Our team of experts raked their brains to bring you the most objective rankings of the league’s stand out performers. We are now down to the final 5 on our list and starting at number 5, we will provide each entrant with slightly more extensive individual attention.
Kicking off the final five is a player that may surprise many people and may even be considered a controversial nomination but there is no denying the impact he has had on his team and the league this past year.
You can find all previous entries here.
5. Papiss Demba Cisse
If anyone would have predicted Cisse and Freiburg’s impressive performances at the beginning of the season it would have undoubtedly elicited some skeptical responses. That said, the selection of Pappis Demba Cissé as one of the season’s truly elite Bundesliga players says as much about the league as it does about the individual. It tells the story of what can happen when talent meets opportunity, as a player with little top-tier football experience came to be a dominant force while elevating his team beyond the expectations of spectators and experts everywhere. If it was not for Mario Gomez’s historic individual season Cisse would have ended as the league’s top goal getter. With an impressive 22 goals in the league Cisse had his side on the brink of European competition for most of the season. Considering the fact that many expected Freiburg to be competing at the wrong end of the table, it is a truly remarkable accomplishment.
Cisse was born in Senegal’s capital city, Dakar on June 3, 1985. Like many African born footballers, Cisse came from humble beginnings and learned the game playing on the streets. It was on those very streets, during a local tournament, that Senegalese club AS Douanes Dakar would spot his talents and invite him to train with their academy. It was there that Cisse began his formal football education, successfully graduating to the senior team and eventually winning the national championship. Cisse promptly followed in the footsteps of many African players and made a move to French club Metz in 2005.
He was rather slow to get off the mark after his move to France though and was subsequently loaned out to third division side AS Cherbourg upon his arrival. After scoring 11 goals for Cherbourg in the third division he was recalled by Metz and helped them win promotion to Ligue 1 with 12 goals in 32 games in what was deemed a very successful season for the club and striker. Things looked promising for Cisse but after 9 goalless games with Metz in the first division he was loaned to second division outfit LB Chateauroux in the second half of the season. There Cisse scored only 4 goals in 15 matches and lost his place as a starter towards the end of the season but Metz kept faith him in the Senegalese striker and was asked to return and help the club try to win promotion again the following season after going down. The 2008/09 season would be Cisse’s most successful in France. The club missed promotion by just three points but Cisse finished second on the scoring charts with 15 goals and was one of the better performers in France’s second division.
Ironically enough, it was not Cisse’s impressive season with Metz that convinced Freiburg to move for the striker. Instead, it was a friendly between the two clubs in summer of 2009 that stirred Freiburg’s interest. In that game, Cisse scored one and set up the other in a 2-1 against his future club. Freiburg made an offer shortly after but the two clubs could not agree on a fee and it took until December of that year for the two to strike a deal. Freiburg ended up paying a club record 1.5 million Euros for Cisse in the January transfer window. The Senegalese striker started repaying the club almost immediately and scored 6 goals in 13 starts in the remainder of the season. It was a fantastic debut for a player that had only managed 10 matches previously in the top-tier of French football.
Cisse’s successful yet mild start to his Bundesliga career did not prepare anyone for his explosive 2010-2011 season. Given the opportunity to be the focal point of coach Robin Dutt’s attack, the Senegalese international nearly quadrupled the amount of goals he scored in the previous season. His goals accounted for 54% of the 41 goals SC Freiburg totaled as a team, and the striker was durable enough to play in 32 of his team’s 34 league matches. Freiburg seemed reinvigorated since Dutt took over but it was Cisse’s consistent goal scoring that instilled and inspired a confidence in the rest of the team that kept them in contention for a Europa League spot until they faded in the last month of the season.
Despite that, the “Breisgau Brazilians” had their best finish in the league since 2001 and Cisse set a club scoring record as well as holding the distinction of being the top scoring African player in any single season in league history. He was also awarded with the EFFIFU, a distinction calculated annually to find the most efficient player in the Bundesliga using statistics like decisive equalizers and match winners. That efficiency was not just confined to the league. Cisse scored 2 goals in Freiburg’s 2 Cup matches as well as 5 goals in 6 international appearances for Senegal. It is no wonder that they call him “Toumboule” in his native Senegal, meaning “The Effective One”.
Dutt has already left to take over the reins at Bayer 04 Leverkusen, and Premier League side Blackburn Rovers are a confirmed bidder for Cissé’s services, with other clubs such as Arsenal and Liverpool also rumored to be keen on acquiring the striker. Whether Dutt’s replacement, Marcus Sorg, will have the luxury of being able to depend on the prolific goal scoring of Cisse next season or not is still up in the air, as Freiburg would make a handsome profit on their star’s transfer. But whatever happens in the next few months, one thing is certain; Cisse has given Freiburg and Bundesliga fans a season to savor for years to come.