Football Features

Bayer Leverkusen’s big signings under West Ham-bound Tim Steidten

By Ben Green

Bayer Leverkusen's big signings under West Ham-bound Tim Steidten copy

Published: 16:08, 16 June 2023

West Ham look set to appoint Tim Steidten as their new technical director.

According to reports, the 44-year-old has had a deal in place to join West Ham since before their historic Europa Conference League final win last week.

If the move transpires, Steidten is set to work alongside current sporting director Mark Noble in what would be a major restructuring of West Ham’s recruitment strategy and behind-the-scenes operations.

Steidten has attracted the attention of several major clubs in the Premier League following his unexpected departure from Bayer Leverkusen in March, including Liverpool and Tottenham. He was also the subject of interest from Chelsea and Todd Boehly last summer.

Who is Tim Steidten?

Known as a meticulous and sophisticated operator who embraces a data-led approach, Steidten’s potential arrival feels like a real coup for West Ham, who have always seemed behind the curve when it comes to these sort of appointments.

The transfer guru had a relatively unspectacular playing career that saw him float around the lower leagues of German football, and even briefly took him to Seattle Sounders at the turn of the millennium – albeit as a scout and subsequent technical director. He has since emerged as one of the game’s most influential administrators.

He started his post-playing career as a youth scout for Werder Bremen — whose reserves he briefly played for between 1998 and 2000 — and worked his way up to director of football in 2017. Steidten oversaw the signings of several key players, including Serge Gnabry from Arsenal and Thomas Delaney from FC Copenhagen. Kevin De Bruyne also arrived on loan from Chelsea in his first year as ‘Head of Scouting’ for the club.

Such success in the market attracted Leverkusen to his talents, and they made him their own ‘Head of Scouting’ in 2019. Three years later, he was promoted to ‘Sporting Director’, where he was influential in bringing Xabi Alonso to the dugout in October 2022.

In his four years at Leverkusen, the club made some huge strides in the transfer market and recruited a number of unheralded gems, before nurturing them into highly-coveted stars.

We’ve looked at the recruitment work the club did between 2019 and March 2023 to determine how good Steidten’s eye for talent really is…

Florian Wirtz

In his first role at Leverkusen, Steidten came in as ‘Head of Scouting’ , having previously held the job title of ‘Head of Youth Scouting’ for Bremen between 2010 and 2012, meaning he was almost certainly heavily influential in luring teenage superstar Florian Wirtz from Cologne’s academy in January 2020. It’s a decision that has gone on to see Wirtz fire himself into the wider footballing psyche with his performances.

A wonderful dribbler, creator and scorer, the 20-year-old has the world at his feet, having already been capped by Germany seven times. If Leverkusen thought it would take another generation for the next Kai Havertz to come around, a precocious star who would generate a seismic fee, they would be wrong. Wirtz is viewed as the future of German football, and it won’t be long before the usual heavyweights come knocking.

Edmond Tapsoba

A modern, progressive centre-back in every sense, Edmond Tapsoba joined Leverkusen in 2019 from Vitoria de Guimaraes for around £20m. It was certainly no small fee, but outside the Bundesliga, his signing largely went under the radar. In the subsequent years, Tapsoba has established himself as one of the top centre-backs in Europe, and has attracted the attention of several big clubs, many of whom are in the Premier League.

To get a sense of his playing style, the Burkina Faso international was the only centre-back in the Europa League across 2022/23 to complete take-ons in the double digits (10), while he also ranked first for completed final third passes (90). His combination of ball playing and hard-hitting defending went a long way to helping Leverkusen reach the semi-finals of the Europa League.

Exequiel Palacios

Exequiel Palacios rose to prominence when the 2018 Copa Libertadores final headed to Real Madrid’s Bernabeu. Amid the frantic nature of a unique Superclasico between River Plate and Boca Junior, Palacios was a beacon of tranquility and composure in the middle of the pitch. His command of the midfield at such a young age prompted speculation linking him to some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Real Madrid.

However, it was Leverkusen who snapped him up in 2019, and he begun to fulfil his potential after a few teething issues at the start of his career in Germany. His emerging form has been such that he is now the heartbeat of Alonso’s midfield and was even a part of Argentina’s recent World Cup-winning squad. He’s 24 and he has 24 Argentina caps. Another major success story for Steidten and Leverkusen.

Moussa Diaby

In that same window, Moussa Diaby was picked up from Paris Saint-Germain after he was heavily involved in the French club’s 2018/19 season. However, with such a traffic jam of world-class talent ahead of him in the pecking order, the young forward sought pastures new to continue his development.

