Haaland next? 9 Bundesliga stars who struggled in the Premier League
Given Erling Haaland’s goalscoring record for Borussia Dortmund, the prospect of him leading the line for Manchester City is terrifying – but might he become the next Bundesliga star to struggle in the Premier League?
Haaland is still only 21 and has scored 82 goals in 86 appearances for Dortmund, so all logic suggests that he’d tear it up at City given the amount of chances Pep Guardiola’s side serve up.
Yet search the Norwegian’s name on social media and you’ll likely find doubters talking about the ‘Bundesliga tax’ – the idea that players that thrived in Germany don’t reach the same standards in England.
The likes of Son Heung-min, Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan all provide a strong counter-argument – not to mention Thiago Alcantara, who has emphatically put his slow start behind him – but there are plenty of examples of Bundesliga signings that have failed to deliver.
Here are nine standout Bundesliga players that have – so far – struggled to hit the same heights in the Premier League.
We’re sure that plenty will argue against Sancho’s inclusion here.
Yes, the attacker has looked much improved since his slow start to the campaign. Yes, proven winners like Cristiano Ronaldo and Raphael Varane haven’t been able to sort the mess out at this Manchester United, so what would you expect from a 21-year-old in a new league?
Those are fair points, and we’re certainly not writing Sancho off. Yet the fact remains that his debut season at Old Trafford has been anything but successful. He has fewer Premier League goals and assists than Leeds United’s Dan James in 2021-22 and was omitted from Gareth Southgate’s England squad.
This season Sancho averages a goal or assist in the Premier League every 317 minutes. Last season he averaged a goal or assist every 108 minutes for Dortmund in the Bundesliga. That’s some drop-off.
Still, every chance that Erik ten Hag gets him firing again next season – and he’s not the only one that should benefit from the Dutchman’s arrival.
“I don’t give a f*ck because we’ve just won the f*cking Champions League,” is – to be fair – a pretty good response to your critics. Having scored the match-winner in the final, no less.
As with Fernando Torres against Barcelona, scoring a goal of such magnitude will cement Havertz’s place in Chelsea folklore – even if he went and did a Winston Bogarde and sat on his arse collecting wages for the rest of his Blues career.
But it would also be fair to say that £70million signing Havertz hasn’t quite recaptured his stellar form for Bayer Leverkusen just yet – though he is gradually improving.
Havertz notched 36 goals and 25 assists in the Bundesliga before he’d even turned 21 and averaged a goal contribution every 136 minutes in his final season in Germany.
In 52 Premier League appearances for Chelsea, the attacking midfielder has 11 goals and nine assists, averaging one or the other every 156 minutes.
🌟 Bundesliga wonderkid 🌟
– 139 matches
– 38 goals
– 30 assists
Kai Havertz has the world at his feet, and he's only 20 years old! 🤩 pic.twitter.com/GaN1wj9TmI
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) May 11, 2020
Werner’s reputation as one of German football’s deadliest goalscorers was well-founded. The forward averaged 19 Bundesliga goals a season across his four years with RB Leipzig, including a quite incredible 28 goals in 34 appearances in his final year with the club.
You can’t accuse him of a lack of effort at Chelsea, and with marginal offsides and VAR calls, he’s been a bit unlucky to have a fair few goals chalked off. But it’s just not happening for him at Stamford Bridge.
His debut Premier League campaign yielded just six goals, while year two has seen four scored. His boundless energy and enthusiastic attitude ensure he remains a bit of a cult hero among the Chelsea faithful, but he certainly isn’t the prolific goalscorer they thought they were getting.
The Guinea international demonstrated how good he can be – and consistently was at RB Leipzig – with a commanding performance (before getting clattered by Paul Pogba) in Liverpool’s 5-0 victory away to Manchester United earlier in the season.
But injuries have denied him a real consistent run in Liverpool’s midfield, and you start to wonder if he’ll ever get one, especially with Thiago thriving.
Keita’s made just 71 Premier League appearances since his arrival in 2018, averaging 18 a season, and hasn’t quite dominated the division as expected for his £52million fee – a massive figure for Liverpool at the time.
Haller is once again demonstrating that in the right set-up he can be an absolutely lethal striker – he’s scored 46 goals in 62 appearances since moving to Ajax in January 2021 and has 11 goals in his debut Champions League campaign.
That’s even better than he was at Eintracht Frankfurt, where he scored 15 Bundesliga goals in 2018-19, resulting in a club-record £45million move to West Ham.
In spite of the Hammers looking a rising force under David Moyes, Haller – spectacular overhead kick aside – is one player that didn’t quite click. Ten goals in 48 Premier League appearances is testament to that.
Well that's one way to win a game 👏
Sébastien Haller with a scissor kick in the last minute for Frankfurt. pic.twitter.com/GwKc7vYXyN
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) October 1, 2017
Still the Magpies’ record signing at £39million, Joelinton has scored 10 goals in 100 Premier League appearances. That’s one every 696 minutes. Alright, he wasn’t especially prolific at Hoffenheim, but he was a handy support striker there.
To be fair, Eddie Howe is making us question his inclusion here, given he’s suddenly looking one of the Premier League’s best and most imposing midfielders. We’re still having him, though, given two and a half extremely underwhelming seasons before he suddenly became the new Patrick Vieira.
Armenia international Mkhitaryan was absolutely brilliant under Thomas Tuchel for Borussia Dortmund. He led the Bundesliga for assists (15) in 2015-16, as well as scoring 11 goals, resulting in the winger being named German outlet DW‘s Bundesliga Player of the Season that year.
A move to Manchester United promptly followed, but Jose Mourinho failed to get the best out of him, and nor did Arsene Wenger or Unai Emery at Arsenal.
Mkhitaryan hit double figures for goals and assists in Serie A for Roma last season and is now working under Mourinho once again. Gulp.
A £14million signing from Augsburg in 2015, Ghanian left-back Rahman made 15 Premier League appearances during his debut season at Chelsea before sinking without a trace – three successive loans to Schalke, then Reims, Mallorca, PAOK and now Reading.
He remains contracted at Stamford Bridge until 2024, somehow. Something tells us we’re unlikely to see him back in the blue of Chelsea again any time soon.
AKA the original Mkhitaryan.
Japan international Kagawa played a key part in Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund winning back-to-back Bundesliga titles, and he went on to lift the Premier League title during his debut season at Manchester United, albeit with a more peripheral role of just 17 starts.
But, as with so many others, he struggled after David Moyes succeeded Sir Alex Ferguson and returned to Dortmund for roughly half (£6.5million) what they sold him for in 2014.