In the beginning of the summer, it looked like Anthony Modeste was going to move to China. Beijing Gouan made the 28-year-old French striker an offer that was difficult to refuse, while his buyout clause at Cologne stood at just €7.5million.
Modeste reportedly informed the German club about his wishes, while a number of Premier League clubs, most notably West Ham United, monitored the situation closely.
Cologne’s sporting director Jorg Schmadke was confident that the Frenchman would eventually stay at the club, and managed to persuade him to sign a new vastly improved contract until 2021, while abolishing the release clause for good. The striker realised that in spite of the money on offer, it was too early to finish his European career.
The result has been truly stunning. By the end of October, Modeste was the most prolific striker in all of the five top leagues with 11 goals to his name in just 10 matches. He scored more than his famous compatriots Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema put together in La Liga.
Modeste’s self confidence knows no limits. Over a week ago, he missed a penalty in the first half against Hamburg, but proceeded to complete a second-half hat-trick and lead his team to a 3-0 win. That completed an incredible month, in which the Frenchman scored all seven Cologne goals in the league.
In fact, he is directly responsible for 75 percent of the team’s goals this season. No player across Europe has been more influential.
Markus Gisdol, who took over at Hamburg a month ago, shouldn’t have been surprised by Modeste’s celebrations. After all, Gisdol was the man who first brought Anthony to the Bundesliga in the summer of 2013, when in charge at Hoffenheim. Modeste enjoyed a phenomenal start to that season as well, scoring six goals by September and becoming the best French debutant in the league’s history, outgunning the likes of Jean-Pierre Papin and Franck Ribery.
Such exploits took German fans by surprise, because nobody really knew Modeste three years ago. His career was rather disappointing and inconsistent until then, and Blackburn supporters would rather forget his short spell at the club.
Modeste was signed by the Rovers in January 2012 on loan from Bordeaux. He failed to score, only started thrice, and conceded a needless red card during the 3-0 defeat at West Brom. In short, he was one of the worst signings in the club’s history, and Blackburn eventually went down.
Bordeaux never really wanted him back, but Modeste recovered by scoring 15 goals on loan at Bastia during the 2012/13 season, partly thanks to meeting his idol, Didier Drogba, who gave him some valuable advice. After such a positive spell, he had to choose between St Etienne and Hoffenheim that summer.
“I wanted to try something new”, he explained. He never had any regrets, and his partnership with Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland during the first season in Germany had been absolutely superb. The team scored 72 goals in 34 matches, even though 70 goals conceded meant that Hoffenheim only ended up in mid-table.
Modeste’s second season at the club was less successful, and Cologne were somewhat surprised with the smoothness of negotiations to sign him for just €4.5million last summer. The Billy Goats needed a replacement for Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah, and the Frenchman was Peter Stoger’s first choice.
The Austrian, who took over in 2013, led Cologne to promotion and turned them into a force to be reckoned with, prefers counter-attacking football. Modeste, who always works tirelessly for the team and is able to find free spaces, suits this strategy.
The striker promised to score 15 goals in his first season and stated that Cologne should try to finish in the top half of the table. Sure enough, he scored exactly 15 times, and the Billy Goats were ranked ninth. This term, he wanted to make an improvement on both fronts, and the results have been phenomenal so far.
Thanks to Modeste’s stunning scoring record, Stoger’s team are sixth, just six points behind Bayern Munich, and the most optimistic fans are starting to dream of a possible Champions League qualification, even though that is a very long shot at present.
“Anthony is a machine”, Cologne defender Dominique Heintz said. However, he is also the heart and soul of the dressing room. True to his name, Anthony is a very modest person – in fact, he even drives a Smart when in town. The Frenchman plays a very important role in the dressing room with his jokes and innovative goal celebrations.
Now that he has outscored everyone in Europe, Modeste expected to receive a call from France coach Didier Deschamps for his first call-up. His dream was to play at Euro 2016 but that wasn’t realistic last term. This time, however, Anthony could be forgiven for feeling that his exploits deserve recognition, and was left disappointed.
“He is having a great season, but the competition is tough”, Deschamps explained, and promised to take another look at the striker come spring. It remains to be seen whether he can maintain his form till then, and chances are that Modeste will never play for the national team, but Cologne fans won’t complain. They want their star fit and fresh. They would be a completely different team without him.
The 2016/17 Bundesliga season kicks off this weekend as Carlo Ancelotti prepares to move Bayern Munich on from the Pep Guardiola era.
Meanwhile, is Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund prepared to launch a serious title challenge?
Here’s a look at the major questions ahead of the new campaign.
HOW MUCH WILL ANCELOTTI CHANGE AT BAYERN?
Appointing Carlo Ancelotti as Pep Guardiola’s successor was a common sense decision by a club who tend to get things right when it comes to recruitment.
The Italian has considerable experience at high-pressure clubs in dealing with huge expectations from the stands as well as in the boardroom. His man management is legendary as he has shown countless times his ability to earn the respect of dressing rooms full of egos.
