Up next, we break into the Top 10. Entering the fold here are two huge surprise performers who reached another level in their game this season, a veteran who played arguably his best season for his club and two of the best forwards in the league, one of which had a truly transformative and career-changing year.
Find the rest of our countdown here.
10. Toni Kroos (Bayern Munich)
Twenty-four year old Toni Kroos is old enough to have been born in the old DDR only months before reunification and to have won eleven titles with Bayern Munich already, while having 50 European matches and 42 international caps under his belt. Yet the man described by Jonathan Wilson as “perhaps the archetype of the modern attacking midfielder” is young enough to still have a great deal of upside. He is phenomenal at passing the ball accurately, completing almost 91% of his attempts in league play this season while scoring twice, assisting four times and winning 58% of his challenges.
He desires a higher wage – imagine that – and talks with Bayern concerning an extension of his contract have slowed, making Manchester United fans crazy with the idea that the Red Devils might sign the German star. Debuting for Bayern’s senior squad at the age of 17 and playing in the 2010 World Cup while barely out of his teens, Kroos has already accomplished a great deal, but what is most intriguing is what he will accomplish in the future, both at the club level and for Germany.
9. Kevin Volland (TSG 1899 Hoffenheim)
If Kevin Volland’s name was called during the announcement of Germany’s provisional roster for Brazil was a surprise to anyone, it was because either you assumed Jogi Löw was going to roll with only old-guard players or because you don’t watch German football, because Hoffenheim’s rising star has been busy enough scoring goals and setting up to be a regular in Bundesliga highlight packages.
Defensive failings led to a need for a productive offense, and Volland, along with Roberto Firmino, Sejad Salihovic, and Anthony Modeste, answered the call as double-digit goal scorers, helping make Hoffenheim the third-most productive offense in the Bundesliga.
But goal-scoring is just a part of what Volland brings to the party. The left-footed 21-year-old showed he perfectly fits the bill of the versatile attacker, showing great timing and touch on passes and crosses from a variety of spots on the pitch. Volland’s strength and ball skills in tight areas led to his being fouled several times in the penalty area, drawing chances from the spot and helping Firmino and Salihovic pad their stats.
Volland is also a high-energy player, often pressing opponents as they attempt to build out of their own defensive half and showing enough defensive savvy, even at such a young age, to be considered a strong two-way player, which has many speculating of a future move to Borussia Dortmund.
But, for now, if you want to see one of Germany’s most exciting young offensive talents, cast your eyes toward Hoffenhem and enjoy.
8. Josip Drmić (1. FC Nürnberg)
When Drmić arrived from FC Zürich for 2.2m€ in the summer, it was unthinkable that this 21-year-old was to become one of the most outstanding players of the season and that he was going to end up in the Top 3 in the goalscoring charts with 17 goals, just three short of this year’s top-scorer Robert Lewandowski. However, Drmić has done just that and his goals almost single-handedly, perhaps with some help from Raphael Schäfer, kept Nürnberg up.
The young Swiss international is a complete striker who can score from all situations and whose presence in the World Cup was guaranteed just days ago by Swiss manager Ottmar Hitzfeld. There is no doubt that Drmić will leave Der Club this summer and play once again at the level he deserves and a good World Cup could just propel him to the European elite. If his progression continues this way, he could become one of the Bundesliga’s top strikers for years to come.
7. Daniel Baier (FC Augsburg)
While attacking midfielders André Hahn and Tobias Werner might have been the public face of FC Augsburg’s remarkable season, the team owes its success to one man: defensive midfielder Daniel Baier, who had a remarkable season, emerging as possibly the Bundesliga’s premier defensive midfielder. Baier operated as the “do everything” pivot in Markus Weinzierl’s 4-1-4-1 and 4-2-3-1 formations.
And do everything he did. Baier played every minute of every game. As a testament to his pitch-activity, Baier was 3rd in the Bundesliga for “final 3rd entries,” proving this his influence ranged across the entire pitch. Furthermore – drum roll, please – Baier led the Bundesliga in total ball touches (2770). And he finished 4th in total passes (2076) – the most for any non-Bayern player this season. He’s also one of the league’s smartest players with his physicality, leading the league in successful tackles, interceptions, and ball recoveries; Baier was especially skilled in robbing opponents in the center of the midfield, enabling FC Augsburg to generate their dangerous attacks through Hahn and Werner.
The 29 year old, who’s been with FCA since 2008, deserves all the kudos we can shower on him, after registering this well-deserved career season, which catalyzed FCA’s best ever Bundesliga campaign. Daniel Baier, we salute you.
6. Raffael (Borussia Mönchengladbach)
Lucien Favre knew just what he was doing when he paid 5m€ for Raffael to bring the Brazilian back to Germany from Dynamo Kyiv. Raffael dazzled the Bundesliga with his excellent technique during his time at Hertha Berlin and his eye for a pass and an assist was among the best in the league. His time in Ukraine did not last long and we once again saw the Brazilian’s magic when Schalke signed him on loan in January 2013. So it was fantastic news for German football when Raffael came back for good last summer and he has proven to be an inspired signing.
15 goals and 7 assists in the Bundesliga is more than Favre and Gladbach fans bargained for, as Raffael’s storming season has led him to be Gladbach’s top scorer ahead of players like Max Kruse. However, Gladbach’s form this season has largely depended on their Brazilian playmaker’s, as his excellency has been a bit up and down, especially in the Rückrunde, which has made Gladbach drop from the top 3 spots down to a Europa League place at the end of the season. Nevertheless, if Favre can find someone who Raffael can shoulder some responsibility on now that Juan Arango has left the club, Gladbach should be able to fight for a top 4 spot. What cannot be doubted, though, is that, when on form, Raffael lights up the Bundesliga with his technique and his spot as our #6 best Bundesliga player of 2013/2014 reflects just that.
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