Marco Reus's return to Dortmund was the big news in Germany, while Hannover players had a motivating training camp
It's early doors, granted, but 2012 has really failed to live up to the apocalyptic thrill of its Hollywood namesake. Maybe predictions of an imminent end of the world were always a bit on the pessimistic side, but how do you explain that there's not even a whiff of a crisis in the usually hyper-volatile Bavaria, where Bayern Munich have now gone five absurdly long weeks without a single win in the league?
Pedants may argue at this juncture that the Bundesliga's extended winter break made it very difficult for the league leaders to add to their points tally since the end of December. But a lack of actual matches has never stopped Bayern from going into full-blown chaos mode before.
If recent history is anything to go by, the quiet, contemplative days "between the years" were often the deadliest periods for managers. Ottmar Hitzfeld, Felix Magath, Jürgen Klinsmann and Louis van Gaal all effectively lost their jobs during the break, or very soon after.
Jupp Heynckes, however, was able to enjoy the down time. The 66-year-old welcomed back a full squad after Christmas, hailed the training camp in Doha as the best he'd ever experienced and even managed to negotiate a never-ending array of 60th birthday parties for the club president Uli Hoeness without any collateral damage. There was so little controversy that a critical tweet from the injury-plagued defender Breno ("Bayern are messing with me") became the only story. The chief executive Karl-Heinz Rummenigge issued "a light yellow card" to the Brazilian at the beginning of the week but will now have to look for a darker shade in his Pantone chart after it emerged that the 22-year-old, who is due to go on trial for arson, spent Wednesday's sick-day ("flu") having a tattoo done on his forearm.
Ink in the wrong place also caused the only other noteworthy irritation at Säbenerstrasse. Marco Reus's signature on a €17.5m (£14.6m) four-and-half-year deal with Borussia Dortmund (starting this summer) did not come as a total surprise but still put southern noses out of joint. "It'll be easier for him there," sniffed Rummenigge, after the 22-year-old turned down Bayern's advances to go back to his home town club instead. "Maybe he didn't trust himself to be ready for the step to go to Bayern," sneered the Munich defender Holger Badstuber.
Reus has promised to answer the sniping on the pitch on Friday night, when his Borussia Mönchengladbach host the league leaders for the second half of the season in an eagerly awaited curtain-raiser. Lucien Favre's fourth-placed team have not quite had the replenishing holiday their sensational showings in 2011 deserved; their agenda was dominated by the dual loss of Reus and the defensive midfielder Roman Neustädter next season. Neustädter, 23, will join Schalke on a free transfer.
Favre, too, seemed to hint at the possibility of upping sticks but the sporting director Max Eberl denied media reports about a stink in the Foals' stables. "People who have not been here for a long time or who have never been here at all have tried to interpret things in a certain way, but you'll find that everybody is immensely looking forward to a game between the fourth and first in the table, which will be broadcasted live in 180 countries," he told Süddeutsche Zeitung.
Eberl, a former Bayern player, criticised Dortmund's lack of communication in the wake of the Reus transfer – "He had a release clause, they did not need to negotiate with us. But I would have been happy to get a phone call" – and dismissed Bayern's digs at the player as sour grapes. "They've been hit hard by his decision," Eberl said. The 38-year-old will have to reinvest the money wisely to prevent a break-up of the squad. "We can now consider players who were out of reach before but we don't look for a Reus replacement. There won't be signings for 15, 16 million."
Dortmund were eager to play down their biggest outlay since 2001's capture of the Brazilian striker Márcio Amoroso for €25m. The chief executive Hans-Joachim Watzke sought to allay fears that the Black and Yellows were once again chasing the dream with risky actions in the transfer market – they were nearly bankrupt six years ago – and denied that the signing signalled an open challenge to Bayern's hegemony. "We can't overtake them and don't want to either," he insisted. "They are still worlds apart from us." In the table, though, those "worlds" translate into a meagre three-point gap for the second-placed champions. They start the year away to Hamburg on Sunday, when more than 1,000 Borussia fans will opt to listen to the radio coverage outside the ground in protest at unreasonably high admission prices (€19 for a standing ticket). Remarkably, their boycott is being supported by the Hamburg fan group Chosen Few, who have promised to desist from cheering between minutes 45 and 55. HSV's long list of injured absentees may make the silent show of solidarity a little easier.
Elsewhere, the Leverkusen manager Robin Dutt remains under pressure ahead of Bayer's game at home to Mainz 05, and Werder Bremen (away to Kaiserslautern) are still bemoaning the same anaemic performances from their squad as they did five weeks ago. Thomas Schaaf's men lost four out of five winter friendlies, with the sporting director Klaus Allofs threatening "consequences" for the umpteenth time. To make matters worse, their only success came courtesy of a 2-1 win over Alkmaar in Belek, Turkey, a match that was refereed by a banned Bulgarian official, Luchezar Yonov, who had apparently assumed the identity of the scheduled Bulgarian referee, Raicho Raichev. These things happen, unfortunately.
Down at the other end of the table, the home of SC Freiburg, there were highly irregular occurrences, too. One of the most solidly run clubs in the league suddenly fired their manager Marcus Sorg and six players were told they would be let go, among them the popular captain Heiko Butscher. On top of all that, Sorg's successor Christian Streich had to contend with the sale of their leading striker Papiss Demba Cissé to Newcastle this week. "We can't compensate this loss," complained Streich.
The 46-year-old's understandable anger was nothing compared to the enormous frustration that must have been felt by Magath in this transfer window, however. The Wolfsburg supremo managed to bring in only eight new players (at the time of writing), a new personal low for the Bundesliga's most passionate shopper. The Volkswagen-owned club generously provided €30m for the latest fairly obscure bunch, the pick of which is the Swiss defender Ricardo Rodríguez from FC Zürich for €8m. "I know what I'm doing," said Magath. Support from the Wolfsburg chairman Francisco Javier Garcia Sanz was in danger of drifting into realms of parody though. "The suggestion that Magath is throwing VW's money away is unfair," said Sanz. "Our aim is to achieve a sense of sustainability. We will manage that by building a young team that will identify with the club. That's how we can push on with the change successfully." You can stop laughing now.
A considerable number of earlier recruits in Magath's 41-strong squad are naturally surplus to requirements but Mirko Slomka's attempts to recruit some of them to his Hannover 96 side were unsuccessful. Slomka bemoaned unrealistic prices but maybe the men in question were unwilling to swap Magath's silent treatment for the more esoteric regime at 96. In the training camp, Hannover players were asked to fill in a personal questionnaire that included inquiries about their sex life. Why? "This is about sensuality," explained Hannover's motivational consultant Peter Boltersdorf. "Those who like scoring beautiful goals can be motivated by videos that show them doing something perfectly." Hmm. There is probably something to be said about the metaphorical link between shooting small white objects into an opening and football. But this merely begs another, even more uncomfortable question: what does Boltersdorf tell his goalkeepers and defenders?