UEFA Champions League finalists Bayer 04 Leverkusen have started to rebuild their squad for next season after just missing out on three trophies in the 2001/02 season.
Leverkusen, who will be without the transferred Michael Ballack and Zé Roberto and the retired Ulf Kirsten next season, have agreed deals for Czech international striker Jan Simak and Brazilian international defender Juan. The club will be back in Champions League action next season, after being beaten 2-1 by Real Madrid CF in this year's final earlier this month.
Simak, who scored 18 times for newly-promoted Hannover 96 in the 2. Bundesliga last season, has signed a €6m deal taking him up to 2007. Juan, who has been capped 15 times by Brazil but did not make the 2002 FIFA World Cup finals, has cost €3.5m from CR Flamengo in Brazil. Both players are 23 and are tipped to play a major role next season.
Leverkusen coach Klaus Toppmöller is delighted with the signings and stressed he would not have any problems with Simak, despite the player's falling out with the Hannover management. "I can get along with every sort of character," Toppmöller said.
Better luck next time
The club will hope for success next season as, along with losing the Champions League final, they were defeated in the German Cup final by FC Schalke 04 and were just pipped to the 1. Bundesliga title by BV Borussia Dortmund. They will have to do it without Ballack and Zé Roberto, who have moved to FC Bayern München while Kirsten called it a day after a long and successful career.
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