Leverkusen offered him a pathway to first-team football, and Diaby has duly vindicated the club’s faith in him. At 23, he is now a fully-fledged France international, was named in the most recent Bundesliga ‘Team of the Season’ and is attracting interest from some of the continent’s leading lights.

Kerem Demirbay

The big signing from that window actually turned out to be Kerem Demirbay, who was picked up for around £30m from Hoffenheim. It was certainly a hefty fee couriered to Sinsheim for his signature, but the two-capped Germany international has been worth his weight in gold. He has turned out nearly 150 times for the club in all competitions and been a creative stalwart in the heart of the midfield across his four seasons.

Jeremie Frimpong

It’s a testament to Celtic’s fruitful scouting network that they are able to excavate hidden talent from across the globe and turn them into elite players. Unfortunately, the likes of Virgil van Dijk, Victor Wanyama, et al, never seems to hang around long enough for them to build a genuinely world-class team.

Leverkusen obviously sensed this and capitalised by wrapping up a deal for Jeremie Frimpong in 2021. The former Man City academy graduate has gone from strength to strength at the club and is attracting substantial interest from Manchester United this summer.

Patrik Schick

Not so much an under-the-radar coup, but Patrik Schick’s signing from Roma in 2020 has proven inspired. The Czech forward joined for a pretty hefty £23m but he has vindicated that price tag and then some. Last season he walloped home 24 Bundesliga goals to finish behind only Robert Lewandowski in the ‘Golden Boot’ race and probably would have produced something similar this term were it not for an unfortunate, long-term injury.

Odilon Kossounou

Signed from Club Brugge for £21.4m, Odilon Kossounou was brought in for a pretty substantial fee, but the Ivorian defender has looked mightily impressive for the club. In terms of his influence, Leverkusen missed him for 10 Bundesliga games in 2022/23 through injury and various other reasons — and well, they won just two of those matches and conceded 17 goals, underlining the presence he brings to their backline. At just 22, he still has plenty of room for growth, and of course, plenty of Premier League clubs have been credited with an interest in him.

Mitchel Bakker

A powerful, marauding left-back, Mitchel Bakker was another snapped up from PSG, and he has gone on to establish himself as one of the most exciting No. 3s in the Bundesliga. A product of Ajax’s academy, the 22-year-old combines aggressive runs with a forward-thinking range of passing. He was picked up for a snip, below £10m, and will undoubtedly generate a much higher figure if he moves on.

Robert Andrich

One of Leverkusen’s shrewdest investments in recent years and, if West Ham do go on to appoint Steidten, could be a viable Declan Rice replacement. Since the start of 2019/20, Robert Andrich’s first season in the Bundesliga, only two midfielders have made more interceptions than him (171): Ellyes Skhiri (242) and Nicolas Hofler (241). His ability to break up play and thwart opposition attacks has been crucial to balancing the tactical broth for Leverkusen. In a side replete with precocious attacking talent, Andrich’s grit and hard-nosed tenacity knits the equation together.

Piero Hincapie

One of the more notable signings of the Steidten era. Plucked from Talleres in Argentina, Ecuador’s latest defensive star has been shaped and moulded into one of the finest centre-backs on the European circuit. Plenty of big clubs are reportedly sniffing around — and you can see why. The 21-year-old completed the third-most take-ons of any centre-back in the 2022/23 Bundesliga season, and combined that with an aggressive streak that worked beautifully in Alonso’s set-up.

Amine Adli

In what was a breakthrough season for Amine Adli, there are now reports that Bayern Munich, Arsenal, Milan and Newcastle are all keeping tabs on him. He provided seven goals, and six assists in all competitions, impressing with his dazzling footwork, improvisation and creative ingenuity. Signed for a modest fee from Toulouse in 2021, Adli is looking like another expertly plucked gem.

Adam Hlozek

Leverkusen fended off fierce competition for the 20-year-old from Sparta Prague last summer, but their ability to nurture and blood in young talent undoubtedly proved an attractive proposition for the young Hlozek. It was certainly a settling-in season for the Czech international, but he showcased flashes of promise and will be one to keep an eye on for the future.

Callum Hudson-Odoi

A loan move from Chelsea that looked promising at the start, but waned slightly as the season went on. The sprightly winger provided some superb skill and creativity to the flank during the early parts of the season, but a few issues with injuries and form eventually scuppered his chances of cementing a consistent starting berth. Still, as a loan option, Leverkusen won’t lament his final form as he brought some electricity when he did play.

Steidten’s best XI

Looking at a composite XI of the best signings Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen made during Steidten’s time at either club paints a pretty exciting picture for West Ham fans…

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