October 24, 2017

Best XI of the 2013/14 Bundesliga Hinrunde

With half of the season out of the way, there has been no shortages of surprises, excitement and the usual and expected Bayern Munich dominance in Germany’s top flight.  The league maintained its reputation for great fan support, youthful exuberance and goals galore.

Most of all, the Hinrunde was characterized by several outstanding individual performances. Unsurprisingly, a lot of those came from Bayern players but there were also many players who surprised and really took their game to the next level.  Some were veterans who had somewhat of a comeback year while certain young players kept on making a name for themselves.  Here are the standout performers of the 2013/14 Bundesliga season so far.

Goalkeeper

Bernd Leno – Leno made his debut with so much promise in 2012 before reminding everyone that he just turned 20.  Now 21 and the No. 1 to the country’s second best team, Leno is having arguably his best spell yet as a professional. He is slowly carving out a reputation as a penalty specialist while impressively leading a back line that has given up only a remarkable 16 goals so far in the league.  Leno’s shot stopping is incredible at times and his reactions with his body and with his feet are some of the best in the world in his age group.

Defenders

Kevin Grosskreutz – You wouldn’t expect Grosskreutz on this list, or in defense for that matter.  But that’s where necessity has placed him this season. Filling in for the injured Lukasz Piszczek the Dortmund darling was arguably the league’s best right back and one of the team’s most consistent performers.  His heroics in the Champions League on the last matchday against Marseille will only add to his cult status.  For now, Grosskreutz should be a serious candidate for Jogi Löw’s squad for Brazil next year.

Ricardo Rodriguez – Another unlikely inclusion but a player that has gradually become one of the standout fullbacks in the league.  Still only 21, Rodriguez has been one of the standout players for Wolfsburg this season as they make a serious push for Europe.  Rodriguez has scored three and assisted another three in the league this season and been responsible for more goals than any other defender.  His technique and athleticism are truly impressive for his age and big things are on the horizon for the Swiss international.

David Alaba – Well it’s certainly been the season of the fullbacks so far.  And atop them all is reigning Austrian Athlete and Footballer of the year, David Alaba.  Bayern’s left back, who also happens to be a world class midfielder for Austria, is without a doubt the best in his position in the world and he proved it in Bayern’s historic quintuple-winning year.  Similar to Philipp Lahm, there are next to no real weaknesses in Alaba’s game and he is still only 21 years old. Future Bayern captain written all over him.

Midfielders

Franck Ribery – Can’t have a list like this without what should be the frontrunner for the 2013 Ballon d’Or.  Ribery was simply outstanding this season, as he was last season.  He scored six so far and set up another nine as Bayern reached the best ever points total in the first half of the season in league history.  Ribery gave fits to defenders all year long and has thrived on the new free role under Guardiola. At his best he is simply unstoppable.

Philipp Lahm – Perhaps THE outstanding player in the Bundesliga this season so far, Philipp Lahm has completely reinvented himself under Pep Guardiola. Trusted with the holding midfield role, Lahm has been the key cog in Bayern’s well oiled and unstoppable machine.  Bayern’s assistant coach Hermann Gerland remarked that he cannot believe a player of his calibre has yet to win Footballer of the year but with this kind of form and playing in a more recognized role, Lahm may just get the title he so thoroughly deserves.

Raffael – Who would have thought Raffael would have this kind of impact when he made the move to Borussia Mönchengladbach in the summer.  Perhaps the reunion with his old coach Lucien Favre renewed his passion for the game or perhaps he finally found the perfect fit for his characteristic Brazilian flair play in a Gladbach team that attack as well and as quick as any on the continent.  Raffael has already scored an incredible nine goals this season and has Gladbach right on Dortmund’s tail.

Sidney Sam – For the first two months of the season you could make a really good argument that Sam had been the league’s best player. Seven goals and five assists in his first 12 games took Sam to a new career best and Leverkusen’s best Hinrunde in league history. Sam made Leverkusen supporters forget all about Andre Schürrle’s summer departure with his incredible runs and nose for goal. Unfortunately for them Sam’s injury deprived them of a strong finish and his tiny 2.5m Euro release clause could mean another premature departure for them.

Forwards

Robert Lewandowski – Undoubtedly the Bundesliga’s best striker for years now and one of the world’s elite.  Lewandowski’s future is making all the headlines each time he plays but the attention should really be on the football. The Polish striker is again on top of the scoring charts with his 11 goals in the Hinrunde and proved that he is the epitome of a modern striker. Few forwards work as much of the ball as Lewandowski or are as athletic and his wonderful hold up play allows Dortmund to effectively play with 10 players behind the ball sometimes, knowing that their man up top can handle four or five defenders on his own.

Adrian Ramos – Another one of the big surprises, the Colombian striker hit a career best 11 goals in the Hinrunde and is tied with Lewandowski atop the scoring charts.  Athletic, quick, and nimble with his feet, there a lot of similarities to be drawn between Ramos and Lewandowski and that’s why some rumors have linked the Colombian with a move away from Hertha considering his form.  Hertha are on course for Europe and Ramos is a big reason why.

Max Kruse – Following Kruse’s career since moving to the top flight from St. Pauli two years ago it’s really no surprise to see him on this list.  He was outstanding for Freiburg last year and almost single handedly carried them to Europe.  Now playing at a new club the transition is seamless and his game has reached yet another level.  Making his international debut this summer, Kruse has enjoyed a spectacular 2013 and he is showing no signs of stopping. His versatility and cleverness up top has allowed Favre to reshape Gladbach into the mold that made them so good with Marco Reus two years ago.

Honorable Mentions

Oliver Baumann, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Diego Benaglio, Jerome Boateng, Sokratis, Robin Knoche, Omer Toprak, Daniel Baier, Martin Stranzl, Johannes Geis, Simon Rolfes, Nuri Sahin, Mario Mandzukic, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus, Arjen Robben, Max Meyer, Stefan Kiessling, Pierre-Michel Lasogga, Kevin Volland, Thomas Müller

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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