The Bundesliga is in many ways the best football league in Europe. The league’s goal per match, 2.82, is a number that beats that of Premier League, La Liga and Serie A continually year in and year out even though the average age among Bundesliga players is lower than in the three aforementioned leagues. The German supporters are also among the most vocal in all of the world, and four German clubs can be found in the top 10 list of the best home attendance in Europe, with Borussia Dortmund at the first position with an average attendance of 80, 520.
It’s also the league of loyalty, on and off the pitch. For example, 1. FC Köln attracted more than 40, 000 people in average to their home games during their two-year-spell in the 2. Bundesliga, and Eintracht Frankfurt had an average attendance of more than 37, 000 people when they spent a year in the second division. And not only is the supporters loyal, the players are, too.
34 players in the Bundesliga have currently represented their club for six years or more, and another 21 players have stayed true to their colors for at least five years. Most of the players, like Leon Andreasen (Hannover 96), Tobias Werner (FC Augsburg), Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund) and Holger Badstuber (Bayern München) are well known among the German football audience, but they can’t really qualify for the top 10 list over the most loyal players in the Bundesliga.
However, the following 10 players can.
10. Roel Brouwers – Representing Borussia Mönchengladbach since the first of July, 2007.
Roel Brouwers hasn’t collected trophy after trophy during his career, but he has sure stayed true to Borussia Mönchengladbach. The 34-year-old central defender signed a contract with the Borussia-Park-outfit in the summer of 2007 when Gladbach played in the 2. Bundesliga, and guided his side to a comeback to the top division.
He has since helped Monchengladbach establish the club in the Bundesliga, and in 2012 he represented Monchengladbach in Europe for the first time. Injuries restricted Brouwers during the 2013/14 season, but only a year later, the 34-year-old once again got the chance to represent one of the biggest football clubs in Germany in a European competition.
Brouwers has only played four games in the Bundesliga this season, and the end of his term at the club might be coming soon. Brouwers, however, will probably still be remembered at the Borussia-Park for a long time, no matter how many more times he gets the chance to wear the Borussia Mönchengladbach jersey. The 34-year-old has represented Die Fohlen 204 times, and he has scored 16 goals from his position in central defense.
9. Marcel Schäfer – Representing VfL Wolfsburg since 24th of July, 2007.
Loyal VfL Wolfsburg players are hard to come by, but Marcel Schäfer is an exception. The 31-year-old became a Wolfsburg player in 2007 after 96 games as an 1860 München player, and immediately made his mark in a town that is dominated by car manufacturing, rather than a love for football. Schäfer scored six times from his position in the defense during his first season in Wolfsburg, a number that until this day continues to be his personal best. Schäfer debuted in European competition in 2008.
The 2008/09 season was the most successful VfL Wolfsburg campaign ever, and Schäfer had a prominent position in what probably is the best Wolfsburg side to date. VfL won ten consecutive games in the Bundesliga, and ended up winning the whole league at the end of the season. Schäfer and his teammates qualified for the Champions League for the first time in Wolfsburg’s history by winning the league, but the club was unable to progress from the group stage.
Schäfer was handed the captain’s armband during a period in 2011, and he managed to help the club quality into a European competition again in 2014. Last season, Schäfer helped his club back to the Champions League, and the Wolves made an echo in all of the world in December when the club defeated Manchester United at home 3-2, and won Group B. It’s left to be seen if Schäfer and his teammates can overcome KAA Gent in the last 16 in February, and qualify for the Champions League quarterfinals.
8. Franck Ribéry – Representing Bayern München since the first of July, 2007.
Franck Ribéry is one of the most famous football players in the world, and quite deserving of such laurels. The 32-year-old winger has won practically everything that can be won on club level. In 2013, he was a part of the Bayern team that won the Champions League after a thrilling final against Bundesliga rival Borussia Dortmund. It took 89 minutes for Bayern München to seal the deal and score the winner when Arjen Robben found space and scored with his left-foot, assisted of course by Ribéry. The 32-year-old came close to winning the Champions League a year earlier when Bayern München locked horns with Chelsea in the final at the Allianz Arena, but the Stamford Bridge club prevailed on penalties.
Ribéry has won the Bunesliga on five occasions and the German Pokal four times. In 2014, Ribéry and his teammates won the Club World Cup, and he was voted 2013 European footballer of the year.
