihamidzic said of Cuisance. "He is a player who can play all positions in midfield.

"He is a very creative player with a very good left foot. He is very creative and feels comfortable in a small spaces. Even under pressure, he has no problems and has great technique.

"He has a very good idea of the game, which has been seen in the French youth teams. He also showed this in his first year in Monchengladbach, so he is very interesting for our team.

"We expect him to develop further here and I'm sure we'll have a lot of fun with him."

Jurgen Klopp revealed Liverpool could not afford to bring Philippe Coutinho back to Anfield as he backed the attacker to shine at Bayern Munich.

Coutinho's move to the Bundesliga champions was confirmed on Monday, the Brazil international joining on a season-long loan from Barcelona with Bayern holding an option to buy for €120million.

The 27-year-old had also been linked with a return to Liverpool, where he starred for five seasons before joining Barca.

Klopp said the European champions could not spend the money required to sign Coutinho, with Bayern paying an €8.5m loan fee and the star's wages.

"It sounds a bit strange, but we could not afford it," he said at the Sport Bild awards on Monday.

"We have already spent the money that we got for him."

Klopp backed Coutinho to shine for Bayern after struggling to have an impact at Barcelona.

"He's a great player, a great boy," the former Borussia Dortmund coach said.

"We were reluctant to sell him, but Barcelona forced us with money, so to speak.

"He is a player who can change games for the positive. It's not that nice for Dortmund, but it's a great transfer for Bayern and the Bundesliga."

Bayern Munich-bound Philippe Coutinho will be head and shoulders above every other player in the Bundesliga, according to former team-mate Marko Grujic.

Coutinho, 27, is on the cusp of joining Niko Kovac's side on a season-long loan from Barcelona.

The agreement will include an option for Bayern to sign the Brazilian on a permanent basis, their sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic confirmed.

Hertha Berlin midfielder Grujic played alongside Coutinho at Liverpool and thinks German football fans are in for a treat.

"It's a big deal for the whole Bundesliga that we now have the opportunity to see Coutinho," Grujic told Sport Bild.

"He is a special, exciting player, capable of crazy things. He has incredible tricks and skills. I enjoyed every training session with him.

"He will be the best footballer in Germany by far."

Coutinho is expected to undergo a medical in Bavaria on either Sunday or Monday.

His new club started their title defence with a 2-2 draw at home to Hertha on Friday, Grujic scoring the second for the visitors before Robert Lewandowski completed his brace to force a share of the spoils.

First Romelu Lukaku. Now Alexis Sanchez?

Lukaku left Manchester United for Inter and former team-mate Sanchez could join the powerhouse Belgian in Milan.

Antonio Conte's Inter are set to be active before the transfer window closes.

 

TOP STORY – SANCHEZ SET FOR INTER

Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez has agreed terms with Inter, according to Sky Italia.

Sanchez has endured a nightmare spell since joining United from Premier League rivals Arsenal in 2018, managing just five goals in all competitions.

While United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has publicly declared Sanchez will play a significant role this season, the Chilean is reportedly poised to join former Red Devils striker Romelu Lukaku at Inter.

 

ROUND-UP 

- Real Madrid will make a late €65million (£60m) bid to sign Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen, The Sun reports. The Danish star has been linked to Atletico Madrid and Juventus, while Madrid have been talking to Ajax about Donny van de Beek as they struggle to prise Paul Pogba from Manchester United.

- Le Parisien says Neymar remains convinced he will leave Paris Saint-Germain before the transfer window shuts. It comes as Sport claims Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu has taken command to re-sign the Brazilian, who left for a world-record fee in 2017.

- According to the Mirror, Manchester United are ready to pay defender Marcos Rojo to leave Old Trafford. With two years remaining on his contract, Rojo was linked with a deadline-day move to Everton. The Argentina international is now reportedly pushing for a loan switch to Turkish giants Fenerbahce.

Bayern Munich want to re-sign Mario Mandzukic from Juventus, claims Bild. Mandzukic spent two years at Bayern, where he won back-to-back Bundesliga titles and the Champions League.

- It comes as Soccerlink reports Serie A champions Juve have turned to Lyon forward Moussa Dembele, with Inter outcast Mauro Icardi proving difficult to sign.

