October 24, 2017

From the Bundesliga to Brazil: the Odyssey of Alexander Baumjohann

The flow of football talent between Brazil and the Bundesliga has been long and rich with legendary names like Elber, Ze Roberto, Dede and Ailton to name just a few to have made the move to Germany. However, one player is now bucking the one-way trend and trying his luck in the Campeonato Brasileiro.

Remember Alexander Baumjohann? The one-time hot-prospect and scorer of a wondergoal against Werder Bremen in 2008 is trying his luck in Brazil having signed for FC Coritiba.

After bursting onto the scene as an 18-year old at Schalke, Baumjohann made the move to Borussia Mönchengladbach having made just two appearances for the Königsblauen. Two seasons with the Fohlen saw him develop, but the highlight was an incredible solo goal scored in a 3-2 win over Werder Bremen in 2008. Setting off from inside his own half, Baumjohann went on a 70 meter mazy dribble beating three defenders, before rifling in a shot past Tim Wiese.

The goal catapulted him into the limelight as a super talent and it wasn’t long before Bayern Munich signed him up on a free transfer. However like many before and after him, the move proved too much and he failed to make the breakthrough in Bavaria. It was to prove to be the start of a slow fading of his star.

Indeed since his move back to Schalke in 2009, he has only made 48 Bundesliga appearances with injuries severely limiting his career (he’s suffered two cruciate knee ligament tears). Last season he was at Hertha Berlin, but was limited to appearing in the Regionalliga Nordost.

Now aged 30, he has taken the rather unusual step of trying to resurrect his career in Brazil. At first glance it may seem an odd choice, but with a Brazilian wife, being fluent in Portuguese and with recommendations from trusted friends, the move to Coritiba makes more sense.

Married to Tatiane since 2008, the move to Brazil is both a move inspired by the head and the heart. He has also been advised by Brazilians who have made the move in the opposite direction- namely ex-Schalke players Rafinha, and Lincoln, who have given him positive reports. Bayern fullback Rafinha began his career at Coritiba before moving to Schalke in 2005.

So over 6000 miles from where he began his career, the attacking midfielder is looking for a fresh start in the state of Parana.  The Brazilian side know they are taking a risk on a player with a colourful medical history, but also know that beyond the knee ligament is a player of some talent.

Baumjohann will also be aware that he is following in the footsteps of his forefathers. Founded by German immigrants in 1909 as Clube Ginástico Teuto-Brasileiro Turnverein, the club’s modern day nickname also has a German link.

Coxa-Branca (white-thigh) is traced back to 1941 when German defender Hans Egon Breyer was loudly abused by a rival fan. With the war raging in Europe, Breyer was harangued with the insults ‘German… communist… white thigh’ throughout the match. The story goes that the team were inspired by the abuse and went on to win the state championship that year.

Hans Egon Breyer

Both Alexander Baumjohann and FC Coritiba will be hoping their newest Coxa-Branca will lead them to similar success.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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