The Bundesliga is back! Finally it’s time for football on the pitch to do the talking, as the summer transfer market closed on Monday midnight, with familiar faces Shinji Kagawa and Lewis Holtby marking their return to German football in the closing moments of the window, much to the jubilation of Bundesliga fans. But as much the summer and January transfer windows provide an exciting opportunity for a reunion of old friends with their fans or to see new players in your favorite league, those same transfer openings always leave fans with fear of losing their star players to other clubs.
Aside from the aforementioned late acquisitions, there were plenty of interesting incoming transfers to the Bundesliga this time around – the ever so controversial Nicklas Bendtner graces (?) German football for the first time with a move to European participants Wolfsburg, and Serie A shipped top-scorer Ciro Immobile and highly-rated defender Mehdi Benati north while Xabi Alonso and Pepe Reina – both part of Spain’s World Cup winning squad in South Africa – joined Pep Guardiola’s champions at Bayern Munich. But including the only Englishmen in the Bundesliga, Michael Mancienne, the once highly regarded midfielder Mehmet Ekici, and the promising youngster Emre Can; the league has its share of losses in the just closed transfer market. Here we present you the best eleven players who have been part and parcel of the Bundesliga’s rising popularity around the world.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen (from Borussia Mönchengladbach to FC Barcelona)
He would’ve probably made the cut for any other squads of the World Cup participants, but the numbers of emerging goalkeepers in German football and his minor mistakes when presented the chance cost ter Stegen a place in die Nationalmannschaft’s triumph in Brazil. For someone tipped to replace long-serving Víctor Valdés at Spanish giants Barcelona, ter Stegen’s summer move is hopefully the next step in his rise to consideration of being one of the world’s best keepers. Ter Stegen had spent his entire career at Borussia Mönchenglabdach, and it was clear to see the emotion in his farewell to the Foal’s fans. Although Chilean international Claudio Bravo has gotten the nod in the early stages of Barca’s season, the 22-year-old German has all it takes to push for a starting berth.
Daniel van Buyten (retired)
What a way to hang up your boots after leading your nation to a quarter-final appearance on the World Cup stage. Despite some labeled Belgium’s return to the biggest stage as unsatisfactory, going by the star-studded squad, it was a case of a missing piece of the puzzle in van Buyten’s incredible career. Including the unprecedented treble in Jupp Heynckes’ final season at the club, Big Dan was able to put his hand on every one of the trophies a Bundesliga player can lift.
Steve Cherundolo (retired)
His career might not be full of silverware, but Steven Cherundolo joined the honorable list of one-club players following his retirement from football. The fullback will be forever remembered as Hannover legend, as he played for the Lower Saxony side for fifteen years with consistent effort, leadership and ability helping Hannover find a secure place in the Bundesliga after so many years of struggle and disappointment. The frustration of injuries haunted him for the last couple of years, as the US international decided to end his playing career, and took the assistant manager role in Hannover’s amateur team.
Levan Kobiashvili (retired)
To round off the three-man defense of retirees, the previous season was also the last time we have seen Kobiashvili in the field. We thought we’d seen the last of him in the Bundesliga in the wake of wild and controversial scenes in the relegation/promotion playoff between Hertha Berlin and Fortuna Düsseldorf (including the Georgian punching referee Wolfgang Stark) a couple of seasons ago, which handed him a record one-year ban from football. The ban was reduced to seven and a half months, allowing Kobiashvili to play a role in the capital club’s immediate promotion to top flight football. The 37-years-old defender had one more go in Bundesliga last term, and even plugged in the midfield when needed to help his side to a respectable 11th place finish. Kobiashvili played more than hundred league matches each for Freiburg, Schalke and Hertha BSC in his 16-year stay in Germany.
Tomas Rincon (from Hamburger SV to Genoa CFC)
His passion and willingness to cover the ground reminds Hamburg fans of their long-serving midfielder David Jarolím, but Rincón’s time with HSV had a less pleasing ending. The Venezuelan struggled last season when HSV stayed in the danger zone and eventually escaping the drop by the narrowest of margins, and this summer Rincón moved to Serie A side Genoa with playing time no longer guaranteed for the one-time heartbeat of the Red Shorts.
