Aventuras Américas | Part 49 | Wolfsburg #2: A Very Busy Summer

Robinho Lazaró enjoyed his first taste of European football as he led his new VFL Wolfsburg side into a top-half finish in Bundesliga. However, he enjoyed the money that came into the club during the summer of 2046 even more.

Indeed, Wolfsburg received £55 million for their ninth-place finish then the annual commercial summary saw the club’s balance boosted from £48 million to a huge £137 million! And Lazaró had a £37 million transfer budget to work with – which was by far and away the most he’d ever had in his 25-year career.

Lazaró’s big focus at Wolfsburg was to build an exciting young team, which was aided by five players retiring at the start of the summer. They also sold 14 players for a profit of £60 million, including 29-year-old defender Ahmet Topal joining Dortmund for £23.5 million. Then midfielder Nico Stark left on deadline day as Leipzig met a £22.5 million that Lazaró wasn’t aware of. But, that boosted Lazaró’s transfer budget to over £120 million, which he wouldn’t even come close to spending.

Lazaró spent his first season building a scouting team and perusing the European and South American markets for exciting talent. The first result of those efforts was wonderkid midfielder Darwin Dutra, who came in for £6.5 million from Independiente but came through the ranks at Lazaró’s former club River Plate Montevideo. He was one of eight players to arrive when the transfer window opened, which included Ronaldo Luiz, who Lazaró handed a debut at Flamengo, for £4.9 million and centre-backs Otavio and Guillermo, who Lazaró may convert into a ball-winning midfielder, on free transfers from Slavia Prague and Atlético.

More exciting youngsters arrived in goalkeeper Bruno Bernardes for £5.2 million from Real Madrid, midfielder Juan Pablo Zanellati for £6.5 million from Independiente, 6 ft 5 in striker Pablo Thiam for £1.9 million from Greuter Furth and fellow striker Paulo Maruta on a free transfer from Basel.

However, the most exciting new signings may be four 17-year-olds in striker Martin Eisenmenger, who came in for £3 million from Stuttgart, fittingly named attacking midfielder Laurenz Wolf, who cost just £900,000 from Gladbach, and left-back Roman Petrik, who was the most expensive signing of the summer at £7.25 million rising to £15 million and looks like a special talent, and right-back Iker Gil, who cost £1 million from Real Sociedad.

That massive summer turnover left striker Kevin Berrer as the oldest player at Wolfsburg. Only 10 of the 24 first-team players are over 21, nine are teenagers, and seven are 17 or younger, and the club now has an average age of just 21. And with the new players through the door, Lazaró reverted to a 4-3-1-2 that built around a strong midfield.

First full season in Europe

Heading into his first full season in Europe, Lazaró’s board wanted him to achieve a top-half finish in Bundesliga. And that looked a good bet based on their opening day win over Hamburg led by braces from the strikeforce of Berrer and Albert Mockel, who also created both Berrer goals.

They were equally dominant in their first away game, racking up 2.79 xG as a Stark penalty – in what proved to be his final match for the club – secured a 1-0 win in the derby at Hannover. They then won 1-0 at home to Hoffenheim before Mockel, Berrer and Dutra’s first goal for the club sealed a 3-2 win at Nurnberg. And that set a new club record of 15 games unbeaten since February!

The superb start continued as Wolfsburg battered fourth-place Freiburg with 32 shots to three and 15 to none on target, and won it with goals by Berrer and Zanellati’s first for the club. But could they keep it going?

The winning streak ended but they did manage to nick a 2-2 draw at Stuttgart before entertaining champions Bayern Munich. The game turned on a crazy five minutes in which Thiam opened the scoring, Bayern immediately equalised, but Berrer restored the lead straight from the kick-off. And Thiam added his second after the break to seal a superb 3-1 victory.

Thiam’s superb start deputising for the injured Mockel continued as he scored one and made the other for Berrer in a 2-1 win at Hertha Berlin, which took him to four goals and two assists in three starts. And that, slightly dubiously, set a new Bundesliga record of 18 games undefeated!

They extended it further with three huge home wins, beating Leverkusen 2-0 through centre-back Thomas Becke and a late Dutra strike, a Thiam double in a 3-1 success over Leipzig and old boy Stark, then a 1-0 win over Frankfurt.

Big top-of-the-table clash

Despite being unbeaten and failing to win just twice, Wolfsburg only had a six-point lead over Dortmund as they travelled to Signal Iduna Park. But they finally came unstuck, only losing 1-0 after a battering of 31 shots and would have lost by more had it not been for an inspired Bernardes performance in goal.

They bounced back by thumping Gladbach 4-0 led by a Mockel brace in the first three minutes of the second half. The striker bagged two more in a 2-2 draw at Mainz but missed a hatful of chances as Berrer scored the only goal to defeat Union Berlin. And they were poor on the road again with their worst performance yet, somehow losing 4-0 at Koln despite having more shots.

That took Wolfsburg into a three-week winter break top of Bundesliga with a two-point lead over Dortmund. Bayern are way off the pace, sitting sixth and 11 points behind Wolfsburg. Mockel is the second-top scorer and creator in the league with nine goals and six assists in 12 games and also has the highest average rating of 7.64, followed by Berrer (7.47) and Thiam (7.46). While Dutra is level with Mockel on six assists.

Lazaró’s performance with Wolfsburg saw him offered an interview by Monaco and linked with the vacant job at Napoli, but he was enjoying his time in Germany so rejected their advances.

While the year signed off with summer signing Darwin Dutra won the Fifa Best U21 Men’s Player award. The attacking midfielder is showing great progress and scored eight goals with 12 assists through 2046.

Join us next time as Robinho Lazaró looks to lead his Wolfsburg side into an unlikely Bundesliga title battle!

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