Irrespective of the fact that you’re a big fan of the Fußballgott or dying to see an underrated striker hitting the big stage, you’d probably stay grounded from betting some money on Alex Meier finishing top-scorer of the season, more so when you’re told he would start the campaign on the substitute bench, and miss the final seven outings due to injury. But come the end of the season, it was Alex Meier who lifted kicker’s Torjägerkanone thanks to his career high scoring season.
Twilight of his career?
Normally one would expect a more attacking approach when hearing the news last year that longtime Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf made his return to managing by taking the reins at Eintracht Frankfurt, but it was far from an ideal start for the cult hero Meier at the very beginning. Alex Meier’s name might come first to mind for observers when thinking about the possible successor for the captaincy role once Pirmin Schwegler signed for fellow Bundesliga side Hoffenheim, but Schaaf instead chose the relatively inexperienced goalie Kevin Trapp as his skipper.
Moreover, the off-season business climaxed into a whole different level with Meier warming the substitute bench against Freiburg in the season-opener. Haris Seferović scored the only goal of the match, as Thomas Schaaf started his Frankfurt tenure on a positive note. Alongside the Swiss international, fellow summer-signing Nelson Valdez, a player Schaaf acquainted with from his Werder days, was in the starting lineup. But sadly the following week saw the Paraguayan sustain a serious injury that would keep him on the sidelines almost for the entire campaign. Still Schaaf refused to hand fan favorite Meier his first start of the season in a sluggish lost at home to FC Augsburg.
But as it has been the case more often than not, you never know what the future holds in football. Just as rumors began concerning Meier’s unhealthy relationship with the coach, the old-fashioned striker helped the Eagles to an impressive draw at Schalke the coming week, by opening his league account for the season. Another goal and a fine performance followed three days later against Mainz when Eintracht tied 2-2 for a third time in only five league matches, giving food for thought on Thomas Schaff’s all-attack philosophy. The hosts had to deal with another injury layoff early in the season, as Kevin Trapp withdrew the game in injury-time, leaving the shot-stopper out for the rest of 2014.
Indeed, it was Alex Meier who stepped up to wear the captain armband in Trapp’s absence, and he never missed a single minute of action until he become the latest injury casualty nearly midway through the second half of the season. It’s a rare thing to see a player 32 years-old reaching their peak, but the tall striker managed to surpass his season goal tally just when he seemed out of favor at Frankfurt after a decade. Even in three seasons he plied his trade in the second division, Meier never scored 19 goals in a single campaign.
But joining the league’s talismanic strikers late on in his career might not prevent Alex Meier from hanging up his boots uncapped for die Nationalmannschaft. It wasn’t a surprise when Joachim Löw left his name from his roster for the upcoming friendly against United States, provided he did the same with Stefan Kießling a couple of season ago, despite the Leverkusen front-runner finished both the season and the calender year on top of the scoring chart. However, there is a lot to play for in the club level, as his partnership with Seferović upfront made Eintracht Frankfurt the entertaining Bundesliga side in the Hinrunde.
Over the years, the 1.96m striker link up with hosts of strikers at the Commerzbank-Arena, including two of the notable Greece strikers in the Bundesliga history, Ioannis Amanatidis and Theofanis Gekas. In the successful season for the Eagles right after coming back from relegation, 2012-13, Armin Veh gave him a rather confusing role that saw him spend some time even in the left-back position. But most of all, it was Thomas Schaaf’s strategy which brought the best out of the veteran, thanks to a sheer understanding with his partner in crime, Haris Seferović.
Although Seferović endured a difficult time after the Winterpause, especially going by the standards he set earlier, he still reached double-figures for the season with a goal in the final matchday win against Bayer Leverkusen. With a physical approach to the game exhibited by the Swiss international and Meier’s sensational record in front of goal, Eintracht had one of the best attacking records in the league, only to left undone by the weak defensive record in the other end. The duo was in full swing in all high-scoring matches Eintracht has been involved, especially in the late dramatic comeback against Hertha Berlin, in which Fußballgott scored twice after the ninetieth minute mark to level the score.
Though he was anonymous earlier in the Hertha goalfest, the capital side’s defensive line didn’t have any clue on how to stop Meier in the final minutes on the day, and he reacted fast in two aerial situations to pull one of the memorable comebacks in the recent Bundesliga history. Meier might not be the most active player in the pitch at times, but with his poacher instinct and dominant play in aerial duels, the humble star player of Eintracht Frankfurt found himself trending from being a hipster favorite to one of the top strikers in the Bundesliga in 2014/2015.
And the Torjägerkanone goes to …
With Arjen Robben firing in all cylinders, most pundits expect the Dutch winger to finish top of the pile in the scoring chart, but Robben’s season come to an end with an injury sustained against ‘Gladbach (beside a cameo appearance in the Champions League, in which he quickly substituted off with another injury) when it mattered the most in the race for the Torjägerkanone. Meier come out quick to wish all the best in his recovery for the flying Dutchman, but only a couple of weeks later, Meier’s season ended as well due to having to deal with a knee operation.
Bas Dost was the other player making waves for the coveted price, as he started the new year in a blistering form, and there was even time for Robert Lewandowski to join the race after a decent Rückrunde overall, but the Frankfurt legend takes the trophy home by topping the latter with two more goals. With Meier sidelined, Frankfurt went goalless in their next four matches and ended up being shut out five times in their final seven matches, a far cry from three shutouts suffered in the Eagles’ previous 27 league matches. Sadly for Eintracht fans, the club’s inability to score goals without Meier dashed any hopes of gaining a Europa League spot.
All the stats and the storyline shows the importance of the Fußballgott for the club from Frankfurt, and despite Schaaf’s resignation following the final matchday, Alex Meier is definitely expected to lead the line upfront once again come the start of next season. Since he can check finishing top-scorer of the Bundesliga from his to-do list now, he might fancy scoring his first league hat-trick next term, a feat he nearly achieved against his former employers Hamburg in February, if it wasn’t for the 90th minute penalty-kick miss.
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