While the newly promoted RB Leipzig were taking the Bundesliga by storm last season, Freiburg, the other new boys from the 2.Bundesliga, were quietly having a very good year as well. After finding themselves in the top half of the table for almost the entire season, Freiburg managed to finish 7th in the Bundesliga and secure European football. Even though Freiburg outperformed even their most optimistic supporters, they have had similar fortunes before. But, just like this summer, their success in the past has led to losses of top players that will be tough to replace. After losing stars in the past, relegation followed, and Freiburg hope this doesn’t happen again.
In the 2012-13 season, Freiburg finished 5th in the Bundesliga behind a core of stars featuring Max Kruse, Daniel Caligiuri, Oliver Baumann, Oliver Sorg, Jonathan Schmid, and Jan Rosenthal. All of these players had match ratings of at least 6.9 on WhoScored.com, while Kruse and Caligiuri had ratings above 7.5, which is exceptional. Besides having terrific match ratings, Kruse and Caligiuri produced goals, with Kruse netting 11 and Caligiuri netting 5. Along with scoring 11 times, Kruse led the team in assists with 8 and Caligiuri had 2 assists to his name. While the current Werder man and the current Schalke man were both outstanding, Schmid was also one of the main contributors. Just like Kruse, he scored 11 goals, while Schmid provided 4 assists and a 7.27 match rating to go along with his scoring. To go along with Kruse, Caligiuri and Schmid, Jan Rosenthal was also a very productive player with 4 goals and 3 assists in only 18 games. His ability to score and provide as much as he did in limited action was crucial for Freiburg during the season, as their depth in the attack was one of the main reasons for the team’s success.
Those 4 attackers were certainly the catalysts when it came to scoring, but Freiburg also had a solid defense, that Sorg and Matthias Ginter helped anchor. They both made over 20 appearances with ratings of 6.93 for Ginter and 7.40 for Sorg, while they both had passing percentages above 78%, which is impressive for a tandem of defenders. Ginter and Sorg also both won a man of the match during the season, and they were both part of why Freiburg only conceded 40 goals. That mark was less than Dortmund or Schalke conceded in that season, which speaks to how good the defense was along with the attack.
After Freiburg had been a mid table club in the seasons before this breakout campaign, it was inevitable that some of their players were going to leave while their stock was high. Almost all the contributors from this 5th place campaign left during the summer that followed, or after the following season. For example, SCF’s talisman Kruse was off to Gladbach after the season ended and Caligiuri left for Wolfsburg, while Rosenthal left for Frankfurt on a free transfer. Another first team player in Cedrick Makiadi left for Bremen, and suddenly Freiburg had lost almost all of their top goal scorers and attacking threats.
Even though Freiburg stayed up the following season in 2013-14, they continued to lose their star players with Ginter departing for Dortmund after that season, while Baumann left for Hoffenheim, and they lost another midfield player in Gelson Fernandes. The two summer windows that followed the incredible 5th place finish decimated the club, and led to their 17th place finish and relegation that followed. Going down was a tough pill to swallow for the club, who had captivated the Bundesliga and surprised everyone only two seasons before.
After last season, which saw Freiburg have similar fortunes to the 2012-13 season, it was inevitable that the club would lose some of its key players. That is exactly what’s happened. Just like the summer of 2013, SCF lost its two main goalscorers in Max Philipp and Vincenzo Grifo. The Dortmund-bound Philipp scored 9 goals in only 23 games last season, while he scored 8 and had 9 assists in the 2.Bundesliga the season before. The 23 year old emerged as a hot commodity on the transfer market after his performances, and his 6.97 match rating was second only to Grifo on the club. Philipp is going to be missed dearly by SCF, just as Kruse was back in 2013-14. While Philipp is headed to one Borussia, Grifo is headed to the other as he joins Mönchengladbach. The Italian led Freburg in assists last year with 8, while also contributing 6 goals and a team high rating of 7.15. Just like Philipp, he is going to be very tough to replace for Freiburg, and filling that void is something that they’re going to have to do this season.
While these two departures were impossible for SCF to stop, they are reminded SCF supporters of the losses the club suffered back in 2013 with the losses of Caligiuri and Kruse. If the club can learn from its mistakes, and get a bit of luck they could do what they didn’t last time and absorb the losses of their two stars.
So far, they have done some good business in the transfer window by keeping Florian Niederlechner and buying from Hoffenheim. Freiburg also has Nils Peterson, who did score 10 goals last season mainly as a substitute. Besides Terrazzino, they also brought in young talents Bartosz Kapustka and Philip Leinart, from Leicester and Real Madrid respectively. If these two, Terrazzino, and their top scorers last season in Peterson and Niederlechner can contribute, the two big departures can be mitigated at least to some extent for Freiburg.
But, if they don’t get contributions from their new players, the former 2.Bundesliga champions will probably not get close to their feats of last season. Fortunately for Freiburg, there are other Bundesliga clubs that look much more likely to be relegated than they do, but as they learned the hard way the last time, they could flirt with relegation once again if they can’t replace their star players.
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