Napoli are preparing to relaunch a €60m bid to sign Icardi, according to Corriere dello Sport. Juventus are willing to offer Paulo Dybala in a swap deal but Inter are reluctant to deal with the Bianconeri. Napoli are also reportedly set to complete the signing of PSV's Hirving Lozano, who will undergo a medical on Wednesday.

AC Milan have asked Tottenham for full-back Serge Aurier on loan with an option to buy, claims Soccerlink.

Robert Lewandowski believes Philippe Coutinho will make a seamless transition to Bayern Munich after the Bundesliga champions agreed to a deal to sign the Barcelona playmaker.

Coutinho is set to join Bayern on loan for the 2019-20 season – the deal including an option to buy the Brazil international – after the German giants and Barca confirmed on Friday that an agreement is in place.

Bayern have been desperate to reinforce their squad following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben, and the conclusion of James Rodriguez's loan deal from Real Madrid.

Ivan Perisic arrived after a serious knee injury scuppered Bayern's attempts to sign Manchester City star Leroy Sane, and Coutinho is poised to follow in Munich.

"I don't think he'll need that much time to adapt to our system and ideas," Lewandowski told reporters of Coutinho after scoring twice in Bayern's 2-2 draw at home to Hertha Berlin in the club's Bundesliga opener.

"I think he's the sort of player that can settle in without many problems."

Coutinho has struggled to cement his place at Camp Nou since joining Barca in a reported €160million transfer from Liverpool in January 2018.

The 27-year-old scored five league goals as Barca retained their LaLiga crown in 2018-19, while he managed 11 in all competitions.

It was not all good news following Friday's agreement as Bayern midfielder Renato Sanches vented his frustration with his lack of playing time.

Sanches – who has struggled since joining from Benfica in 2016 – made a brief appearance against Hertha, the Portuguese an 85th-minute replacement for Thomas Muller.

Upset with the situation following two unsuccessful attempts to leave, the 21-year-old Sanches said: "Of course I'm disappointed, it's the second time the club has not let me go, five minutes is not enough for me."

Asked about Sanches' comments, Bayern head coach Niko Kovac added: "I cannot say anything about that, I did not speak to him."

Philippe Coutinho wanted to leave Barcelona at the end of last season as he prepares to join Bayern Munich on loan, according to Ernesto Valverde.

Barca and Bayern confirmed on Friday that an agreement is in place for Coutinho to move to the Bundesliga champions for the 2019-20 campaign – the deal including an option to buy the playmaker.

Coutinho had been linked to Paris Saint-Germain as a makeweight in a possible deal for former Barca star Neymar, however, the Brazilian is now set for Munich after watching Friday's shock 1-0 loss at Athletic Bilbao from the stands.

Asked about Coutinho following Barca's disappointing LaLiga opener, head coach Valverde told Movistar: "It is a situation that last season when the league ended the player had it in his head.

"This has come up, he has accepted and hopefully he is lucky."

Coutinho, who will help to replace James Rodriguez after his two-year loan from Real Madrid ended, has struggled to cement his place at Camp Nou since joining Barca in a reported €160million transfer from Liverpool in January 2018 – a move that saw him become the world's second most expensive player.

The 27-year-old Brazil international scored five league goals as Barca retained their LaLiga crown in 2018-19, while he managed 11 in all competitions.

Coutinho is set to follow another loan signing – Ivan Perisic – through the door, though sections of Bayern's fanbase were not impressed by the deal to sign the Inter forward, who came in as an alternative to Leroy Sane after the Manchester City winger suffered a serious knee injury.

 

Bayern Munich are set to sign Philippe Coutinho on a season-long loan from Barcelona and the deal includes an option to buy the playmaker, Hasan Salihamidzic has confirmed.

Coutinho was not involved as LaLiga champions Barca suffered a surprise opening-day defeat to Athletic Bilbao on Friday, with the club's official spokesman Guillermo Amor announcing prior to kick-off an agreement had been reached to send the former Liverpool man to Bayern.

Bayern got off to a similarly sluggish start to their Spanish counterparts, drawing 2-2 at home to Hertha Berlin in the Bundesliga curtain raiser.

After the clash at Allianz Arena, Bayern sporting director Salihamidzic – who also revealed Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Mickael Cuisance will be joining the Bundesliga champions – announced a deal for Coutinho is in place.

