Such has been Bayern Munich’s dominance of the 50th Bundesliga season that some might be surprised that a mere six of Jupp Heynckes’s men have made Eurosport’s team of the season.
With the season drawing to a close, eight Eurosport Bundesliga commentators and correspondents picked their team of the season based on a 4-2-3-1 formation. They were also asked to name a coach of the season and flop of the campaign.
With Bayern holding a record 22-point lead with one round of matches left, it was perhaps tempting to pick Bayern’s entire first XI. Record after record has fallen with Bayern garnering the largest number of points in Bundesliga history.
But our team of voters spent as much of the season watching Augsburg and Greuther Furth as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, so looked beyond the confines of the Allianz Arena for the season’s star performers. Meanwhile a good sign for Germany one year before the World Cup: only three foreigners made the best XI. There was much lobbying at the Eurosport coffee machine, but voting was made in secret. Here are the results:
Goalkeeper: Rene Adler, Hamburg (3 votes). Games started: 31, goals conceded: 51. Conceding nine goals in a single match against Manuel Neuer’s Bayern Munich didn’t stop our panel picking the former Bayer Leverkusen stopper ahead of Germany’s No. 1. The fact that HSV are in with a shout of European football has much to do with Adler’s shot-stopping behind a leaky defence.
Right-back: Phillip Lahm, Bayern Munich (6 votes). Starts: 27, goals: 0. Lahm’s habit of easing through matches didn’t disguise the Bayern captain’s superb positioning and laser-like tackling. It was fitting that he held the champions’ trophy aloft last week.
Centre-back: Dante, Bayern Munich (8 votes). Starts: 28, goals: 1. Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante, Dante. The likeable Brazilian was the only unanimous pick, but Bayern President Uli Hoeness said Dante was originally bought as a back-up centre half. There was even some doubt about the pronunciation of his name (it rhymes with ‘‘canter’’). Near-faultless season from a player given his first Brazil call up this season.
Centre-back: Mats Hummels, Borussia Dortmund (3 votes). Starts: 27, goals: 1.
Dante had three different centre-back partners this season and perhaps that allowed a non-Bayern player to crash the back four. It was fitting the nod went to an ex-Bayern man, Hummels, who made more than his usual share of mistakes this term but remains a class act.
Left-back: David Alaba, Bayern Munich (7 votes). Starts: 21, goals: 3.
Alaba has a claim to be the most improved defender in Germany. He didn’t even start the season as Bayern’s first choice left-back, but Holger Badstuber’s injury gave the Austrian his chance. Such is the faith in his abilities that, at 20, Alaba is already Bayern’s penalty taker.
Defensive midfielder: Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich (7 votes). Starts: 26, goals:7. The man Heynckes calls “the best midfielder in the world” and the “brains of the Bayern team’’ has upped his game in the face of increased opposition in the squad. Missed a penalty in last season’s Champions League final, but like his team, has shown great character in putting that defeat behind him.
Defensive midfielder: Ilkay Gundogan, Borussia Dortmund (7 votes). Starts: 25, goals: 3. Gundogan had the unenviable task of filling Nuri Sahin's boots, and struggled at first. Now the cog in Dortmund’s wheel, but has said he doesn’t feel comfortable about the idea of playing in a more advanced role next season.
Attacking midfielder: Marco Reus, Borussia Dortmund (6 votes). Starts: 26, goals:14. The bad news for Dortmund was that they rejected Reus as a youngster, believing him too lightweight to cope with the rigours of top flight football. The good news is that they bought him back for a bargain 17 million euros. It says something about Reus that he has outshone Bayern Munich-bound Mario Goetze for much of the season.
Attacking midfielder: Thomas Mueller, Bayern Munich (5 votes). Starts: 24, goals: 13. To say that Mueller excels in two positions would do a disservice to the Bavarian-born star. Mueller has an uncanny ability to crop up in any part of the pitch at the right time. Though this was strictly a Bundesliga poll, Mueller’s eight Champions League goals must have swung a few floating voters.
Attacking midfielder: Franck Ribery, Bayern Munich (4 votes). Starts: 23, goals: 8. "As important to this team as Rummenigge was in his time?’’ said Paul Breitner. If he could reproduce his Bundesliga form for France, Les Bleus could have a serious shot at winning the next World Cup.
Centre-forward: Stefan Kiessling, Bayer Leverkusen (5 votes). Starts: 33, goals: 24. The lanky Leverkusen forward may not have convinced national coach Joachim Loew, but his 24 goals and seven assists, did enough to win over our jury.
Coach: Christian Streich (Freiburg). It takes something special to beat Heynckes this season, and Streich’s record since taking over in January 2012 reads won 21, drawn 15, lost 14. With barely a euro to spend, Freiburg will finish in a top four Champions League spot if they beat Schalke on Saturday. No wonder Mainz’s respected coach Thomas Tuchel calls Streich ‘’the best educator in Germany.’’
Honourable mentions: Our panel agreed that Neuer was desperately unlucky not to make the team; as was Hiroshi Kiyotake, having almost single-handedly kept Nuremberg away from the relegation zone; while Toni Kroos would surely have been a shoo-in but for his hip injury.
Flop of the season: Tim Wiese. Started the season as one of Hoffenheim’s best-ever paid players, but conceded 25 goals in 10 games. Fined in mid-season for what police called ‘‘rude’’ behaviour in a men’s toilet at a party while dressed as a prisoner, the former Germany international has not played since January.
Deputy Head, Eurosport2