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 Posted by ESPN Staff
May, 7, 2006

Bayern hope to replace Ballack with Podolski

FRANKFURT, May 7 (Reuters) - Champions Bayern Munich hope to make up for the expected loss of Michael Ballack by signing Germany's best young player, Lukas Podolski.

Bayern are resigned to seeing playmaker Ballack move on a free transfer to English champions Chelsea after the Germany captain refused the offer of a new contract.

The 20-year-old Podolski, who plays for relegated Cologne, is top of their list of targets, and after wrapping up a 20th German championship with a week to spare on Saturday they are ready to move in.

"We'll carry out talks with a view to getting him by July 1," Bayern manager Uli Hoeness told reporters in Cologne as the club celebrated a second successive league and cup double.

A deal with Podolski's agent was "as good as agreed," Hoeness added, although the club have yet to speak to Cologne.

Hoeness also confirmed an interest in Daniel Van Buyten, captain of a Hamburg side who have pushed Bayern hard this season and will clinch second place if they avoid defeat at home to Werder Bremen next Saturday.

"He has let it be known that he wants to come to us," Hoeness said of the 28-year-old Belgian centre-back. "Now he has to discuss it with Hamburg."

Hamburg's 4-2 defeat away to Hertha Berlin on Saturday was enough to confirm Bayern as champions, even as they themselves only managed a 1-1 draw away to Kaiserslautern.

It was their sixth championship in the last eight seasons and their third double in the four years since Ballack joined them from Bayer Leverkusen.

Ballack has scored 13 league goals this season from midfield and even if Podolski and Van Buyten come, the Bavarians will still need to find someone who can play such an effective all-round game in midfield.

That man could be Julio dos Santos, the 22-year-old Paraguay midfielder who joined Bayern in January but who has yet to make his Bundesliga debut.

"He's going to have a big impact," Hoeness said.

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