"I can confirm that [Bayern chairman] Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and I have been in Barcelona this week and we have reached an agreement with Barcelona, with the player and his agent," he told ZDF.

"We have had very good discussions, I would like to thank Barcelona. Of course, there are still missing a few details, including the medical check and the signature.

"It is a transfer on loan for one year followed by a purchase option for Bayern."

Coutinho, who will help to replace James Rodriguez after his two-year loan from Real Madrid ended, has struggled to cement his place at Camp Nou since joining Barca in a reported €160million transfer in January 2018, a move that saw him become the world's second most expensive player.

The Brazil midfielder is set to follow another loan signing – Ivan Perisic – through the door, though sections of Bayern's fanbase were not impressed by the deal to sign the Inter forward, who came in as an alternative to Leroy Sane after the Manchester City winger suffered a serious knee injury.

"Nowadays it is not easy in the transfer market," Salihamidzic continued. "We tried very hard, it is clear that we want to offer our fans something spectacular. But to reinforce this team is not easy.

"With Perisic, some will see that he is a really good player. Coutinho will offer us options; he can play in the middle or can come from the left. The fans can be happy."

Bayern boss Niko Kovac, meanwhile, believes German football fans should be delighted a player of Coutinho's quality is joining the Bundesliga.

"I am of the opinion that we – and I do not only refer to Bayern Munich but also to the whole Bundesliga, whole Germany – can be happy to welcome such a top player here in this league," Kovac told a news conference after the draw with Hertha.

"He is a player that not only proved this in the clubs but also at the national team. If you look at the last Copa America, then you know what I am talking about. We are very delighted and I think he will fit well. He will show us what he is capable of – namely playing football very well."

Robert Lewandowski scored a double but Bayern Munich failed to get their Bundesliga campaign off to a winning start as they drew 2-2 with Hertha Berlin at Allianz Arena.

Lewandowski's 24th-minute goal put Niko Kovac's side, who are set to sign Barcelona's Philippe Coutinho on loan, ahead on Friday but Hertha turned the game on its head in the space of two minutes.

Dodi Lukebakio's fortunate strike restored parity in the 36th minute before Marko Grujic capitalised on sloppy Bayern defending.

Grujic turned from Hertha's hero to villain just prior to the hour, however, when his needless foul on Lewandowski was spotted by VAR but, although Bayern's striker tucked in the resulting penalty, the hosts could not carve out a winner.

Bayern wasted little time in flexing their muscles and the champions hit the front when Lewandowski pounced on Serge Gnabry's cross.

Gnabry turned provider again two minutes later, but Corentin Tolisso was unable to beat Rune Jarstein and Bayern were swiftly made to pay for the miss.

Lukebakio tried his luck from range and was rewarded as his effort deflected off Vedad Ibisevic and beyond a flat-footed Manuel Neuer.

The turnaround was complete two minutes later – Grujic racing onto Ibisevic's throughball before coolly slotting under Neuer.

Jarstein came to Hertha's rescue again after the restart, diving in bravely at Kingsley Coman's feet before he pulled off a superb stop to deny Gnabry.

But Jarstein's good work was undone when Grujic ludicrously hauled down Lewandowski, who sent Hertha's goalkeeper the wrong way from 12 yards.

Lewandowski looked set to snatch the spoils in the final minute of stoppage time but, under pressure from a defender, failed to direct his close-range header on target as Bayern had to settle for a point.

What does it mean? Bayern have plenty of work to do

Kovac came under much scrutiny last season but his side ended 2018-19 in sensational form, going unbeaten in their final 14 Bundesliga matches as they snatched the title ahead of Borussia Dortmund and then won the DFB-Pokal.

But, having already lost to Dortmund in the DFL-Supercup, Bayern know that even the goals of Lewandowski and imminent arrival of Coutinho may not be enough to hold off Lucien Favre's side for a second season running.

Record-setting Lewandowski at it again

Lewandowski may be the wrong side of 30, but he is showing no signs of slowing down.

He was in inspired form on Friday, grabbing his opener – a record-setting fifth consecutive strike from the Poland international in an opening Bundesliga match – with a typical poacher's finish before slamming in Bayern's equaliser from the spot.

