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Germany forward Mario Gomez returns to Stuttgart

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Germany forward Mario Gomez will return to Stuttgart, where he won the 2007 Bundesliga title, from rival Wolfsburg.

Stuttgart said Friday that the 32-year-old Gomez will sign a contract through 2020.

Gomez started his career in Stuttgart’s youth team. He made his Germany debut in 2007 while playing for the club, then played for Bayern Munich, Fiorentina and Besiktas before joining Wolfsburg in 2016.

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Gomez said he was “very happy to be back home, where everything began for me,” and promised to “give everything” to keep Stuttgart in the top flight.

Promoted Stuttgart went into the winter break in 14th place in the 18-team Bundesliga, two points clear of the relegation zone.

News agency dpa reported that the transfer fee was more than 3 million euros ($3.5 million).

Also Friday, Stuttgart said 19-year-old winger Josip Brekalo will return to Wolfsburg during the winter break, rather than staying on loan until the end of the season as originally planned. The Croat has been with Stuttgart since January.

Germany midfielder Khedira buys 1,200 tickets for charity

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STUTTGART, Germany (AP) Germany midfielder Sami Khedira has bought 1,200 tickets for Monday’s World Cup qualifier against Norway in his native Stuttgart and donated them to charity.

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The tickets have been distributed to socially disadvantaged children and children fighting cancer in the region so they can attend the game through an initiative organized by Khedira’s foundation.

The Juventus midfielder says “it just came about for the national game here in Stuttgart. For me personally, it was important not just to give money, but that the kids themselves could get something from it. Most wouldn’t have had the chance to attend a game for various reasons, financial or logistical.”

Germany will qualify for the World Cup from Group C if it wins and second-place Northern Ireland fails to beat the Czech Republic in Belfast.

Julian Green reportedly set for 2.Bundesliga loan

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American winger Julian Green is going to join his fourth club in a year and a half.

That club is Greuther Fuerth in the 2.Bundesliga, according to The Washington Post’s Steven Goff, and it’ll be a loan from top-tier Stuttgart.

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Stuttgart bought Green from Bayern Munich in January, and Green spent the part of the previous season on loan with Hamburg. For more on his journey since scoring for the USMNT at the 2014 World Cup, head here.

Furth just fired coach Janos Radoki off an 0-4 start to the season, and helped start the careers of Baba Rahman and Nicolai Muller.

Green still has plenty to prove at the 2.Bundesliga level having scored a lone goal for Stuttgart in its promotion campaign last season.

What’s next for Julian Green, and what’s gone wrong?

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Julian Green will have a new team again soon, in all likelihood.

A Stuttgart publication says Green is on the transfer market this month, just eight months after moving from Bayern Munich to the then-2.Bundesliga side for less than $500,000.

Now 22, Green is three and a half years removed from Jurgen Klinsmann’s long campaign to get him into a USMNT shirt. It’s been a little less time since he scored in extra time against Belgium in the World Cup, but also less than a year since he scored goals in consecutive USMNT matches. That shouldn’t be overlooked.

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Green scored one goal in 10 appearances for Stuttgart, who was promoted to the Bundesliga at the end of last season. He fell out of favor there, but was far from poor. Green completed 87 percent of his passes and averaged 1.3 dribbles per game (only four teammates had more, though 10 matches is a smaller sample size).

Before that, he spent parts of three seasons with Bayern Munich and made just four appearances, taking a loan to Hamburg in 2014-15 that saw him banished to Hamburg II after just five appearances.

What gives? Whether attitude or skill, Green has a lot of work to do to get back to a level where he’s a reasonable USMNT call-up (Green has a respectable three goals in eight call-ups, netting against Cuba and New Zealand in Oct. 2016). Still, it’s far from over for Green at 22.

There are legit questions here, as the list of not high-profile players Bayern Munich has used in its senior team at a young age and blossomed elsewhere isn’t necessarily impressive (at least relatively speaking). Nils Petersen, Thomas Kraft, and Sandro Wagner are exceptions to the rule. Better put: Bayern has a really good idea what it’s doing when it lets young players walk, and it begs discussion on the best path for Green.

It seems likely he could get a move to another 2.Bundesliga club, and there’s an outside shot he could get a look in the top flight. It would be interesting to know where the interest lies abroad. Would it be hard to acquire a work permit for France or Spain (England seems a hard sell)? Could a move to a free-flowing Eredivisie club work?

Obviously Major League Soccer clubs would welcome his talent and it’s difficult to imagine he wouldn’t be a useful piece in the United States’ top tier, even if on a short-term move as he looks to regain confidence. Would Green see it as below him?

BUNDESLIGA 2017-18: Guide to the two promoted teams

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BERLIN (AP) A look at Stuttgart and Hannover as the promoted teams prepare for the opening weekend of the Bundesliga.

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STUTTGART

Stuttgart, which won the Bundesliga in 2007, was relegated in 2016 but bounced straight back by winning the second division last season.

The club has made a number of signings in an attempt to stay in the top flight this time: former Germany defenders Holger Badstuber and Dennis Aogo; Brazilian defender Ailton; forwards Chadrac Akolo and Anastasios Donis; and Germany backup goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler.

Arguably more significant, however, was Stuttgart’s luring of Michael Reschke from Bayern Munich to be its sporting director. The 59-year-old Reschke has a good reputation for scouting and player development after three years at Bayern and 10 at Bayer Leverkusen. His services will be appreciated at a club that has long nurtured raw talent. Seven members of Germany’s Confederations Cup-winning squad began their careers at Stuttgart, including Timo Werner, Joshua Kimmich and Mario Gomez.

Simon Terodde, the team’s top goalscorer last season, knows his side faces a difficult task to ensure survival this year.

“In the second division we were always the favorites, had a lot of ball-possession,” Terodde said. “That will change now in the Bundesliga when you’re playing against the big teams like Schalke, Bayern, Dortmund. That’s the way it is. But still, we’re prepared.”


HANNOVER

Hannover also returned at the first attempt, as the runner-up in the second division.

But the side’s summer rebuilding has been overshadowed by club president’s Martin Kind’s takeover of voting rights. Kind has been an outspoken critic of the Bundesliga’s 50-plus-1 regulation, which limits the influence of external backers, and he was able to increase his stake to a majority thanks to an exemption as he has backed the club for 20 years.

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The regulation prohibits stakeholders from having more than 49 percent of a club, with the rest remaining in club members’ hands to prevent takeovers. There are exceptions – Wolfsburg, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim and now, Hannover.

The move has been opposed by many club supporters and Kind has been the subject of derogatory chants at friendly games. Hannover’s friendly at Premier League side Burnley was called off at halftime due to trouble from the visiting fans.

The club has been relatively quiet on the transfer front, bringing in defenders Julian Korb and Matthias Ostrzolek from Bundesliga rivals Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hamburger SV, respectively, as well as midfielder Pirmin Schwegler from Hoffenheim.

Staying in the Bundesliga is the initial priority, though Kind wants the club to play internationally.

Horst Heldt was appointed as sporting director last March, and he brought in Andre Breitenreiter as coach. The two had worked together at Schalke.

“We need three years to establish ourselves back in the Bundesliga, and then we will look forwards,” Kind said. “I can’t say yet whether that will be Europe.”

More AP German soccer: http://www.apnews.com/tag/Bundesliga