All bets are off about the future direction of in-form Werder Bremen defensive midfielder Torsten Frings.
After turning down approaches from Hertha Berlin and Arsenal, Frings declared during the winter break that Dortmund were his favoured destination, a predictable assertion given that the Ruhr club were said to be offering him œ1.7million a year.
Even so, it is by no means certain thathe is bound for Dortmund. Bayer Leverkusen are also in the hunt, seeing Frings as a replacement for Bayern Munich-bound Michael Ballack, while Bremen are insisting he sees out his contract, which runs until summer 2003.
But will Werder really be prepared to pass on an expected œ5m fee?
A change of role has been instrumental in turning Frings into hot property. Previously, he had done well as Werder’s in-house utility man, playing at right-back, as a left- or right-sided midfielder or up front. But the decision of coach Thomas Schaaf to make him the team’s midfield anchor at the start of this season has allowed the 25-year-old to make the leap from being good to outstanding. He has been one of the Bundesliga players of the season thus far.
“I love being in central midfield,” says Frings. “I get more of the ball, I’m more involved. But I’ve got a lot more to offer. I’m too good just to destroy. Though I’m no Zidane, I see myself as a playmaker.
“There are no better midfielders in the Bundesliga at the moment. I don’t have to feel inferior to Sebastian Deisler, Michael Ballack, Sebastian Kehl or anyone else.”
No shortage of confidence there, although national coach Rudi Voller has yet to be convinced about his abilities. He has played Frings only twice, both times as substitute, and will not have appreciated the midfielder going public with his national team frustrations.
“I’m disappointed that Rudi Voller has not taken note of my progress,” bemoaned Frings after being left out of the squad for the World Cup play-offs against Ukraine. “I haven’t been given a real chance to prove myself in the national team. If I was Rudi Voller, I’d pick Torsten Frings.
“Perhaps it’s because Werder haven’t as much clout within the German federation as some of the big-name clubs. It seems easier to become a regular for Germany if you are at a top club. That’s why I’m tempted to move to one of them.”
Club Werder Bremen
Born November 22, 1976, in Aachen
Previous clubs Rot-Weiss Alsdorf, Rhenania Alsdorf, Alemannia Aachen
International debut February 2001, v France
International caps 2 (0 goals)
Honours German Cup 1999