Hamburg is the second biggest city in Germany, in addition to that it is an incredibly rich city with huge marketing possibilities. They have a big fan-base and have some famous fans who like to donate a lot of money to their beloved club like businessman Hans-Michael Kühne who likes to "loan" the club millions of Euros every other year. They are also the "oldest" Bundesliga club, being the only club that has been part of the Bundesliga since its creation in 1962 and has never been relegated, a feat that not even Bayern Munich can claim for themselves (they were not one of the founding members). Hamburg has the potential to be one the biggest and best clubs in the entire world, so......why the hell aren't they?
That is a question that has been asked a lot in recent years. With that kind of infrastructure they should challenge for the Bundesliga title every single year or at least for the Champions League spots. However a complete lack of leadership in their management and dubious decisions in the 90's and early 2000's have made this club into a middling entity that has battled relegation more often than challenged for international play in recent years.
Although for the first time in years, there is reason for optimism in the "Hansestadt". Dietmar Beiersdorfer is in full control of the club (again) after his first stint was inexplicably ended in 2009. Beiersdorfer has proven that he knows what he's doing and in his first tenure in charge he had Hamburg challenge and qualify for international competitions before being let go. Two years ago HSV rectified that mistake in rehiring him and after cleaning up the mess that had been made by his successors, Hamburg seems to be on the right track. With Bruno Labbadia they have an underrated coach who has to lead an inexperienced and young but promising team into calmer waters. It will be interesting to see if they can escape the relegation zone entirely this year and maybe even challenge for an international spot. As always, everything is possible with Hamburg.
Transfers in (fees per transfermarkt):
Filip Kostic - VFB Stuttgart (€14 Million)
Alen Halilovic - FC Barcelona (€5 Million)
Bobby Wood - Union Berlin (€3.5 Million)
Luca Waldschmidt - Eintracht Frankfurt (€1.3 Million)
Arianit Ferati - VFB Stuttgart (€0.85 Million - loaned to Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Christian Mathenia - SV Darmstadt 98 (€0.8 Million)
Bakery Jatta - Free Agent market
Thoughts: Aside from Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund, Hamburg probably had the best transfers this summer. This is an incredible list of players for a team that is not participating in an international competition and has been mediocre for the last few years. Kostic was arguably the best player for Stuttgart last year and has been linked to a bevy of European teams this offseason. It is impressive that HSV could convince him to join them against competition like Inter Milan, Valencia and several Premier League clubs.
Halilovic, Wood and Waldschmidt are also very smart transfers. They're young, talented and can develop into great players given the right circumstances. Beiersdorfer had a clear strategy this transfer window, offload old, expensive players that are past their prime and buy young prospects that can develop into top-players. He succeeded.
Bakery Jatta is a name you might not have heard yet but the kid has an interesting story. He came to Hamburg just recently as part of one of the huge waves of refugees that Germany took in. Jatta tried out for Hamburg and impressed so much that HSV signed him to a three year deal, let's see if he can be more than "just" a feel-good story.
Other notes: Hamburg is not done yet, they are looking to add another center-back and another holding midfielder to bolster their defense. BVB's Ginter is one of the candidates but since Zorc is unwilling to sell this seem unlikely. It seems like Caio and Walace, both featured in Brasil's Olympic squad that just won the Gold medal, are front-runners for the positions in Hamburg's squad.
Kerem Demirbay - TSG Hoffenheim (€1.7 Million)
Zoltan Stieber - 1.FC Kaiserslautern (€0.25 Million)
Batuhan Altintas - Kasimpasa (Loan)
Ivica Olic - 1860 Munich (Free Transfer)
Jaroslav Drobny - Werder Bremen (Free Transfer)
Gojko Kacar - FC Augsburg (Free Transfer)
Ivo Ilicevic - Anzhi (Free Transfer)
Artjoms Rudnevs - 1.FC Köln (Free Transfer)
Sven Schipplock - SV Darmstadt 98 (Loan)
Thoughts: Believe it or not but Hamburg had one of the most expensive squads (in terms of player salary) over the last few years. Considering that their success on the field didn't mirror their expenses off of it, something had to change. And now it did.
Hamburg got rid of most of their dead weight. Olic, Drobny, Kacar, Ilicevic and Rudnevs were all well past their prime and incredibly expensive. They were signed years ago by another regime and were hard to get rid of because of their lucrative contracts. They were all part of the rotation last season but since it wasn't an especially successful one, the "loss" of all of those players shouldn't be to tough for them.
Other notes: Apart from some occasional rumors about Pierre-Michel Lasogga leaving, it is not planned to sell any more players.
It is undeniable that Hamburg has gotten better this off-season, the question is how much have they improved? Even though Dietmar Beiersdorfer has, in my opinion, successfully started the rebuilding process, they are still lagging behind other clubs like Gladbach, Wolfsburg, Sch***e and maybe even Mainz. This season will be about incorporating the new players into the squad and developing the young talents while trying to get as close as possible to the top 6. However it is hard to imagine them leaving any of the aforementioned clubs behind them.