As the dust settles on the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, supporters' focus now turns to the transfer market. So who will Roger Schmidt look to move on over the summer as he builds his squad for next season?
Having already made two brilliant signings in Julian Baumgartlinger and Kevin Volland, Schmidt will surely now look to move some players out as he reshapes his squad for next season, when the team will look to repeat – or maybe even better? – their third place finish, while also improving on their performances in the DFB Pokal and UEFA Champions League.
Here, I am going to take a look at the key members of the squad, and evaluate the likelihood of them still being with die Werkself on Matchday One. Players like Benjamin Henrichs, Marlon Frey, Vladlen Yurchenko and Andre Ramalho have not been included as they weren't regulars. I have also left Admir Mehmedi out as I fully expect him to move on after a frustrating season.
Bernd Leno – The popular goalkeeper is a perennial transfer rumour, cropping up every summer only to still be Leverkusen's number one when the season starts. This year, though, could be the year he finally says auf wiedersehen to the club to seek pastures – and challenges – new. Germany's number two had a release clause in his contract which meant another club could have acquired his services for €18m (£12.5m), but that clause expired on April 30th. While that means he is now under contract until 2018, it doesn't mean he still won't go in the summer. All it does mean is that Leverkusen can now set the asking price, and that will likely be around double the release clause.
Likelihood of leaving: High. With the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Barcelona all reported to be interested, Schmidt must be bracing himself for a barrage of offers. I'd be surprised (pleasantly) if Leno was between the posts in Leverkusen's first match of next season. Let's face it, he obviously sees his long term future elsewhere, otherwise why have such a clause in his contract?
Tin Jedvaj – The Croatian defender has bags of potential, but has suffered repeatedly with injury since his move from AS Roma two years ago. Able to play in central defence or at right back, he has the versatility to go a long way in the game if he can stay fit for a sustained period.
Likelihood of leaving: virtually nonexistent. Not this summer anyway. If he stays fit for the whole of next season and plays well, there could be a few clubs interested, but he will be our player next season. Which is no bad thing!
Omer Toprak – the Turkish international has had a nightmare season. Injured in the DFB Pokal first round, he didn't return to the team until the rückrunde, and has since had other injuries and been played out of position on occasion – more to get him into the team without dropping other players who didn't deserve to be left out. He signed a new contract in January 2014 which ties him to the club until 2018, but don't expect him to see that out. Borussia Dortmund are said to be very keen on him, and have reportedly made him their top target to replace outgoing skipper Mats Hummels.
Likelihood of leaving: nailed on. I'll be very sad to see him leave, as he has been nothing short of brilliant for Leverkusen since signing from SC Freiburg in 2011. However, the prospect of genuinely challenging Bayern's dominance, not to mention playing in that Dortmund team in front of the Yellow Wall must be too good to turn down. The only hope is that we can secure a top fee for him, and use some of it to bring in a quality replacement.
Kyriakos Papadopoulos – Another defender who has suffered with injury this season, 'Papa' is a mountain of a defender, and someone Schmidt can build around should Toprak leave. Popular with the fans, the Greek centre back has been a superb signing since he arrived – initially on loan – from Schalke 04 two years ago. Superb in the air in both boxes, Papa has a big future, hopefully with Leverkusen for another couple of season at least.
Likelihood of leaving: low. As with Jedvaj, Papadopoulos should remain at BayArena for at least next season, where he will likely be a fixture at the heart of Schmidt's defence in the likely absence of Toprak.
Jonathan Tah – Signed from Hamburg last summer, Tah has had a super debut season with die Werkself. Admittedly, he has probably played far more than he would have expected due to the constant defensive injuries. However, he has stepped up to the plate magnificently, forming partnerships with a number of teammates, and looking comfortable while doing it.
Likelihood of leaving: moderate. Borussia Dortmund are rumoured to be an admirer of Tah's, with some outlets suggesting he will be the man Thomas Tuchel chooses to replace Hummels. However, I think the more likely outcome is that Tah remains for at least one more season to continue his impressive development.
Wendell – Another youngster with huge potential, Brazilian teenager Wendell is destined for a big future. He seems to have it all; good at both defending and supporting the attack. So many managers now rely on wing backs rather than traditional fullbacks, and Wendell fits that role perfectly. While he is not yet the finished article, he soon will be and is sure to deliver a huge profit for Leverkusen when he does eventually move on. Real Madrid and Barcelona are unsurprisingly among his biggest admirers, but Leverkusen's desire to achieve €40million for the player would put even those two predators off, especially as Wendell would only be a backup to begin with.
Likelihood of leaving: low. While he has plenty of suitors, a list that will only continue to grow, he is the first choice left back at a Champions League club. There really is no viable reason for him to move on this summer. Another season or two of progress would leave him able to take his pick of Europe's top clubs, and demand a starting berth into the bargain.
Lars Bender – Just like Leno, skipper Bender is an annual transfer rumour, with Arsenal seemingly always top of the list of interested parties. However, Bender has said in the past that he wasn't ready for such a big move, and his penchant for injury will most likely prove to be the biggest stumbling block in his career.