Toni Kroos (from Bayern Munich to Real Madrid)
For some reason, Toni Kroos and Bayern Munich weren’t a match made in heaven, and that’s why nobody was terribly surprised when Real Madrid captured the signature of the World Cup champion with ease. But all off-pitch talks put aside, Kroos flawlessly made his way to FC Hollywood’s midfield after a successful loan spell at Bayer Leverkusen, and was even instrumental in Pep Guardiola’s successful debut season in Germany. With Kroos’ ability to anchor the midfield, not to mention the elite level of form he’s displayed, its safe to say that his departure from the Bundesliga is this season’s top talent loss for the league.
Juan Arango (from Borussia Mönchengladbach to Club Tijuana)
Every dream team needs a free-kick specialist, and we’ve got one in this list in the form of another Venezuelan international, Juan Arango. If you don’t follow the Bundesliga, you might raise your eyebrows when you find the former Borussia Mönchenglabdach winger’s name among the world’s best dead-ball specialists. But it’s not always about the set-pieces, as Arango excelled in scoring goals from the run of play worthy of best goals awards. And when he takes a break from scoring a beauty, it’ll be probably a crucial one like his last goal for die Foals at the end of last season to tie the score against Stuttgart in dying minutes. The 34-years-old returned to Mexican football after a decade, signing with the Xolos de Tijuana after Gladbach refused to hand him a new contract beyond one-year.
Szabolcs Huszti (from Hannover 96 to Changchun Yatai F.C.)
Out of all the players making the list, Szabolcs Huszti’s departure was possibly the least expected. The Hungarian find solace in returning home after re-signing back to Hannover, which started in the craziest of ways, as he assisted all of his sides four goals against Hamburg in his debut and scored a winner in acrobatic fashion against Werder Bremen, subsequently earning a straight red card for joining the terrace to celebrate. He was also pivotal in turning his club’s fortunes last season, but apparently leaving a week before summer holidays were due proved to be enough to shove the midfielder through the exit door again. It’s highly unlikely that he is going to return to his beloved club for the third time, although it’ll always be a pleasure to see the talented attacking prowess he provided in the Bundesliga.
Cacau (from VFB Stuttgart to Cerezo Osaka)
Stuttgart finally bid farewell to former German international Cacau, who has been with the club through thick and thin. The front-runner played a role in their title-winning season back in 2006-07, but the fact that the then-coach Armin Veh returned to lead the Swabians this summer didn’t change matters, as Cacau chase new adventure in Japan with Cerezo Osaka. Playing time for the aging striker was limited in the last seasons due to injuries and a drop in form, but with his usual ambitious long-range efforts and unique way of celebrating goals, the VFB faithful have fond memories of Cacau’s time at the club, who was given the German nickname “Helmut” by former teammate Ludovic Magnin after the Brazil-born striker’s naturalization as a German citizen.
Mame Biram Diouf (from Hannover 96 to Stoke City FC)
It didn’t take long for the Senegalese striker to mark his return to English football after leaving Hannover for Stoke City, as his solo effort helped the mid-table side to a shocking win at defending champions Manchester City. The former Manchester United prospect was unable to carve out a berth earlier at Old Trafford, but his time in the Bundesliga was not short of excitement. He quickly found his feet in a new league, and became regarded as one of the best strikers in the league, although his finishing occasionally left plenty to ponder. He had almost a goal per two matches ratio in his time at Hannover, and was always a headache for opposing defenders.
Mario Mandžukić (from Bayern Munich to Atlético Madrid)
Last season it was Mario Gomez who was the player upfront in our best XI outgoing players, and now its time for his successor – Mario Mandžukić. The Croat’s case can also be taken in a same manner with Kroos’, as reports claimed his relationship with Pep Guardiola was dire. Mandžukić first made his mark at Wolfsburg, playing as a winger, and his successful two years spell at Volkswagen Arena convinced the Bavarians to get him signed. Despite not fulfilling expectations in big games, Mario had respectable stats for the record champions before departing Germany for Champions League finalists Atlético Madrid. The Croat’s life in the Spanish capital couldn’t have started better, as he scored the decisive goal to help his team to a curtain-raiser title, La Supercopa de España.
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