Christoph Baumgartner's move further underlines TSG's status as the league's "transfer kings". Hoffenheim sit atop the ranking of clubs with the best transfer balance sheet over the past decade by a wide margin. "Developing young players and thus creating added value, which in turn benefits our academy through transfer revenues, is part of the core of our DNA," says TSG director of football Alexander Rosen, who has overseen the club's extremely successful work in the transfer market for over ten years. "As a club, we depend on these transfer revenues - and at the same time, we are proud that we repeatedly succeed in the demanding balancing act of economic necessity and sporting competitiveness," says Rosen, adding: "His development into one of the league's top players and his departure in close friendship and respect is a great example of this.''
Baumgartner spent six years playing in the Kraichgau. The Austrian moved to the TSG academy in Hoffenheim from AKA St. Pölten in the summer of 2017. "It was a huge step for me, as a footballer as well as a person," Baumgartner recalls of his early days when he came to the Kraichgau from the Alpine country at the age of 17. "I didn't just literally grow up at TSG." Baumgartner made 29 appearances for Hoffenheim's U19s and also reached the semi-finals of the German championship in 2018. Just one year later, the attacker played his first Bundesliga minutes for TSG. "The club prepared me perfectly for this step into professional football," says the midfielder, usually referred to as "Baumi", as he looks back on his time at TSG. "The club management did an extremely good job. I had the feeling that I could break through, and the club always encouraged me. But there was always a clear plan and a regulated process. Sometimes it's not a bad thing for a player to just play a month or two longer in the U19s or U23s instead of moving up to the Bundesliga straight away. That means that when the time comes, you are actually ready."
This included looking out for Baumgartner after his unfortunate debut in the starting XI. On Matchday 34 of the 2018/19 season, Baumgartner was given his marching orders after receiving two yellow cards before half-time in a game away to Mainz, and had to watch on from the bench as ten-man TSG fell short of qualifying for Europe. But the young Austrian was given the support he needed - and developed into a regular starter the following season.
"Baumi's development at TSG was and is an absolute success story for both sides," says Alexander Rosen, going on to add: "He has made the journey with us from a young academy player to an absolute top performer and is now taking the next step to a top club. His story is an inspiration and an example for the next generation of young players who are striving to make it to the top. Baumi has shown that at TSG Hoffenheim, the doors are open for young players from our own academy more than at any other club.''
Baumgartner, who signed a contract extension in 2021 to remain at the club until 2025, soon became a top performer for the team. "I want to take on more responsibility," announced Baumgartner in January 2022 - and he duly followed this up with action. Although still young, he became one of the faces of the club and frequently made his voice heard in the media. "I felt extremely comfortable at the club and in the region. On the sporting side on one hand, but also in my private life with my girlfriend and our dog. These were also reasons why I was very happy to represent the club in public. The club has supported me on and off the pitch since I was 17. TSG will always be the most important stage in my professional career, because it was here in Hoffenheim that I developed into a Bundesliga player and a senior international. I will always carry TSG in my heart."
Baumgartner made 121 Bundesliga appearances for the club, scoring 27 goals and providing 17 assists. In addition, he played in eight Europa League matches (three goals/two assists) and nine DFB-Pokal matches. In September 2020, he made his debut appearance for the Austria national team in a 2-1 win over Norway in the UEFA Nations League. He has represented his country on 29 occasions (ten goals) and was a member of the squad that competed at the last EURO.