Likelihood of leaving: low. Stories linking him with a move have not been as commonplace recently, probably due to his injury plagued season. It's unlikely a club will take a punt on him this summer, but if he stays fit and healthy during 2016/17, it could be a different story next summer.
Christoph Kramer – After an average debut season following his return from a two year loan with Borussia Moenchengladbach, World Cup winner Kramer could be the player Schmidt looks to offload from a heavily populated midfield. An elegant and classy player, Kramer has struggled to make the same impact at BayArena as he did at Borussia Park.
Likelihood of leaving: high. Frankly, I'd be very surprised if Kramer was a Leverkusen player by the time Euro 2016 kicks off let alone the new season. Gladbach seems the obvious destination considering die Föhlen have lost Havard Nordveidt already, and are selling Granit Xhaka to Arsenal. However, there are sure to be plenty of interested parties in England, Italy and Spain.
Charles Aranguiz – The Chile international has been picked in his nation's Copa America squad, which is a remarkable achievement for a player who got injured in his first training session at Leverkusen and looked set to miss a year. However, he came back for the last few matches of the season, even managing to net his first goals for the club, and he looks like a special, special player. Signed for what looks increasingly like the bargain price of €10million, Aranguiz is a dynamic midfielder, with accurate passing and an eye for goal; it's worth remembering that he also hit the woodwork twice in his seven games for the club.
Likelihood of leaving: non existent. This time next year, I fully expect Aranguiz to be linked with €30million moves to the likes of Bayern, Real and Barça. That's how good he has been in the seven games he has managed to play. However, he will go into 2016-17 almost as a new signing, and will surely be a mainstay in Schmidt's midfield.
The Austrian international has been a revelation since rejoining Schmidt, for whom he played at Red Bull Salzburg. Schmidt tried to sign him the previous summer, but the player opted for Borussia Dortmund instead, a mistake that was addressed a year later. Kampl is a tenacious and versatile midfielder with an eye for goal, and has proved to be one of the signings of the season. In fact, he probably would have been the best had it not been for the arrival of a certain Mexican.
Likelihood of leaving: non existent. Kampl is clearly very happy at Leverkusen, and loves playing for Schmidt. The fans love him, and he is playing regularly. There is no reason for him to leave.
Hakan Calhanoglu – The darling of the crowd last season, Hakan has had a below par campaign by his standards. He has struggled to maintain consistent form, and his frekicks – which yielded so much success in his debut season – have rarely troubled the opposition this term. He will be looking for a big improvement next time around.
Likelihood of leaving: moderate. There are plenty of clubs keeping tabs on Hakan, however I doubt any bigger clubs than Leverkusen will be making offers for his services. That said, he could be tempted by a Premier League payday, however I'd expect him to still be at the club on matchday one.
Julian Brandt – signed from VfL Wolfsburg eighteen months ago, the twenty year old has been a revelation in the closing stages of the season. He has been making steady progress ever since he joined – and particularly after Heung-Min Son left last summer- but the last ten games or so of the campaign really saw him explode into people's consciousness. He scored in six consecutive games, becoming the youngest player since Gerd Müller to do so, and also assisted many others as the team rescued a potentially awful season. His end of season form is bound to have alerted potential suitors, but will also have increased his potential transfer fee.
Likelihood of leaving: moderate. While I don't think he would want to leave a club where he is an integral part of the team at such a young age, his end of season form will undoubtedly have put him in the shop window. If he makes the jump from Joachim Löw's preliminary squad into the final Euro 2016 squad, that attention on him will only intensify.
Karim Bellarabi – like Hakan, 'Kimo' has had an inconsistent season, struggling to maintain the high levels he achieved last season. His pace has always been a threat, but the quality of his final ball, along with poor decision making at times, often let him and the team down. His scoring record isn't bad for a winger – 29 goals in 118 games according to his wiki – but for a player who turned twenty six in April his consistency is a worry.
Likelihood of leaving: low. I can't see many teams thinking he is worth taking a punt on if I'm honest. Having said that, I think he could be a decent Premier League player, however it's hard to see a Champions League club coming in for him.
Javier Hernandez – the signing that got all werkself supporters so excited when he arrived on the final day of last summer's transfer window, Chicharito has been sensational all season. Seventeen league goals, and twenty six in forty appearances in all competitions, make his €10-12m transfer fee a real bargain. How a bigger club didn't take a chance on him is beyond me, as is the fact that former Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal sanctioned his departure. He is the ultimate striker in my opinion; quick, skilful, a phenomenal finisher, and he has that natural knack of being in the right place at the right time. It's fair to say that his goals won the team so many points, and it's unthinkable to consider where we could have finished in the table without him.
Likelihood of leaving: low. Yes, low. Now, I know that obviously he will be the subject of much speculation this summer, especially if he has a good Copa America tournament. There will be many clubs who would love a striker of his quality, but with Champions League football guaranteed next season, he won't go anywhere. When he joined, he said the club made him feel important, and he has stated many times since how happy he is because he is playing every week and scoring pretty much every week. If he were to move, he might find himself being rotated again. No, I think Leverkusen fans have at least another season watching the Little Pea.