Grujic's moment of madness costs Hertha

Hertha's Grujic took a blow to the head in the build up to his goal, and being dizzy from that knock is the only excuse he can have for his bizarre decision to drag down Lewandowski.

What's next?

Bayern travel to Schalke on August 24 in what is David Wagner's first home game in charge of his new club, while Hertha host Wolfsburg.

Halfway through last season, Borussia Dortmund were in pole position to dethrone Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga.

The new year saw Lucien Favre's bright young side falter just enough for Bayern's know how to tell, with Niko Kovac's men claiming a seventh successive top-flight crown.

But it means the anticipation is for a memorable tussle once again this time around, with the processions of recent campaigns hopefully a thing of the past. Throw in an ambitious chasing pack and you have quite a spectacle.

Before the first ball is kicked, five Omnisport journalists have put their necks on the line with some top-four predictions.

We totted up the overall scores and here's what we came up with. Apologies in advance to all at Signal Iduna Park…

 

1st – Borussia Dortmund

Unlike our near-unanimous choice for Manchester City to be Premier League champions, the panel was understandably split down the middle over who will prevail out of Dortmund and Bayern. BVB just got the edge.

STRENGTHS: Wonderful attacking quality, expertly coached by Favre, which is now bolstered by the arrivals of Julian Brandt and Thorgan Hazard. The returning Mats Hummels – alongside the likes of the talismanic Marco Reus and Axel Witsel – ensures a pleasing blend between experience and future stars.

WEAKNESSES: Can they handle the pressure better than last time around? Hummels is a fine addition but has a significant job on his hands to shore up a vulnerable defence in front of the gifted but error-prone Roman Burki.

2nd – Bayern Munich

Despite an unconvincing close season in the transfer market, defined by the unseemly Leroy Sane saga, it remains hard to back against the Bundesliga's dominant force. But we have!

STRENGTHS: Supreme title-winning pedigree and, although lacking some of the depth they would like, the best collection of individual players in the league. Robert Lewandowski is going for a fifth Torjagerkanone, while there are signs Manuel Neuer might be back to his best.

WEAKNESSES: Light in attack after the departures of club greats Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben. Significant doubts remain over whether Kovac is the right man from the job, seemingly from the terraces to boardroom level. As such, Uli Hoeness' mooted departure as chairman could lead to turmoil.

3rd – RB Leipzig

German football's new kids on the block were the only other a unanimous choice to finish inside the top four.

STRENGTHS: Julian Nagelsmann has cast himself as a generational coaching talent and should be the man to take last season's beaten DFB-Pokal finalists on to the next level. They have bought shrewdly by bringing in the likes of Christopher Nkunku and Ademola Lookman.

WEAKNESSES: The distraction of star forward Timo Werner entering the final year of his contract. Adapting to Nagelsmann's detailed pressing system is likely to be a challenge.

4th – Bayer Leverkusen

Peter Bosz's time in charge of Dortmund might have ended abruptly but he is doing plenty to convince with a vibrant Leverkusen side.

STRENGTHS: Kai Havertz scored 20 goals in all competitions last season and is a superstar-in-waiting. They have bought well, with Moussa Diaby an exciting replacement for Brandt. The arrival of Hoffenheim duo Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri also strengthens Bosz's hand significantly.

WEAKNESSES: The coach's system is always likely to lead to defensive vulnerability and there is a lack of quality cover for Jonathan Tah and Sven Bender at centre-back.

Niko Kovac is confident Ivan Perisic will make a positive impact after joining Bayern Munich on loan from Inter, despite him being the club's "second choice".

Bayern made no secret of their desire to buy Leroy Sane from Manchester City, but the Germany winger - now sidelined for up to seven months with a knee injury - stayed with the Premier League champions.

With Chelsea's teenage England international Callum Hudson-Odoi reportedly set to sign a new contract at Stamford Bridge, Bayern were forced to move down their list of transfer targets.

They turned to Kovac's fellow Croatian Perisic, the former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg winger who found himself surplus to requirements at Inter following the appointment of Antonio Conte as the club's new head coach.

Perisic will spend the 2019-20 season on loan at the Allianz Arena, with the deal including a purchase option, but some fans have expressed anger at what they consider to be an unimaginative signing.

Kovac, though, thinks his own first term at Bayern shows Perisic could be a shrewd addition.

