Top 25 Bundesliga Players 2011/12 (5 – 1)

We conclude our series of the league’s best performers this season with the elite of the elite, five players who have stood above all others.  The final group includes a record breaking goalscorer, arguably the league’s best dribbler, a defender who is more than just a defender, a brilliant little playmaker and our pick of this season’s most outstanding individual performer.  You can find the rest of the list here.

5. Klaas-Jan Huntelaar

The Hunter has made his name in the Bundesliga by being ruthlessly effective in front of goal, In the 2010/11 season Huntelaar struggled to put the ball away, only scoring 8 times during his first season in Germany. The Dutchman’s form has only gone up though ever since his countryman Huub Stevens arrived resulting in a record breaking individual season for the striker.  Huntelaar not only became the league’s top goalscorer but also one of the most prolific strikers in Europe this season.

The former AC Milan and Real Madrid player has had a tremendous season for Schalke. 42 goals in 42 games, a rate bettered only by Messi and Ronaldo this season. Huntelaar managed to score 29 goals in total in this season’s Bundesliga and is the first foreign striker to score more than 28 goals in a single year. A total of 31.5% of Huntelaar’s shots in the Bundesliga were goals. The Dutchman also provided 13 assists assists in addition to the 29 goals he scored.  That means that he was directly involved in more goals than any other player in the league.  To add to that impressive feat, Huntelaar also equalled club legend Klaus Fischer’s single season scoring record.

4. Shinji Kagawa

The 23-year-old Japanese attacking midfielder managed to become one of the most integral parts in Jürgen Klopp’s set up after only two years at the club. Upon arriving in Dortmund almost two years ago Jürgen Klopp emphasized Kagawa’s ”footballing brain” being one of the main reasons Dortmund decided to take a chance on a player from the second tier of Japanese football.  The results were magnificent.  Kagawa’s form was impressive last year and even better this season. After a bumpy start to the season the attacking midfielder and his peers in the Dortmund team have gone from strength to strength, securing Dortmund their first double in the club’s 103 year history. Kagawa developed a blind understanding with the players surrounding him, namely Lewandowski, Grosskreutz and Götze/Kuba. Kagawa managed to score 13 goals, and provided 11 assists.

Unfortunately Kagawa will leave Dortmund at the end of the season, probably joining England’s record champions Manchester United. The 23-year-old is going to be replaced by the up and coming German youngster Marco Reus, who has played a tremendous season for Borussia Mönchengladbach. How Jürgen Klopp will mesh Reus and the rest of the attacking midfield stands to be seen.  Regardless of what happens, Kagawa went out on the highest note possible and will always remembered for his brilliant performances in a truly historic season for the club.

3. Mats Hummels

The most consistent defender in Germany for the past three seasons and this season was no exception for the former Bayern youth product. Under Jürgen Klopp he has become the out-field leader and true talisman of Dortmund’s style of play. This season his game has become even more refined and with good reason will be looking to cement a place in Jogi Low’s starting eleven for the European Championships this summer.

Hummels is one of the most complete defender around – unmatched in the air, technically proficient and capable of playing perfect passes to his attackers. This season alone he had an 80.5% completion in passing and was lauded by Gladbach coach Lucien Favre for the kind of passing accuracy one would expect from a midfielder. At the same time he managed to win an average of 68% of his challenges while fouling only 20 times and receiving only one yellow card in the entire campaign, speaking highly to his confidence and overall discipline. He was instrumental in Dortmund’s record-breaking season and had man of the match performances in all of Dortmund’s crucial encounters, neutralizing the likes of Mario Gomez, Arjien Robben, Marco Reus, and Raul along the way.

2. Franck Ribery

Were it not for Borussia Dortmund’s record breaking season, Bayern’s point total at the end of the season would have sufficed in winning 14 of the last 16 championships.  In that sense, Bayern have had an outstanding season in their own right, evident by their reaching both the German Cup and Champions League final.  Bayern finished with the league’s best defense and scored an incredible 77 goals in 34 matches, playing some of the most exciting attacking football anywhere in Europe.  At the heart of that attack was one man, a player with his share of controversy behind him but one who has matured into one of the best footballers anywhere in Europe, Franck Ribery.  Ribery’s strong dribbling, his relentless willingness to run at opposing defenders and his creativity were taken to another level this year in arguably his best season for the club.

The French winger finished with a league high 20 assists and scored 12 goals himself, a personal career best.  He also equalled the league’s assist record, set by Misimovic in 2009.  Thanks to Ribery’s explosive qualities Bayern recorded some of the most impressive wins of the season including a 7-0 win against Freiburg, a 7-1 win against Hoffenheim and a 6-0 win against Hertha Berlin to name just a few.  Ribery was almost always one of Bayern’s better players during their games, if not their best.  Thanks to the performances of other players Bayern did not have to rely on Ribery as much as they have in the past but it was not difficult to see that he was the heart of Bayern’s attack, often coming into the center and initiating attacks or setting up chances for others.  Like Bayern’s overall season, in any other circumstances Ribery could well have been our Player of the Season.

1. Marco Reus

Marco Reus’ rise to the top of the Bundesliga elite wasn’t entirely unforeseen. He impressed ever since he was signed from Rot Weiss Ahlen in 2009. His pace, skill and unique ability to be deployed all across the final third were evident and he performed better and better with every match but it wasn’t until Lucien Favre’s appointment that he became a true revelation and truly joined that elite group of players in the league.

The Swiss tactician initially played Reus out wide but soon realized he would be best suited in the center of a mobile 4-2-3-1/4-2-1-3. There he could create as the de-facto playmaker behind the striker and two wingers but could also push forward and capitalize on his instinct for goal. In 33 Bundesliga matches he managed to score a phenomenal 18 goals and assisted on 12 occasions, amassing 79.4% passing completion along the way. What makes him truly remarkable as a player is his unique ability to switch between a #10 and a false #9. No other player in the league has been given the responsibility or has the ability to play the role to such effects.  His starting position behind the striker and his instincts to run in between and behind the defense as well as be able to drift out when necessary have made him unplayable and why he is our Player of the Season. For even more proof of his unbelievable impact – we have removed his 18 goals and 12 assists. Without them Gladbach would lose 22 points and instead of finishing fourth, they would finish in 13th place.

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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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