We resume our countdown of the Bundesliga’s best season’s best players as we narrow the list to the very best. In this part we encounter the most prolific midfielder in the league, a player with the most cultured left foot in the league, one of its most brilliant playmakers, the Bundesliga’s most prolific ever Polish striker and a player for whom scoring goals comes as easy as breathing air.
10 Martin Harnik
The Austrian international has been a vital player for Stuttgart this season. Harnik was arguably the best player in a Stuttgart side that struggled to find consistency in the Hinrunde. His 17 goals and 8 assists in his 34 Bundesliga appearances this season make him the highest scoring midfielder in the league this season and one of its most productive, being involved in 25 of Stuttgart’s 63 goals. In thee Rückrunde, with 11 goals three assists, Harnik was Stuttgart’s stand out player again and a big reason for their incredible run of form, a run that was bettered by only Bayern and Dortmund in the second half of the season.
Amongst Harnik’s best qualities are his eye for goal, his ability to create chances for himself and his teammates, and his high work rate, which has seen him charge up and down Stuttgart’s right wing the entire season. Harnik has assisted in 110 shots this season, and shot at goal 62 times himself (which works out to a conversion rate of roughly 28%). Martin Harnik continues to be one of the biggest hopes for Austrian football, and to the delight of his countrymen, his future is very bright. Harnik extended his contract at Stuttgart until 2016 during the winter break and was also elected to be part of the Mannschaftsrat by his fellow teammates.
9. Juan Arango
A lot is made of Lukas Podolski’s left foot, and rightfully so because few match its power and precision, but when it comes to sheer technique and vision, there was no one better in the league this season than Juan Arango. The Venezuelan veteran’s consistency and creativity was at the heart of Borussia Mönchengladbach’s remarkable season, a season in which he helped steer the club from relegation candidates to Champions League and even title contenders. Arango scored a personal best of 6 goals in the league and assisted 15 of his team’s 49 goals.
What separated Arango from other midfielders though was the intelligence with which he performed. Even though he played on the left, he was the team’s de facto playmaker and at the heart of most of their attacks. Without his technique and touch Gladbach could not have executed Favre’s dynamic quick passing counter attacking style of play. Arango played 3028 minutes this season and was substituted in just two matches, a tally few other players matched in the league and a sign of his influence and importance at Gladbach. The 31 year old was involved in creating 197 goal scoring chances for the club, a remarkable statistic. Arango was also one of the league’s best set piece takers, scoring two gorgeous free kick goals and always providing a threat on dead ball situations.
8. Toni Kroos
Kroos has been burdened by the pressure of expectation since he was 16 years old. Considered one of Germany’s great talents at an early age the pressure of living up to it have haunted him throughout his young career and the transfer to Bayern in 2007 only added to that. The failure to make an immediate impact led to a loan move to Leverkusen in 2009 where he blossomed under Jupp Heynckes, making his appointment at Bayern last summer a heaven send for the young playmaker. Under Heynckes, Kroos improved with every passing week and grew into one of the league’s dominant players. His vision, creativity, consistency and ability to dictate play made him an invaluable part to this Bayern side and even displaced Thomas Müller at the back end of the season.
Kroos played an especially important part after Bastian Schweinsteiger was injured in the Champions League in November. The injury was said to disrupt Bayern’s momentum and put their season in serious jeopardy but Kroos stepped up and filled in brilliantly. Playing both in central midfield and later behind Mario Gomez, his composed and calculated style of play was a perfect compliment to the dynamic wing play of Ribery and Robben and the goal scoring exploits of Mario Gomez. Kroos completed an impressive 88% of his passes, won a majority of his duels and was directly involved in 124 goal scoring opportunities in the league. At just 22, Kroos can only get better, a proposition that is sure to put a smile on the faces of Bayern supporters.
7. Mario Gomez
‘Super’ Mario Gomez followed an outstanding 2010/2011 season with an even better season this year for Bayern München, playing a key role in the team’s route to the Pokal and Champions League final. The German international scored an impressive 26 goals in 33 league games, 2 Pokal goals and an unbelievable 13 goals in 13 Champions League matches, totaling 41 goals in all competitions with the Champions League final yet to be played
During the regular season Gomez took 101 shots, scoring on 26% of his efforts in 30 league starts and three matches in which he was subbed in. The 26 year-old also created 143 offensive chances in his 2,479 minutes of Bundesliga play and converted four of his five penalty opportunities. Once disparaged as an expensive Bayern bust following his first year in München after transferring from Stuttgart, Gomez has proven to be anything but. His prolific scoring, in any competition (including his goals for the German NT) have made the world aware of his talents and he is undoubtedly among the world’s most prolific strikers. Gomez’ skills include a strong-willed determination and workrate and the ability to create the sliver of space needed in a crowded penalty box to get his foot or head on the ball and beat the goalkeeper, an ancient skill according to many but one very few players in the world master as well as him.
6. Robert Lewandowski
Last season Lucas Barrios was instrumental in Dortmund’s title-winning campaign. He provided the necessary link-up play for the creative players around him and combined it with lethal finishing, scoring 16 goals and assisting six times. Meanwhile, newly joined Lewandowski couldn’t seem to usurp the Paraguayan, managing only 8 goals in 33 matches. Moreover, he was often played behind Barrios but an unfortunate and almost clairvoyant injury to Barrios allowed Lewandowski to get the starting spot this season and he never looked back. Lewandowski’s close control, ability to hold up the ball and find the back of the net from impossible angles made him an even better suited candidate for Dortmund’s set-up. His cheeky and potentially title-winning backheel goal against Bayern epitomized his audacity and intelligence. He managed a staggering 22 goals and 10 assists, a record for a Polish born striker in the Bundesliga. He effectively kept Barrios out of the starting line-up for the entire season – long enough for the Argentine-born Paraguayan to eventually ask to leave the club.
Lewandowski had 125 shots on goal this season and was directly involved in 179 scoring opportunities and completed 75% of his passes, a very good quote for a striker. His all around game may be his biggest strength, not relying on just his preferred foot but also scoring with his head and his weaker foot. It is no surprise then that the striker garnered the attention of top clubs abroad. He was one of three players closely watched by Manchester United coach Alex Ferguson during the German Cup final and will inevitably be linked with a host of clubs around Europe this summer.
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