"I was also the second choice [for Bayern] and we won the double, so… It's like this: we made this choice all together," Kovac told a news conference on Wednesday. 

"We analysed and spoke about a lot of names. He [Perisic] was already on the list. I brought him up back then, because I know Ivan, I know what he's capable of, I know what kind of skills he has, and we all know what he's achieved in Germany.

"Personally, I have a good connection to [Perisic's former coach] Dieter Hecking, who told me many things from his time in Wolfsburg. And from the national team, I know his status in Croatia.

"He's one of the top three players in our national team and as you know, the best player in the world is Croatian [Ballon d'Or winner Luka Modric]. So, Ivan is certainly a top player and I'm happy to have him."

Perisic faces the daunting task of succeeding Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, both of whom departed the Bundesliga champions at the end of last season after trophy-laden spells in Munich.

"He's very skilled, he's good with both feet, he's very aggressive, has a strong header and is a team player," Kovac added of the versatile forward.

"That's why we reacted immediately, even though we had him on our list before. I'm glad he's here and I'm sure he'll give us exactly what we need on the wings - that kind of drive that we need for our play."

Perisic is unavailable for the opening Bundesliga game of the season against Hertha Berlin on Friday due to serving a suspension that carries over from last season.

"I wish it weren't the case," said Kovac of the ban. "But you have to accept the suspension, even though it doesn't exist in this form in Germany. But if that's the case, we accept it!"

Thirteen weeks on from lifting the Bundesliga for a seventh successive year, Bayern Munich begin their latest title defence with a home match against Hertha Berlin on Friday.

Bayern have strengthened their defence during the close season, but they are a little light in attack following the departures of Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben and James Rodriguez.

Will that give other teams, namely last term's runners-up Borussia Dortmund, an opportunity to catch Niko Kovac's side?

The transfer window does not shut until September 2 but, ahead of the opening round of fixtures, we look at the five best signings made by Bundesliga clubs.

 

5. Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig)

Following the success of Jadon Sancho at Dortmund, German clubs are desperate to get their hands on the next young British talent.

Others have followed in the steps of Sancho, including Rabbi Matondo, Ethan Ampadu, Emile Smith Rowe and Reiss Nelson, each with the aim of making a name for themselves on foreign shores.

Lookman is no stranger to doing exactly that, having starred for Leipzig during a spell on loan at Red Bull Arena in 2018 when playing a direct part in eight goals across his 11 Bundesliga appearances.

First-team opportunities were few and far between on his return to Everton, but he now has a chance to truly kickstart his career after a permanent deal worth a reported €25million was agreed between the clubs.

 

4. Moussa Diaby (Bayer Leverkusen)

Awarded the Titi d’Or award in 2016 - given to the player deemed the most promising in Paris Saint-Germain's academy - Diaby was expected to go on and become a key member in PSG's first-team squad.

Following a brief spell on loan with Crotone in 2017-18, Diaby returned to the Parc des Princes and started 10 Ligue 1 matches last season, scoring two goals and setting up six more.

He further enhanced his reputation with France at the Under-20 World Cup, but with competition from the likes of Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria and Julian Draxler in the wide positions, he opted to move to Leverkusen.

Having also brought in Kerem Demirbay from Hoffenheim in a reported €28m deal, not many sides will have more creative midfield talents than Leverkusen this season.


3. Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)

Dortmund were quick off the mark with their transfer dealings, using the cash from Christian Pulisic's £58m sale to Chelsea to bolster their squad from front to back.

Less than a week after the 2018-19 campaign finished, Hazard and Julian Brandt arrived at Dortmund on five-year deals from Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen respectively on the same day.

Brandt boasts plenty of Bundesliga experience from his five years with Bayer and represented Germany at the 2018 World Cup. 

It is arguably the capture of Hazard that is the more exciting of the two, though. The Belgian attacking midfielder registered double figures for both goals and assists in the top flight last season and he will provide BVB with some additional creativity.

 

2. Lucas Hernandez (Bayern Munich)

Like Dortmund, Bayern did not hang around to get their biggest pieces of transfer business - to date, at least - out of the way early on as they completed deals for French defenders Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard before last season was even over.

Pavard arrives from Stuttgart for around €35m and Lucas makes the switch from Atletico Madrid for a mammoth €80m.