In personality, transfer requirements and tactical preference he is arguably the most flexible ‘big name’ coach in world football.
Club: FC Bayern Munich— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) August 23, 2016
Manager: Carlo Ancelotti
Assistant Manager: Davide Ancelotti
Father & Son! ???? pic.twitter.com/vpt9fmpMB3
That final part is especially important because – Renato Sanches and Mats Hummels aside – the Italian is working with fundamentally the same squad who have had the Guardiola blueprint implanted into their nervous systems.
Trying a drastically different approach is very un-Ancelotti and will likely prove unsuccessful – Rafael Benitez at Inter in 2010 post-Mourinho and Tata Martino at Barcelona in 2013/14 are two obvious examples. However, the flipside of this is that Dortmund, in particular, have started to show signs they are figuring Bayern out.
Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery’s status as a world class wing pair is questionable but they remain strong personalities in the squad. Robben still has something to offer but Ribery is fast becoming a liability in his acts of ill-discipline. How their coach uses them could directly affect the overall dressing room dynamic and will be just one aspect of ushering a new era in at the Allianz Arena.
ARE DORTMUND IN A POSITION TO CLOSE THE GAP?
Given the 32-point boost they enjoyed in Thomas Tuchel’s first season in charge against Jurgen Klopp’s final campaign, you would have to say, yes.
Tuchel added further intensity while also more variation to BVB’s play while also bringing out the hunger of many players who had grown too comfortable under Jurgen Klopp.
However, as Dortmund have grown accustomed to, positive seasons always come at a price: €94m to be precise, with the sales of captain Mats Hummels, Henrikh Mkhitaryan – who led the Bundesliga in assists with 15 plus midfield anchor Ilkay Gundogan.
Those three key players have been replaced by some of European football’s best up-and-coming talent: Portuguese left-back Raphael Raphael Guerreiro, Norwegian attacking midfielder Emre Mor, French forward Ousmane Dembele and Spanish gem Mikel Merino.
All are frightening prospects, how quickly they blossom is a different matter. Tuchel also has added more sure-fire, immediate bets in Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle.
Dortmund will undoubtedly be brilliant to watch, score a huge amount of goals and the progress of the aforementioned quartet will be fascinating, but do they have the defensive capabilities to ensure defeats at middling teams like Cologne, Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt don’t happen again?
CAN LEVERKUSEN JOIN THE PARTY?
Leverkusen boast the most settled squad of last season’s top four; with no departures of any real substance, as Christoph Kramer was always re-joining Monchengladbach, while adding German forward Kevin Volland (below) from Hoffenheim, highly-rated Austrian centre-back Aleksandar Dragovic from Dynamo Kiev and the dependable midfield legs of Julian Baumgartlinger from Mainz.
Their points totals since 2012/13 read: 65, 61, 61 and 60, which is brilliant consistency but there is confidence around the club Roger Schmidt’s side can now move up a level and compete, not on equal, but certainly similar terms with the big two.
From front to back they are extremely strong; with a style that mixes stoic defence with rapier-like counter-attacks. And if Javier Hernandez can maintain his goalscoring form, they’ll surely come close.
Joachim Low continuing as Germany coach was also extremely important to their stability, given Schmidt was one of the leading candidates to replace him.
Javier Hernandez is out for two weeks with a fractured hand after falling down the stairs at his apartment. pic.twitter.com/Vd2jdXWpiB— Squawka News (@SquawkaNews) August 23, 2016
HOW GOOD WILL RB LEIPZIG BE?
The experiment at the Red Bull Arena will be watched with interest as the Austrian energy drink’s 2009 purchase of the club formally known as SSV Markranstadt, languishing in the fifth tier, has now reached the Bundesliga.
They’ve been the sixth-highest spenders of the summer window, investing more in their first-team squad than heavyweights Schalke and Hamburg. However, while that speaks volumes in terms of their ambition, their financial capabilities have never been in doubt and they need to deliver on the pitch.
The signs are that this is a long-term project, as the club have primarily bought under 23 while employing Ralph Hasenhuttl as manager after he led Ingostadt to an impressive 11th last term playing some fine football in the process.
Sporting director Ralf Rangnick has kept the bulk of the promotion-winning squad together, meaning if Hasenhuttl’s methods can be adopted, German football’s most disliked club can continue to progress. Survival will the first step but a mid-table finish should be within their grasp.
There was no Champions League win but three Bundesliga titles and a DFP-Pokal final win against arch rivals Borussia Dortmund was not a bad send-off for Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munich.
"I was certainly happy when Bayern Munich called me a few years ago," the Spaniard explained about his initial contact with the club. "Now I can say it was the right decision to come and coach at an awesome club."
"Bayern Munich will have a great future with these players and this mentality."
Do you think Guardiola was a success at Bayern? Share your thoughts using #360fans.