Top 25 Bundesliga Players 2011/12 (25 – 21)

Another exciting Bundesliga season is behind us and every season’s end is usually accompanied by various awards, trophies, rankings and lists.  We at the Bundesliga Fanatic have carefully assessed every club and player in the league and left no rock unturned to bring you a definitive list of the best performers of the 2011/12 season.

We kick things off with with the first set of players, one which includes perhaps the most unlikely group on this list but players who distinguished themselves individually and amongst their peers nevertheless.

25. Axel Bellinghausen

1. FC Augsburg were prime relegation candidates at the beginning of the season, a feeling which Alexander Bellinghausen knows all too well. After his first season in the Bundesliga with 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 2005/2006, Bellinghausen and FCK got relegated, and the Siegburg native had to wait five years before he made his return to the Bundesliga.

Bellinghausen was amongst Augsburg’s most enterprising players throughout the season. Playing a total of 15 matches, the future Fortuna Düsseldorf player managed to get his name on the score sheet twice, and provided 6 assists. Furthermore, Bellinghausen was involved in 87 of Augsburg’s shots on goal. Making him one of the team’s most dangerous men going forward. The 28 year old has certainly been amongst the most vital players in Augsburg’s squad this season. Axel Bellinghausen might face another uphill battle with a newly promoted team next season as well. Despite interest from a number of teams, Bellinghausen chose to go back to Fortuna Düsseldorf.  Either way though, without Bellinghausen it is difficult to imagine Augsburg pulling off their fairytale season.

24. Cedric Makiadi

Freiburg have been through one a hell of a roller coaster ride this season. It was the kind of season not many players would have excelled in.  Despite that, Makiadi has been amongst the Breisgau Brazilians strongest and most consistent performers in a season with very little consistency. The Congolese international has given Christian Streich’s men some much needed stability in midfield, averaging 24 duels per game this season, winning 45.5% of them. In addition to that, Makiadi has also been one of Freiburg’s primary playmakers with his excellent passing game, 83.2% of his 1019 passes found a fellow Freiburg player.

Besides stepping up as a captain after Freiburg’s top scorer Pappis Demba Cisse left, Makiadi has also shown that he has a keen nose for goal. The 28 year old has scored 6 goals this season, three with his right foot and three with his head, and provided two assists. That is a major improvement for Freiburg’s captain. In his 115 before the 2011/12 season, he had only managed to score 7 times.  His leadership, his improved game and most importantly, his mentality was a perfect compliment to Freiburg’s resurgence under Christian Streich in the second half of the season.

 23. Mario Mandžukić

25 year old Wolfsburg striker Mario Mandžukić ended the 2011/2012 season with 12 Bundesliga goals and eight assists.  The Croatian striker also ranked  third on the club in minutes played with over 2,700, behind only goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and team leader Marcel Schafer.  The entire team only totaled 47 goals for the 2011/2012 campaign, meaning that Mandžukić was involved in 42% of the club’s goals.

Like teammate Patrick Helmes, Mandžukić too has spent time relegated to the bench when Wolfsburg Coach Felix Magath deemed it necessary, but, like Helmes, the Croatian international responded to his benching with renewed vigor and purpose.  Despite the turnover in personnel at the Volkswagen city club, the performance of the former Dinamo Zagreb striker had Wolfsburg much closer to European play than the relegation zone by the end of the season.  His movement and creativity was reminiscent and partnership with Helmes in the second half of the season was reminiscent of the historic Grafite/Dzeko partnership years back. Despite Mandžukić seemingly good current relationship with Magath and the level of quality he brought to the club, the recent news that Wolfsburg would not be extending his contract seems rather surprising to say the least.

22.  Lars Stindl

Most Bundesliga teams wither away after a successful season.  Very few continue that success and even fewer improve on it. In that sense, Mirko Slomka’s Hannover are the exception to the rule but also a great model for other clubs to follow.  Few players better epitomize the consistency and progress of Hannover than Lars Stindl.  The midfielder has grown leaps and bounds under Slomka and took his game to another level in what turned out to be a quite historic season for Hannover.

Hannover were the only side in the league unbeaten at home by the end of the season and made it farther in Europe than ever before in club history. In a season that presented the pressure of multiple competition but also one stock full of injuries, performances from Slomka’s core players was crucial in keeping Hannover on target both in the league and in Europe.  As a result of those injuries, Stindl had to frequently take up an unfamiliar position in central midfield but did so with the tenure of a seasoned holding midfielder.  That’s not to say he didn’t excel in his original role on the right either.  His performance in Hannover’s 2-1 win over Bayern in October may be one of the best individual performances this season.  His industry, determination but also his sharply tuned technique and mind has seen Stindl rise from a second division player to one of the best in Germany.

21. Dante

The signing of Dante by Bayern München before the season even ended probably says a lot about the value of the tall Brazilian, as Bayern München had already allowed the least goals of the 2011/2012 Bundesliga season en route to Champions League and Pokal Cup finals along with a second place finish that assures them of Champions League play again next season.  Jupp Heynckes had stated his admiration for Dante earlier, and, as so often happens, Die Bayern got their man.

Dante had been on the Bavarians’ radar for good reason.  He was the heart of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s own stingy defense, which only allowed 24 goals itself, just two more than Bayern München’s own frugal total.  The 6’2″ center back enjoyed a brilliant season with the Foals, completing over 91% of his passes while winning 63% of his tackles and 61% of his aerial duels.  His skill on the ball and great anticipation perfectly suited Lucien Favre’s dynamic quick pasing system and helped them qualify for Europe for the first time in nearly two decades.  With almost 100 Bundesliga matches under his belt, the 28 year-old former Standard Liege man looks to be a perfect fit for the Bavarians with his enthusiasm and experience. Often sporting a large Afro hairstyle, the Brazilian defender exhibits a joy on the pitch that has made his a fan favorite in Monchengladbach.  Certainly Bayern fans too will warm quickly to the durable, athletic central defender.

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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