Injury difficulties have restricted Ribéry lately and the 32-year-old has only played for 15 minutes this season, but when the French midfielder reaches top shape, he is one of the game’s greatest.
7. Elkin Soto – Representing 1. FSV Mainz since the 31st of January, 2007.
Elkin Soto hasn’t won as many titles as Franck Ribéry, in fact not a single one during his long spell at 1. FSV Mainz, but he has been just as loyal as the Frenchman. Mainz signed the central midfielder to help the club avoid relegation to the 2. Bundesliga in the January transfer window in 2007, but the 35-year-old was unable to help his new employees escape demotion. Soto was, however, able to guide his side back to the Bundesliga after only two years in the second division.
The midfielder hasn’t been able to represent Mainz in a European competition yet, but he has helped his side become a stable Bundesliga club. The highlight of Soto’s Bundesliga carrier came in late April 2011, when he scored two goals as Mainz defeated Eintracht Frankfurt at home 3-0.
Since Soto signed a contract with Mainz, he has represented the club 205 times, at both the old Stadion am Bruchweg and the new and modern stadium Coface Arena. The Colombian’s contract is set to expire in the summer, and it is left to be seen if Mainz keep hold on one of their most loyal assets.
6. Stefan Kießling – Representing Bayer Leverkusen since the first of July, 2006.
Stefan Kießling has an eye for goals like few others. The 32-year-old signed a contract with Bayer Leverkusen in the summer transfer window in 2006 after scoring ten goals at 1. FC Nürnberg, and continued to score at the BayArena. The attacker notched eight goals during his debut season with Die Werkself, and scored in a European competition for the first time in his senior career a year later. Kießling was the Bundesliga’s top scorer back in 2012/13 when he scored 25 goals, and he was runners-up behind Edin Dzeko three years earlier, when he found the net 21 times in the Bundesliga. The 6’3″ striker has, all in all, scored 156 goals and assisted 70 in 395 outings as a Bayer Leverkusen player.
Leverkusen is nicknamed Neverkusen for a reason, the club is never more than runners-up, and Kießling is therefore still on the hunt for his first trophy at the BayArena. However, the attacker came close to lifting a trophy in his third year at the club when Leverkusen locked horns with Werder Bremen in the DFB-Pokal final, but lost 1-0.
5. Clemens Fritz – Representing Werder Bremen since the first of July, 2006.
Clemens Fritz is about to say goodbye to the Weserstadion at the end of the season, but what a career the 35-year-old has had in northern Germany! Fritz signed a contract with Werder Bremen in the summer transfer window in 2006, and instantly cemented his place in the starting lineup, back then as a right back. He made his Champions League debut as a Werder Bremen player in his first season at the club, and he won his first real title at the Weserstadion when the club won the DFB-Pokal in 2009.
Fritz has moved into a more central position in the last couple of years, and has been an established and consistent piece of Werder Bremen’s defense, even when the club has performed badly. It’s left to be seen if Die Werderaner plays in the first or second division when Fritz waves goodbye to the club in the summer, but the 35-year-old has left a strong mark in Bremen, no matter the outcome, and continues to be a presence for the green-whites, scoring a goal and adding two assists Sunday against FC Schalke 04.
4. Benedikt Höwedes – Representing FC Schalke 04 since the first of July, 2001.
Benedikt Höwedes might be the biggest Haltern am See profile ever, even if the 27-year-old never has gotten the chance to represent a hometown club on the big stage. FC Schalke 04 is something of a local team for Höwedes, however, as Gelsenkirchen is located pretty close to Haltern, and it’s at Schalke where Höwedes has spent most of his career.
Höwedes made his senior debut at Schalke as the club lost at home against Karlsruher SC in the Bundesliga in 2007, and the 27-year-old scored his first goal at the club a year later. The central defender cemented his place in the Schalke starting lineup in 2009, and has ever since been an integral and important part of the Gelsenkirchen-outfit.
Joachim Löw has included Höwedes in his national team 32 times, and the 27-year-old has scored two goals while wearing Die Mannschaft’s shirt. Höwedes won the European championship with the Germany U21 team in 2009, and the FIFA World Cup in 2014. Höwedes played in all the games during the 2014 world cup in Brazil as Germany defeated the likes of Portugal, USA, France, Brazil and Argentine on their way to the golden medals.
