Through the first two games of the new Bundesliga season, a blonde haired, tall and lanky striker has been scoring all of the goals for Bayer Leverkusen. This season that player is Joel Pohjanpalo, but for almost every other goals in recent memory that player has been Stefan Kießling . The German is a player whose career certainly isn’t in it’s’ prime anymore, and injuries may limit what playing time he sees, which is why people should begin to appreciate what he’s provided us Bundesliga fans for such a long time. He’s given almost all that you can give, while he’s always stayed in Germany for his football which has made him not a subject of that English media. His loyalty combined with his terrific moments on the pitch and the fact that he’s consistently fine player with many accomplishments has made him a modern Bundesliga legend.
Every legendary player has great moments that make them almost unforgettable throughout their careers. From Kahn’s penalty shootout heroics versus Valencia and Ricken’s goal against Juventus to the incredible sweeping of Manuel Neuer and Lewa’s five goals against Wolfsburg last season, almost every player has that defining moment. Kießling’s most memorable moment might not be as notable as the ones I just mentioned, but it might be even more incredible. The moment i’m referring to is the phantom goal that Kiess scored in 2013 against Hoffenheim, a missed header that went through a whole in the netting and ended up in the goalwhich remains a moment that is unlike most of what we’ve seen in recent seasons.
This goal against Hoffenheim was one of the German’s many goals for Leverkusen but the fact that it shouldn’t have counted makes it memorable. But of course that’s far from Kießling’s greatest moment with Leverkusen. He scored a goal in 40 seconds a few seasons ago, which is one of the fastest in Bundesliga history. Another shining moment involves his hat trick on the final day of the 2012 season against his old club Nürnberg to give Bayer a 5th place finish. That was seen as a solid season and one that helped the club become what they are today. Another moment was his late goal in 2014 against Dortmund to give Leverkusen a famous 2-0 win.
Anytime you beat Dortmund or Bayern it’s famous, and Kießling was able to seal that win for Leverkusen. Along with his brace against Shakhtar Donetsk in the 2013-14 Champions League and his two goals against Gladbach this past December, Kießling has certainly had his legendary moments for Bayer Leverkusen. It seems like the German played his best when his team needed him to, which is why when Bayer where in the title race at the end of 2012, it was Kiess who scores a brace to keep the pressure on Munich.
While Leverkusen came up short in their quest for the title that season, it was Kießling’s goals that helped them stay in the race for as long as they did and ultimately quality for europe. His partnership with Heung-Min Son, Karim Bellarabi, Javier’Chicharito’ Hernandez, Gonzalo Castro, André Schürrle and other stars who’ve draped the red of Leverkusen through the years can’t be forgotten as well. His ability to get the best out of teammates as certainly helped the club make a lot of money from the transfers of those players.
Besides the moments that Kießling has had over the years, he’s also racked up accomplishments as an individual and for the club. His individual accomplishments are fantastic and the list is quite lengthy. He was the league’s top scorer in the 2012-13 season with a marvelous 25 goals while he also picked up 21 in the 2009-10 season. Kießling also scored at least 15 league goals for three consecutive seasons from 2011-12 to 2013-14 which is an outstanding spell of consistency. He was also named to the Bundesliga Team of the Season in 2009-10 and 2012-13 which tells us how long Kießling has been effective for Leverkusen. He also led the DFB-Pokal in goals in the 2014-15 season, compiling a solid six goals in the cup. Speaking of the Pokal, Kiess was runner-up in 2008-2009, and even though Leverkusen fell short of the trophy that helped them become relevant in the German game once again. Besides being runner-up in the cup, he was also a part of the 2010-11 finalists who lost to Dortmund.
