Transfer Gurus: St. Pauli’s Andreas Bornemann

Bergas Brillianto continues our Transfer Gurus series with a look at the sporting director behind St. Pauli’s remarkable rise to the Bundesliga

Last weekend, Brighton and Hove Albion announced the appointment of Fabian Hürzeler as their new head coach. The appointment broke a Premier League record, as Hürzeler became the youngest permanent manager in the history of the competition at the age of 31.

The Texas-born coach’s success story is undeniable. Prior to this appointment, he led FC St. Pauli to promotion to the 2. Bundesliga. Hürzeler achieved this in his first full season as head coach, having taken over in December 2022 (he had been assistant to Timo Schultz since 2020). He is a young coach with a lot of potential and many interesting ideas.

But Hürzeler’s success and the team’s ability to translate his ideas into action wouldn’t be possible without Andreas Bornemann, St. Pauli’s Sporting Director. It was Bornemann who appointed Hürzeler as St. Pauli’s head coach after the sacking of legendary Timo Schultz. Bornemann put his faith in Hürzeler, who was only 29 at the time, had no experience of managing a professional team, and didn’t even have a UEFA Pro Licence.

A Brief Introduction to Bornemann

Andreas Bornemann is a native of the south-west of Germany and spent the majority of his playing career with the well-known regional club SC Freiburg. After hanging up his boots, Bornemann remained with SC Freiburg, eventually working his way up to a role in youth development. He spent almost a decade at the club, including a spell as sporting director.

Bornemann then jumped into the sporting director’s hot seat at various clubs including Alemannia Aachen, Holstein Kiel, and 1. FC Nürnberg between 2009 and 2019. His greatest successes during this period came with Nürnberg, with the promotion to the Bundesliga, and Holstein Kiel, propelling them from the fourth, non-professional, division to the third league of Germany (the club finished second behind St. Pauli in the 2. Bundesiga, achieving promotion as well – Phillip Sander, who played over 2000 minutes in the promotion-winning season, joined Kiel under Bornemann as a youth player; he has just been sold to Borussia Mönchengladbach for €1m).

This period also established Bornemann’s reputation as a sporting director with a keen eye for young talent (Sandler, for example). His ability to identify, develop, and turn them into valuable assets became a hallmark of his work. This, along with his experience and past successes, earned him the position of Sporting Director at FC St. Pauli in the summer of 2019 and also became the club’s key recent success.

Focus on Young Players

In the seasons prior to Andreas Bornemann’s appointment, the team finished 7th, 12th and 9th respectively. But this highlights the disconnect between the value of the squad and its performance on the pitch. In the 2018/19 season, for example, they had the fifth highest market value in the league according to Transfermarkt. St. Pauli only finished in 9th place.

Bornemann’s strategy aimed to close this gap by focusing on the acquisition of undervalued or undeveloped players, particularly those under the age of 25. This approach meant that St. Pauli rarely signed players over the age of 25. The statistics support this strategy: of the 22 paid transfers made between summer 2019 and winter 2024, only five were over the age of 25. Even two of those five were already familiar with the club, having previously played there on loan. Essentially, Bornemann has invested in players who have already proven themselves within the system.

This focus on young talent is reflected in the average age of Bornemann’s recruits. Paid transfers are on average 23.8 years old, and when free transfers and loaned players are included, the average drops slightly to 24.4. Interestingly, the average age of players who have left the club during Bornemann’s tenure is slightly higher at 25.8. This suggests a deliberate approach of bringing in younger players and possibly selling or releasing older ones.

The same approach has been taken with Bornemann’s coaching appointments. His first appointment, Timo Schultz, was 42 years old at the time and had never managed a professional club before. Schultz, later sacked by Bornemann, did manage to lead St. Pauli to a fifth-place finish in the 2021/22 season, the club’s best 2. Bundesliga finish since 2015/16. And Schultz’s replacement, as mentioned above, was Hürzeler.

But while Bornemann’s main focus has been on younger players and coaches, he has not been afraid to get creative, finding free transfers or players from leagues not usually linked with German sides. He has brought in experienced players such as Jackson Irvine, Guido Burgstaller, and Hauke Wahl, all of whom were over the age of 25 when they joined the club and none of whom cost a transfer fee. Irvine and Wahl were particularly instrumental in the club’s promotion. Furthermore, paid transfers for older players were kept financially sound, never exceeding €500,000.

Under Bornemann, there’s only been one season in which St. Pauli have had a negative balance in the transfer market. The other four seasons have seen a the net positive expenditure. If we add up all of St. Pauli’s outgoing and incoming transfers during the Bornemann era, the figures are positive overall, while maintaing sports progression. This means that while St. Pauli looks to sign young, cheap players, Bornemann ensures that the squad is always competitive. And the results speak for themselves.

Strategic Star Sales, Wise Replacements

When it comes to the transfer market, St. Pauli are often in an inferior situation. When their players or coaches receive offers from first league teams, it’s very difficult for them to keep those players. Bornemann is well aware of this situation. Instead of trying to keep the players and risk breaking St. Pauli’s wage structure, Bornemann prefers to sell them.

Since his arrival, St. Pauli have sold four players for six-figure sums. Their record outgoing transfer was broken during Bornemann’s tenure when Daniel-Kofi Kyereh was sold to SC Freiburg for €4.5 million. Despite the loss of their stars, Bornemann has proved his wise strategy by not replacing them with stars, but with several players who have the potential to become stars.