The defender celebrated ten years at Schalke in 2011 by winning the DFB-Pokal and shortly afterwards he also won the Super Cup with the Gelsenkirchen-outfit. Höwedes has represented Schalke 286 times since his debut, and has scored 21 goals.
3. Alexander Meier – Representing Eintracht Frankfurt sine the first of July, 2004.
When Alexander Meier left Hamburg SV on loan to join up with Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer of 2004, close to nobody could have foreseen that he would grow to become a true Frankfurt profile. The attacking midfielder guided Eintracht back to the Bundesliga in his debut season and made his stay at the club permanent when they had won promotion. Meier scored seven times during his first season in the Bundesliga with Eintracht Frankfurt, his personal best until the 2009/10 season, when the 33-year-old scored 10 goals.
Meier wasn’t able to help his side avoid relegation back to the 2. Bundesliga in 2011, but he stayed true to Eintracht Frankfurt through the hard times, and helped the club get back to the Bundesliga immediately. Meier scored a goal and was the captain when Eintracht Frankfurt crushed local rivals FSV Frankfurt 6-1 at home in the second division, and the midfielder has since got sporadic chances to wear the captains armband in the Bundesliga as well.
Meier got the chance to represent Eintracht Frankfurt in Europe in 2013, and scored seven times in the Europa League that season. The following year, Meier crushed his former Bundesliga best in terms of goal scoring, and found the net 19 times. The 33-year-old has scored ten goals in the Bundesliga this season, so Meier might be on his way to another personal best, as his hat trick Sunday indicates.
2. Roman Weidenfeller – Representing Borussia Dortmund since the first of July, 2002.
Believe it or not, but back in the days, 1860 München actually played in the Bundesliga, and when they traveled to Dortmund in 2002 to face Borussia Dortmund at Westfalenstadion, a certain Roman Weidenfeller made his BVB debut. The then young goalkeeper kept a clean sheet, and could celebrate a 1-0 victory together with the yellow wall. Weidenfeller made his debut in a European competition as a Dortmund player the following year, and got the chance to be the number one between the posts during the early part of the Bundesliga that year.
In 2004, Weidenfeller took over the position as the starting goalkeeper permanently, and in the 2006/07 season, the 35-year-old goalkeeper played the full 90 minutes during every single Bundesliga game. He was handed the captains armband in 2010, and won his first title as a Dortmund player when the club won the Bundesliga in 2011. The following year, Weidenfeller won two new titles as BVB won the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal. Weidenfeller guided Dortmund to the Champions League final in 2013, but his side couldn’t stop Bayern München from scoring twice, and his side lost the final 2-1.
Roman Weidenfeller has lost his position as the club’s starting goalkeeper to Roman Bürki for league and Pokal matchessince the introduction of Thomas Tuchel as the new Dortmund head coach, but has been BvB’s starter in the Europa League tournament The Dortmund faithful, though, will always remember Weidenfeller for his 434 games for the club, and his 143 clean sheets.
1. Philipp Lahm – Representing Bayern München since the first of July, 1995.
Philipp Lahm was born and raised in Munich, and is one of the biggest Bayern München icons right now. Sure, the 32-year-old made his Bundesliga debut wearing a VfB Stuttgart jersey while on loan at the Mercedes-Benz Arena-outfit for two years, but that doesn’t stop Lahm from being a fan favorite at the Allianz Arena.
Lahm made his Bundesliga debut as a FC Bayern player in the autumn of 2005 against Arminia Bielefeld, and he went on to win the Bundesliga as well as the DFB-Pokal for the first time that season. Lahm scored his first goal for FC Bayern a year later away to VfL Bochum, and he earned a more consistent position in Bayern München’s starting lineup in 2007. Lahm and his teammates won the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal double in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2014, and they also won the league in 2015.
Lahm’s first and until this day only Champions League title was clinched in 2013 when Bayern München defeated Borussia Dortmund in the final, and a year later, Lahm also won the FIFA World Cup for the first time with the German national team. Lahm and his FC Bayern teammates won that FIFA Club World Cup tournament, too.
Other clubs have not been blind towards Lahm’s impressive talent, and the 32-year-old revealed last year that Manchester United and FC Barcelona have been interested in his signature. However, Lahm has remained loyal to his hometown club, and looks set to stay true to the most successful club in Germany until the day he retires from professional football.
Kiessling and Howedes photos by Liam Newberry @
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