Outside of the Bundesliga Kießling has many accomplishments as well, which include being a part of the 3rd place Germany team in 2010, and being a winner of the 2.Bundesliga with his first club Nürnberg. But besides his individual accomplishments over the years, what he’s been able to do at the BayArena has been remarkable as well. Every season since 2010-11 Bayer have been in the top 5 in the league with Kießling, and after the disappointment that came with the “Neverkusen” side he’s been a part of the revival of the club. Losing a player like Michael Ballack is never easy, but Die Werkself were able to recover with Kießling and all of the stars who’ve come and gone, part of why the 32 year-old has become an all-time Leverkusen fan favorite entering his 11th season with the club.
Being able to bring Champions League football on a consistent basis is something that Bayer fans don’t take for granted in the least. Also they’ve done well in Europe with the German striker, making the knockout stages in back to back seasons in 2013-14 and 2014-15. That is an accomplishment for a team whose had stints in the Europa League, and it shows that Kießling has been through multiple eras at Leverkusen. From the Jupp Heynckes years to the Schmidt years and Bruno Labbadia along with Sami Hyypia, Kießling has certainly seen his fair share of change.
This is a perfect segue to the next and last thing that makes the native of Lichtenfels such a legendary player, and that is his loyalty. All Bundesliga fans see that loyalty and his willingness to stay with one club is a rarity and something that is becoming less and less common these days. The money in England, China and other leagues has caused many highly-skilled players to leave Germany this summer, so much so that we at the Fanatic can make an entire starting 11 of quality players to leave the top flight this summer. Since this is the harsh reality of modern football, the loyalty of Kießling is admirable and almost shocking. He is the Leverkusen appearance leader with over 400 games played, which is remarkable for any player but especially a striker.
Being the leader in Leverkusen appearances might be his greatest accomplishment of all, because it emphasizes everything great about Kießling, and especially how he’s played with a great amount of pain as a result of his willingness to get stuck-in, to make tackles and be involved with fouls, both on the receiving and giving end . (Don’t forget — it was Kießling’s challenge on Sven Bender last Feburary that sparked the famed ‘9 minute delay’ in Leverkusen’s match with Borussia Dortmund, which also resulted in a lengthy suspension for Werkself boss Roger Schmidt). With all of his appearances he’s amassed a large amount of goals, scoring 158 which is second on Leverkusen’s all time list and 80 more than the third highest. He might not get the record for Bayer at 183, but the fact that he’s even within striking distance demonstrate how his loyalty has benefitted the club.
He could’ve gone almost anywhere he wanted after leading the league in goals, with teams like Bayern always a tempting destination for Bundesliga stars. But instead he stayed and continues to stay with Bayer through thick and thin. He could’ve left last season after losing his place to Chicharito and not playing very often. Instead he fought his way back into the team and formed a lethal duo with the Mexican international. The fact that Kießling was willing, and able, to fight for, and earn, his place after all that he’s done is just one of the many things that makes him a legendary player.
Kießling’s great moments during his career his Gladbach brace, the hattrick against Nurnberg and even the ghost goal make him memorable. He’s been a World Cup player (despite being overlooked by Jogi Löw so often), a Bundesliga scoring leader, has helped Nurnberg to promotion early in his career before joining Leverkusen and a the rare striker willing to risk injury by challenging for the ball. Combine all of that with being Leverkusen’s record appearance maker with over 400 games and being 2nd on their all time goal list and there’s no doubt about his legendary status in German football..
He’s done all this through numerous coaching changes, the frustration of being a runner up instead of a champion in both the league and the Pokal. Despite having his lowest goal-scoring total last season since his 2006 arrival in Leverkusen, he was offered a contract extension, which he signed. Leverkusen’s Managing Director, Michael Schade, stated simply
Stefan is a personality with whom we and our fans identify.He simply belongs with Bayer 04.
We can only hope, that at age 32, that the great striker can get healthy soon and return to the pitch where he belongs, representing Bayer 04 Leverkusen like few others ever have.
Editor’s Note: I had the pleasure of meeting Stefan briefly last year in Orlando. He was friendly and willing to stand in the Florida rain for a selfie. Good guy !!!
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