After an extensive selection process and the contribution of several bloggers, writers and Bundesliga fans we are finally ready to reveal this season’s outstanding player. The decision over this selection was rather unanimous and testament to the player’s contributions over the course of the campaign.
At Number 1 is a player that was at the heart of his team and whose play elevated a side from the fringes of the league to the very top. Our choice for Player of the Season has come a long way in his still young career, from being the youngest Bundesliga debutant and scorer in history to one of Europe’s premier footballers.
Here is Borussia Dortmund’s Nuri Sahin.
You can find Players 25 – 2 here.
1. Nuri Sahin
Seeing Sahin celebrate the title on the last match day of the season had to be one of the most bittersweet moments for Dortmund supporters. Sahin had made his move to Real Madrid public a week before the last match day, something that had been speculated on for weeks in advance but did not make the final announcement any less painful. Despite the euphoria amidst Dortmund’s incredible season, the announcement inevitably put an unspoken damper on the celebration. For a group of players that promised each other that they would stay together this seems to be a real dagger to the heart and the departure of the influential midfielder already has supporters and pundits pondering the possibility of a sophomore slump, especially in the context of their Champions League participation.
As heavy an indictment as that may be it also underscores the degree of influence and status Sahin had on this Dortmund side and among fans. Sahin has been the heart and soul of Klopp’s Dortmund in more ways than one. On the pitch, Nuri, as he is referred to by the Dortmund faithful, became the team’s undisputed leader. From a purely tactical perspective, Sahin was the brains of the operation and organized Dortmund’s game in the truest sense of a midfield general. Sahin’s football instincts and natural talent helped him dictate games reminiscent of the great Xavi and spearheaded his team’s championship winning campaign. Off the pitch, Sahin was the spiritual leader of the squad and maintained a strong bond among a group of players that seemed more like a tightly knit circle of friends than a professional football team. At the end of the day the allure of Real Madrid was simply too strong for Nuri but it does not take away from a simply outstanding season and few would disagree that Sahin’s performance put him above all others in the league.
Sahin was never one to shy away from his competition and the more challenging the task; the more adamant his response. Prior to the beginning of the season, Sahin was interviewed by German magazine kicker and set the highest possible bar for himself, aiming to become the best “sechser” or “number 6” in the league, surpassing the likes of Mark van Bommel and Bastian Schweinsteiger, who both had phenomenal seasons the year before. To outperform two veterans, champions league and world cup finalists was never going to be an easy task but Sahin took on the challenge admirably and by the end of the season only one of the three was left standing.
Almost everything went through Sahin on the pitch. He was the primary link between defense and attack and it was Sahin that would be most responsible for Dortmund’s build up play. Before his injury at the end of the season no player saw the ball more than Sahin (2625 touches) and therefore it was more or less up to Sahin to decide how the play would be built and whether the best course of action would be to play the ball forward and initiate attacks or maintain possession and play it laterally or back. That is where the Xavi comparisons come in because Sahin single handedly dictated the tempo of play. One element of his game that in particular stood out were his vertical passes whose deftness and accuracy resembled that of the Spanish maestro. His ability to find a player over long distances made Dortmund’s attacks much more quick and efficient. Sahin was therefore indirectly responsible for many of Dortmund’s goals, completing 71% of his 1779 passes. And despite playing deep in midfield he still managed a striking 6 goals and 8 assists in the league,
It is difficult to imagine Dortmund’s historic season without their midfield talisman. Klopp’s side was just a goal short of equaling Bayern’s 2007 record for least goals conceded in league history. Coincidentally, Dortmund conceded 3 goals in their last 4 matches, all games Sahin missed. Had he played, Dortmund might well be celebrating the league’s greatest defense as well. Sahin’s good technique also made him one of the most potent players on set pieces and a large chunk of his goals and assists came from dead ball situations including a brilliant freek kick against Bayern in the Hinrunde. In fact, Sahin made scoring brilliant goals and performing in big matches a habit. Whether it was the games against Bayern or the derby against Schalke, Sahin stepped up his game and led his side to victory.
Time will tell just how much Sahin’s departure will affect Dortmund as they traverse the dangerous waters of the Champions League next season. Klopp brought in another young talent in Gündogan but whether it is a direct replacement or not or will adequately fill the shoes of Sahin remains to be seen. Many teams are not beyond recovering and at times even improving after losing key players and the same may be true of Dortmund. That said, no one will ever be able to take away from Sahin one of the best individual performances in some time.
Here is a compilation of Sahin’s stellar performance against Bayern Munich in the Rückrunde. Dortmund’s win in Munich was symbolic in many ways, putting the final nail in the coffin of Bayern’s title ambitions and emphasizing Dortmund’s arrival as the team to beat. Nuri put in one of the best individual performances of the season:
And here is a collection of some of his best moments during the season including his brilliant passing and influence on games:
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