Top 25 Bundesliga Players 2012/13: 5 – 1

We’ve finally reached the end.  The creme of the crop of the 2012/13 season.  Amongst  the featured is Bayern Munich’s dynamic attacking duo, arguably Europe’s best transfer, a striker with a record year behind him and one of the hottest properties in football.

Follow the rest of the list here.

5. Thomas Müller – Bayern München

After Bayern München had lost their second Champions League final in the space of three years, midfielder Thomas Müller took it upon himself to cheer up the rest of the players sending out a text message telling his team mates:

”Boys, we’ll win this trophy soon!”

It took Bayern only one more year to get where they so desperately had wanted to go over the last few seasons. The versatile Müller has been used by Heynckes playing either behind the striker or out on the right-wing. After having been criticized for large stretches of last season for his lacking form, Müller picked up his game and played his best ever Bundesliga campaign.

13 goals and 11 assists from his 25 appearances in the Bundesliga this season are a new personal record for Müller; additionally, he managed to get on the score sheet 8 times in the Champions League, which made him his team’s top scorer in this particular competition.

4. Stefan Kießling – Bayer Leverkusen 04 

This season’s kicker Torjägerkanone was Kießling. Although he enjoyed a higher profile at Leverkusen this season than last, you could argue that this prolific striker is still criminally under appreciated. Kießling led the Bundesliga with 25 goals this campaign, contributing 38% of Leverkusen’s total goal output this year. The 29 year old also led the Bundesliga with shots taken on goal per game (3.6 on average). Although Kießling gets plenty of goals as poacher – off deflections with his feet or head – he also scored goals on the break, or goals requiring skill on the ball or a precisely angled shot, aspects of Kießling’s play that are not praised enough. Regardless, his goal tally and kicker Torjägerkanone title is impressive, especially considering the fantastic year that Dortmund striker Robert Lewandowski had.

However, Kießling also was a Bundesliga and team leader in other ways.  His 7 assists tied for the club lead at Leverkusen. Kießling also led the Bundesliga in aerial duels per match (5.4) – thanks to his height (191cm) – and also led the league in fouls committed per match  (2.6).  Of course, Kießling’s height also makes him an excellent target off corners or crosses. Indeed, he was quite the scoring threat inside the box, scoring 24 of his 25 inside it.

Interpreting Kießling’s performance, however, can polarize folks a bit. Clearly, national team boss Jogi Löw is not impressed, as the Leverkusen striker can’t find his way back to the national team, despite his success in the Bundesliga the last two seasons. Critics might argue that Kießling’s goal tally is somewhat the product of lucky timing and positioning, given the margin by which he out performed the famed Reep ratio this season. Nevertheless, for Leverkusen supporters, 2012/13 will be remembered as “the year of Kießling” – the almost single-handed scoring force for the Werkself. Perhaps no other Bundesliga club this season relied so much on the production of a single player.

3. Robert Lewandowski – Borussia Dortmund

Before the beginning of the season, one would think it next to impossible for Lewandowski to repeat his performances from the 2011/12 season.  With Shinji Kagawa gone, Lewandowski lost his primary supplier and the team’s playmaker.  Yet the Polish striker not only improved on his last campaign, but in the process he made himself one of the most sought after players in world football.  And rightfully so.

Lewandowski’s year was nothing short of remarkable.  He was neck in neck with Stefan Kiessling in the race as the Bundesliga’s top goalscorer and finished behind Cristiano Ronaldo in goalscoring in the Champions League.  His four goal performance against Real Madrid in the semifinals will go down as one of the most dominant and memorable in tournament history.  He scored a remarkable 36 goals in all competitions for the club and set up an additional 13 goals for his team.

He also nearly tied and broke Gerd Müller’s record of scoring in 14 consecutive Bundesliga matches, scoring in 12 games back to back in the second half of the season.  Lewandowski’s all around game and presence off the ball make him the ideal modern striker and it is no wonder that a host of Europe’s elites are out for his services.  This may have been his last season in a Dortmund kit but it’s one that will forever stick in the minds of their supporters.

2. Franck Ribéry – Bayern Munich

The week after the Champions League final, Ribéry admitted, in the most humble way a player could, claimed that this may have been his best ever season as a player.  After watching him and Bayern tear through the Bundesliga, one would be inclined to agree.  A historic treble beckons for the club this season and the mercurial Frenchman has been at the forefront of a truly remarkable campaign.

Germany’s leading football publication, kicker, ranked him the best player in the league across the whole season.  Ribéry led the league in assists this year with 15 and contributed a combined 34 goals and assists in all competitions.  Ribéry’s influence on this Bayern team cannot be emphasized enough.  Despite playing out wide, he is more often than not the creative fulcrum of the team and nearly every dangerous attack goes through him.  His chemistry and combination play with David Alaba was especially scintillating and arguably the best left wing pairing in Europe this season.

That’s not to mention Ribéry’s influence in the locker room.  A veteran of the team by now, Ribéry has become a mentor to some of the younger players and a real leadership figure off the pitch.  His statement that he could see himself finishing his career with the club earlier this season said a lot about how far he has come both as a person and as a member of the team.  Happiness truly does bode well for great performances on the field and if this season is any indication, we’ll see a lot more from Ribéry in the coming years.

1. Dante – Bayern München

Numero Uno ….. the Bundesliga Fanatic’s pick for the top Bundesliga player of 2012/2013 is Bayern München central defender Dante Bonfim Costa Santos.  And who could argue with such a choice?

Obviously, many could argue with the subjective choice of any one player, even if that choice was distilled through the opinion of a group.  Yet, was any player more valuable to his club, and did any club have a better season than treble-winning Bayern?

Dante was the lowest-profile signing for Bayern this summer, and yet he proved to be their most valuable one. At just 4.7m€, his signing now looks like a snip and his presence in the defence has been sterling the whole season, so important that he’s been one of the few players who Heynckes hasn’t dared to rotate often, playing 29 Bundesliga games, tied for second highest alongside captain Philipp Lahm and behind Manuel Neuer (31).

The strengths that he showed at Borussia Mönchengladbach were even more apparent on a better team, like Bayern, such as his reading the game perfectly (64% zweikämpfe won on the ground), strong in the air (59% zweikämpfe won) and excellent and reliable with the ball at his feet (92% pass completion).

Dante proved that moving to Bayern wasn’t a step too high up for him, something which some critics feared after he signed.  This year, he has been an angular stone in Bayern’s huge success – an integral and essential part of the best defence in the Bundesliga – with only 4 yellow cards all season and an average of 1.17 fouls per game.

All of these numbers and his excellent performances leave no room for doubt that Dante has provided reliable security at the back, regardless of his partner in defence, an invaluable element of his play to rely on, an element without which Bayern’s results may have been quite different. His top-class performances against the top clubs in the league and in Europe, annulling completely the strikers with the biggest names and reputations, vouch for that. It’s for all of these reasons that Dante is our top pick for 2012/2013.

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