In Part IV of our Top 25 Bundesliga Players of the season, we profile the league’s outstanding goalkeeper, Dortmund’s prodigal son, the league’s two midfield maestros and a player who went from one of the most beloved figures in football to one of the most controversial.
See the rest of the list here.
10. Rene Adler – Hamburg
One of the highlights of the 2012/2013 season was witnessing Rene Adler get his groove back. The 28 year-old had been with Bayer Leverkusen since 2000, making his Bundesliga first-team debut by shutting out high-flying Schalke in February, 2007. Adler didn’t look back, and had started 173 competitive matches for Die Werkself while claiming # 1 goalkeeper spot for the German national team. Injury sidelined him for the 2010 World Cup, and his missed the entire 2011/2012 season at Leverkusen, as eventually teenaged Bernd Leno was acquired from Stuttgart and took a firm hold on the top keeper’s spot while Adler was on the mend.
Adler moved to Hamburg on a free transfer last summer, and proved that he still had what it takes after sitting idle for an entire season. Adler started 32 BuLi matches for the red-shorts, earning 7 clean sheets behind one of the league’s iffier backlines while denying over 70% of the shots headed his way. His steadiness in goal helped turn around a Hamburg side that lost its Pokal opening round match and its first three league games as he made key saves against Borussia Dortmund on September 22 for Hamburg to earn its first win of the season while handing Dortmund its first loss. Adler’s return to form also led to him regaining a spot on the German national team, although Manuel Neuer still hold’s the number one position in goal.
9. Marco Reus - Borussia Dortmund
Reus was Dortmund’s signing of the summer, arriving from Borussia Mönchengladbach for 17.1m€ to replace Manchester United-bound Shinji Kagawa. Reus’ return home has been nothing short of a success and his price has proven to be a bargain. 19 goals and 16 assists in all competitions have established Reus as one of Europe’s most dangerous wingers. His verticality, mazy runs and direct style of play alongside his excellent partnership with Mario Götze have thrilled not just the Bundesliga but the whole of the footballing world this season.
Star performances this year came in the 3-0 home defeat of Eintracht Frankfurt, in which Reus scored a hat-trick and, especially, in the return leg against Real Madrid in the Champions League semi-final, where, in Mario Götze’s absence, Reus took the reins of central attacking midfield and dictated the tempo of Dortmund’s attack, handling the tricky situation with ease. This proves that Reus can play not just on the wing but also in the hole at the highest level, just like he did at Gladbach as many considered that his play would be affected when not having the free role given to him by Lucien Favre at Borussia Park. He will no doubt have an even bigger part to play next season with the departure of Götze but if this season is to be any indicator, he will be more than ready to step up.
8. Bastian Schweinsteiger – Bayern Munich
Few Bayern players were more devastated by last year’s Champions League final loss than Schweinsteiger. Images of him kneeling down after missing his penalty are iconic and symbolic of a truly forgettable season for the club. But if Bayern are to be lamented for their tragedy last year they are to be celebrated for turning it around this season. Spearheaded by Schweinsteiger’s great performances and spirited leadership, Bayern won a historic treble and not only redeemed themselves but wrote history.
Schweinsteiger was like a man reborn in the 2012/13 season. Whether it was having Javi Martinez next to him or just his sheer will and determination to make things right, he willed Bayern to the domestic and European titles with outstanding and consistent performances. His short and long range passing is up there with the best in Europe and this season he truly lived up to his reputation as the “German Xavi.”
Bayern’s midfield maestro set a new personal record of seven goals in the league this year and had a hand in 20 goals in all competitions. It was no surprise then that when Bayern returned to Munich with their third trophy last week Schweinsteiger’s smile was by far the biggest.
7. Ílkay Gündogan – Borussia Dortmund
2012/13 was a breakout year for Ílkay Gündogan, who emerged as one of the best midfielders in the Bundesliga and in Europe itself. “Illy” was BVB’s metronome, functioning as the club’s primary distributor of the ball from the midfield. Possessing excellent pitch vision and precise (yet silky) technique, Gündogan has emerged as the Bundesliga’s smoothest operator in the central midfield area (sorry, Schweinstegier!). Typically, Gündogan lines up as a defensive midfielder, but he’s also been slotted into the central midfield role. Regardless, you’ll frequently find him in the middle of the pitch, controlling the flow of play by helping Dortmund retain possession of the ball.
You won’t find Illy’s value through the customary stats; indeed, he *only* scored 4 goals and made 3 assists this season. However, other numbers provide indicators hint at his valuable role to Dortmund: 86% pass completion rate, 1,915 passes completed this season (averaging about 59 passes a match), and averaged 6.2 (!) completed longballs a match – one of the best rates in the Bundesliga. Gündogan is also a superb tackler, enabling BVB to win the ball and begin their customary counter attacks. However, it’s his ability to calmly occupy the eye of the storm from the central midfield and spray the ball around the pitch that best defines Gündogan’s value to BVB.
Gündogan’s ability to accurately and effectively distribute the ball provides Dortmund with security, no matter who the club is playing. Gündogan rarely makes a poor pass, yet also possesses fantastic dribbling skills to make runs toward the box. Despite Lewandowski’s goal output and Mario Götze’s creativity around the box, you wouldn’t be crazy to judge Gündogan as BVB’s best player this season, because of his ability to control the pace and flow of the club’s play. He’s the midfield catalyst upon which Dortmund’s vaunted press hinges.
6. Mario Götze – Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund’s attacking brand of football has been a delight to watch over the last few seasons. Mario Götze has been very much been amongst the key players who have enabled Jürgen Klopp to put together a team which almost managed to win the Champions League trophy at Wembley this year.
Götze’s link up play with the likes of Kuba, Reus and Lewandowski have given defenders all around Germany nightmares, and after this season many a defender playing for Champions League sides are being kept awake by the thought of Götze’s passing ability, his precise set piece delivery, his intelligent runs and his world-class dribbling skills.
The future Bayern player managed to gather 19 scorer points, by scoring 10 goals and providing 9 assists, in his 23 appearances for Dortmund this season. Not a mean feat, considering how he only needed 44 shots throughout the entire season.