Salzburg optimistic as Bundesliga restarts

The Austrian Bundesliga resumes on Saturday with a number of clubs, FC Salzburg included, readjusting to the loss of key attacking players in January.

Alan left Salzburg last month after a fruitful four and a half seasons
Alan left Salzburg last month after a fruitful four and a half seasons ©Getty Images

Austria experienced an exodus of attacking talent during the January transfer window, Bundesliga leaders FC Salzburg among the affected clubs with the loss of two key men.

Alan, the eight-goal leading scorer in the UEFA Europa League group stage, headed east to China's Guangzhou Evergrande FC while Slovenia playmaker Kevin Kampl made the shorter journey to Borussia Dortmund, also for a reported €12m.

The 2013/14 double winners were not the only club to say goodbye to some of their leading players, however – overall, four of the division's top seven marksman, who registered 57 goals between them in all competitions in the first half of the season, left the country.

Salzburg no more: Kevin Kampl and Alan
Salzburg no more: Kevin Kampl and Alan©FC Salzburg

For Salzburg, life after Alan and Kampl begins on Saturday at struggling SC Wiener Neustadt in their first league fixture of the year. Far from feeling any degree of trepidation, they go into the second half of the campaign "very optimistic" having strengthened with a couple of forwards of their own: 20-year-old Takumi Minamino from Cerezo Osaka, a player dubbed the 'Japanese Neymar', and Marco Djuricin, on target 11 times in 18 top-flight games for SK Sturm Graz before the two-month winter break.

Consider too that the prolific Jonatan Soriano extended his contract by a year until 2018 and there is ample cause for confidence. "We have every position covered with two, sometimes even three players," said Salzburg sporting director Ralf Rangnick. "This makes me very optimistic about the spring season and [achieving] our goals."

The task for Salzburg, eight points clear of second-placed Wolfsberger AC but beaten 2-1 at home by SK Rapid Wien in their last match of 2014, is to hit the ground running when the season resumes this weekend.

"I am convinced that we can maintain our high level, be it on the domestic front or in Europe", said Soriano, who will return to his homeland on Thursday when Salzburg play Villarreal CF in the first leg of their UEFA Europa League round of 32 tie.

Omer Damari heads the EURO 2016 goal list
Omer Damari heads the EURO 2016 goal list©AFP/Getty Images

Peruvian international Yordy Reyna (12 goals) left SV Grödig for RB Leipzig, who also signed FK Austria Wien's Israel striker Omer Damari. The 25-year-old, a summer arrival from Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC, struck ten goals for the Vienna outfit in all competitions and a further five in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying, prompting the German second-tier side to make a reported €7m offer.

Austria have brought in replacements in the form of Philipp Zuleckner (SC Freiburg) and Ronivaldo Sales (Kapfenberger SV), but it remains to be seen how they will fare without Damari. Austria's new sporting director Franz Wohlfahrt is not one for excuses. "Every professional player has to be able to cope with the pressure, or he is not suitable for the top tier," he said.

Top ten: goals from the group stage
Top ten: goals from the group stage