Bayern now have both of the starting full-backs from France's World Cup-winning campaign, and in Lucas they have a player capable of playing on the left or in central defence, where he is most likely to feature during his time at the Allianz Arena.

He missed all of Bayern's pre-season programme but has now recovered from knee surgery and is expected to slot in alongside Niklas Sule in the early weeks of the season.


1. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund)

Dortmund led the way at the top of the Bundesliga for a large part of last season, only to slip away when the going got tough.

The return of experienced defender Hummels in the heart of defence could potentially be the missing piece in the jigsaw for Lucien Favre's side, then, with BVB finishing just two points behind Bayern last time around.

He returns to Signal Iduna Park for a reported fee of €31m and has plenty of title-winning experience that he can put to good use, making Bayern's decision to sell him to a direct rival somewhat surprising - and one that could potentially backfire come next May.

Ivan Perisic had no doubts about joining Bayern Munich once the Bundesliga champions came calling, even if he was not their first-choice target.

Perisic signed for Bayern on Tuesday, arriving on an initial one-season loan from Inter, with an option to buy.

Bayern had looked set to make a move for Leroy Sane throughout the transfer window, but any possibility of signing the Manchester City winger was ended when the 23-year-old sustained knee ligament damage in the Community Shield clash with Liverpool on August 4.

The move for Perisic was made swiftly, though not all Bayern fans have been pleased by the transfer, with coach Niko Kovac hitting out at suggestions the Croatia forward was not of the standard required.

Although Perisic acknowledged he was not Bayern's primary candidate, the former Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg man insisted it was a simple decision to move back to the Bundesliga.

"It happened really quickly. Everybody knows what happened [with Sane], and I hope he recovers well and quickly," Perisic told a news conference ahead of Bayern's opening Bundesliga fixture on Friday.

"But when they called me, I took only a few hours to take my decision with my family. When a club like Bayern call, you cannot say no.

"That's the reason I’m here. I want to do the best here every day, each game and I hope it's going to be a successful year."

Perisic will have to compete with Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and youngster Alphonso Davies for a spot in Kovac's side, though at 30, he adds some more experience to Bayern's attack following the departures of Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.

"I'm coming here to be part of the team, and to play. There are a lot of games, and at this level you cannot play all the games," Perisic said.

"We need everybody, at least 17, 18 players if you want to be on top. You know during the season there's going to be injuries, so we'll need everybody."

Perisic scored eight Serie A goals for Inter, who he joined in 2015, last term, though believes his form was hindered due to a lack of rest following Croatia's run to the World Cup final.

"The last year was a really difficult one after the final. I had not even 20 days for recovery," he added.

"When I returned to Inter I was back in the side for the first game of Serie A. That was the reason the season was many ups and many downs.

"When you look at all the players who played in the final, you will see maybe one or two that had a really good season.

"But this season I had a really good pre-season with Inter, with the new coach [Antonio] Conte he is a really hard worker, and it's going to help me a lot here."

Bayern Munich have signed Ivan Perisic on a season-long loan from Inter, with an option to make the deal permanent next year.

The 30-year-old joined Inter in 2015 and has been a regular starter during his four years at San Siro, scoring eight goals in Serie A last term.

He will provide competition to Serge Gnabry and Kingsley Coman at the Allianz Arena and could be included in Bayern's opening league game against Hertha Berlin on Friday.

Head coach Niko Kovac has been in the market for at least one new wide forward following the departures of Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.

Bayern's hopes of signing Manchester City's Leroy Sane in this transfer window were effectively scuppered last week following the news he will be out for six to seven months after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury to his right knee.

Perisic has previously played in the Bundesliga, initially for Borussia Dortmund before joining Wolfsburg midway through the 2012-13 season.

He has made 82 appearances for Croatia and starred at the 2018 World Cup, scoring in the semi-final against England and in the final defeat to France.

"I am very happy to be back in Germany," Perisic told Bayern's official website. 

"Bayern is one of the biggest clubs in Europe. We want to attack not only in the Bundesliga and in the DFB-Pokal, but also in the Champions League."

Bayern's sporting director Hasan Salihamidzic added: "Ivan will help us with his many years of experience at an international top level immediately. 

"He is technically strong and flexible in attack. I'm sure Ivan will integrate quickly as he already knows the Bundesliga and our coach Niko Kovac well."

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