The money from Kyereh’s transfer was used to bring in David Nemeth, Johannes Eggestein, Oladapo Afolayan, Carlo Boukhalfa, Maurides, Betim Fazliji, David Otto and Elias Saad (for a combined €4.2m). Almost all of them, with the exception of Fazliji and Otto, were in the squad when St. Pauli were promoted, not to mention Connor Metcalfe and Manolis Saliakas, who also arrived for free in the same transfer window and were integral parts of Hürzeler’s system last season.

In the 2023/24 season, Afolayan, Saad, Eggestein, and Metcalfe combined for 28 league goals and 13 assists. These transfers more than made up for the loss of Kyereh, who scored 12 goals and laid on 9 assists in his final season with St. Pauli. In Hürzeler’s 3-4-3 system, these four players provided a dynamic presence up front. Saad, Afolayan, and Metcalfe on the wings provided width, determination and aggression. Meanwhile, Eggestein was the number nine who could play on the move to attack the box or open up space for the wingers.

Last season, St. Pauli were only fourth in the market value ranking. However, they still managed to finish top of the table by the end of the season. Bornemann’s strategy proved to be a wise one, and the goal of balancing squad value and performance was more than achieved with the league title and promotion

Finding Treasures in the Lower Leagues

Bornemann himself, when I asked him about St. Pauli’s transfers in the middle of last season, said that finding young players from the lower leagues was a key part of his strategy. Yes, St. Pauli play in the second division, but it doesn’t matter to Bornemann whether the players he wants to sign are playing in the third or even the fourth division. What matters is potential. If a young player has the talent to develop and fits in with St. Pauli’s needs, Bornemann will take a look.

And there are plenty of examples. Jakov Medic, whom St Pauli sold to Ajax for €3 million last summer, was signed from third-tier Wehen Wiesbaden. Kyereh, their record sale, was also bought from the same club for nothing. Saad, one of the stars of last season’s promotion triumph, was bought from Eintracht Norderstedt who only play in Regionalliga Nord, the fourth tier of German football.

The 24-year-old Hamburg native, who scored 9 goals and provided 3 assists for St. Pauli in all competitions last season, was bought for a mere €100,000, while his market value is €250,000. Saad’s market value has now reached €3 million and, according to some rumours in Germany, he is being scouted by a Bundesliga club. Having just made his debut for the Tunisian national team, Saad’s market value could be even higher next season.

The list of treasures that Bornemann found goes on. Boukhalfa and Philipp Treu came from SC Freiburg II, also in the third division. Lars Ritzka was another, playing for SC Verl in the third division before St Pauli signed him. All three were important role players in St. Pauli’s promotion season under Hürzeler. And none of them were even 25 when Bornemann brought them to the club. This once again shows Bornemann’s talent for finding diamonds in the rough, players who can come from anywhere and excel for the team.

One of His Favourite Markets: the United Kingdom

An interesting aspect of Bornemann’s transfer strategy has been his frequent exploration of the United Kingdom market in search of new players for St. Pauli. Before the current hype and his success in the Portuguese top flight with Sporting, it was Bornemann who spotted the talent of Viktor Gyökeres. The Swedish star joined St. Pauli on loan from Brighton in the summer of 2019/20, scoring seven league goals.

Since then, Bornemann has brought in seven more players from English clubs, either on loan or on a permanent basis. The most notable of these is club captain Irvine, who joined from Scottish side Hibernian FC. Bolton’s Afolayan, who won the club’s Player of the Year award in 2021/22, was one of Bornemann’s best British signings.

Afolayan, who wrote “From non-league to the Bundesliga” when St. Pauli won promotion, scored 13 goals and provided 5 assists during his time in Hamburg.

Afolayan was bought for €600,000 and now has a market value of €3 million. The price Bornemann paid for him looks like a bargain, especially if the Englishman performs well in the Bundesliga next season.

Bornemann himself has said that he believes St. Pauli is the right platform for young English talent to come through. If the chance to go straight to the Premier League is too daunting, or not yet there, the player can try to gain recognition and playing time at St. Pauli. They are not the only German club to have profited from this: Jude Bellingham, Jadon Sancho, and Jamie Bynoe-Gittens at BVB are the most famous examples, but Bornemann clearly feels that St. Pauli can also be a viable destionation and so it has proved to be. Andthe 52 year-old director sees this as a win-win situation: St. Pauli gets good talent that can help the team, and the players get minutes and experience if they want to move up to the next level.

The Next Step: Find Hürzeler’s Replacement

And now Bornemann’s ability to spot potential talent is being put to the test once again as St. Pauli look for a new coach. This is crucial, as St. Pauli are about to embark on their first season in the Bundesliga in more than a decade, and they will be hoping to stay there for as long as possible. To do that, they need to find another coach with great ideas.

According to reports in Germany, Christian Eichner, the coach of Karlsruher SC, is their top target. Interestingly, Eichner is just 41 years old. Another treasure trove for Bornemann? Could be. But for now, the race is still on, which means we could still see Bornemann find other talents for the St. Pauli bench. It could be another coach with as little experience as Hürzeler. Analytics FC’s Coach ID style map shows that Eichner has a more pragmatic in possession approach, with a very similar out of possession style, so Bornemann could be onto something with the Karlsruher coach.

With the calendar showing that St. Pauli’s pre-season will begin in three weeks’ time, Bornemann will have to implement his other strategy once again: look to the lower leagues (they have already loaned in Robert Wagner, who played last season in the second division with Greuther Fürth) or explore the English market once more as St. Pauli build for life in the top tier.

Header image copyright IMAGO / Oliver Ruhnke

At Analytics FC, we provide software and data services to entities within football looking to realise the gains possible from analytical thinking.

Find out more about us, or get in touch if you have a question!

News, straight to your inbox

Provide your email address to subscribe and get email updates