September 23, 2017

Top 25 Bundesliga Players 2014/15: 5-1

Need to catch up on the countdown? Review our earlier selections 25-2120-16, 15-11 and 10-6 by clicking the links. 

The countdown of our choices for top 25 players of the 2014-15 Bundesliga season ends with a top five that’s hard to beat.  Two of our picks missed the end of the season with injury, but were so outstanding when healthy that they graded out among the best.

5. Jerome Boateng

If, for just one minute you are able to erase the sight of Lionel Messi sitting Jerome Boateng on the seat of his pants in Bayern Munich’s Champions League tie with Barcelona, then you are left to reflect on a very promising campaign for the centre-back.

Solidifying his role as the lynchpin of Pep Guardiola’s backline, Boateng has shown form and consistency that many did not believe existed in his game. Indeed his performances this year are a far cry from those which saw him labelled as a flop during his time in England.

With 27 Bundesliga appearances to his name for 2014-2015, Boateng was one of the league’s best individuals, with a pass success rate of 86% as well as averaging two or more tackles, interceptions and clearances per league game.

In a time where Bayern have such a wealth of quality attacking options, it is often difficult for defenders to come to the fore, but Boateng has ensured that his name has been mentioned along with the rest as a result of his high level of performances this year.

Indeed if an indication of how good he has been was needed, one only needs to look at the World Cup hangover suffered by Boateng’s international team-mate Mats Hummels. Such a fate has not fallen upon an imperious Jerome Boateng this year. (David Morris)

4. Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen)

During his first two season at Die Werkself Bellarabi only managed to get 18 appearances. Last season saw him return to Braunschweig for one season on loan and even there he struggled to get playing time. The officials at the BayArena were already considering to loan the attack minded winger out for one more season, but at the last minute the new coach Roger Schmidt stepped in to say that he needed the German of Moroccan descent in his squad.

Schmidt’s gutsy move was rewarded right at the start of the season, when the attacking midfielder scored the quickest goal in Bundesliga history after only 9 seconds on match day 1 against Borussia Dortmund. After a few more good performances at the start of the season Bellarabi was awarded with a place in Jogi Löw’s squad for the matches against Poland and Ireland. The 25-year-old made his debut for Die Nationalmannschaft on October 2nd in Germany’s 2-0 loss against Poland. Not bad for a player who could have been loaned out to a side fighting at the bottom of the table.

The reason why Bellarabi turned out to be a perfect fit for Schmidt’s system are simple. His playing style is direct, he can draw up to several opponents on before he breaks free or plays the right pass, and his technical ability and his running means that he is a perfect fit for the pressing system Roger Schmidt wants his team to play.

At the end of the season Bellarabi ended up on 12 goals and 9 assists, meaning that he had been involved in 21 of Leverkusen’s 62 goals(or roughly a third). There’s little doubt that the 25-year-old has been Leverkusen’s most valuable asset in attack this season and the fact that he still has a few good years ahead of himself bodes well for Die Werkself’s future. (Niklas Wildhagen)

3. Alexander Meier (Eintracht Frankfurt)

Alex Meier did not start a Bundesliga game until the end of September. Alex Meier did not play a Bundesliga game after the beginning of April. Alex Meier finished the 2014-2015 campaign as the Bundesliga’s top scorer.

Do not rub your eyes though. All of this really did happen. In what was a real whirlwind season for Eintracht Frankfurt, one of the few constants (once he held down a place in the side) was the form of their 32-year-old forward.

Not the most obvious of superstars, Meier spent the course of the season etching his way into the hearts of Bundesliga spectators with his uncompromising style reaping the rewards for his side. Despite not playing a part in the final seven games of the season, Meier was still able to top the scorers’ charts with 19 strikes to his name.

This was a haul that carried with it five braces, as Meier became the first Frankfurt player to take the prestigious accolade since Tony Yeboah.

Already a legend to fans of the Eagles, the “Fussbalgott” confirmed his status as a Bundesliga cult hero in 2014-2015, adding to his 2. Bundesliga top scorer award from 2011-2012 when he helped Eintracht Frankfurt bounce back to the Bundesliga.

This one will likely not have been as sweet, but caps a remarkable campaign for Meier nonetheless.  (David Morris)

2. Arjen Robben (Bayern Munich)

Where do you even start with Arjen Robben? This is a player, who like a mature cheese or fine scotch simply seems to get better with age. The only real gripe that can be had with his campaign is the premature end he experienced by picking up a number of injuries.

When he was fit though, Robben was simply irrepressible and irresistible. There are few players in world football who are simultaneously both so incredibly predictable, and yet so impossible to stop at the same time.

It has become commonplace to see the Dutch winger run down the right before cutting inside onto his left foot and bending a shot past a despairing opposition goalkeeper. Yet nobody has quite yet worked out how to deal with it.

In 21 appearances Robben found the net 17 times and laid on a further seven goals for his team mates in what was a very rewarding season for him, as well as Bayern who triumphed as a result of the form of the Dutchman.

At 31, and with his current injury problems, there could be fears that Robben may slow down over the next couple of seasons, but if he can recover over the summer who knows what Bundesliga defences will have on their hands in the upcoming season.

A truly terrifying prospect to deal with, Robben has pace, guile, skill and an unnerving ability in front of goal. This season has been a further indication that Arjen Robben can now truly be labelled as “World Class.”  (David Morris)

1. Kevin De Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg)

Let it be written, 2014/15 is hereby declared the Year of DeBruyne, the gingy wonder. After Messi and Ronaldo, is another player more valuable in Europe right now?

The question is not rhetorical. De Bruyne ruled the Bundesliga this season, even when Arjen Robben was healthy and in-form. No other player Bunderliga player was responsible for more goals than De Bruyne. First, the assist record. KDB registered 20 (!) of them – a league record. Moreover, this tally led freaking Europe, as Cesc Fàbregas and Messi trailed him with 18. And get this, De Bruyne created an amazing 111 chances (!) in 34 Bundesliga appearances. Aside from the 20 assists, he registered 91 Key Passes, the 2nd most impressive tally in Europe (after OM’s Dimitri Payet). Aside from Messi and Ronaldo, no other player was more dangerous in Europe this year. Mr. De Bruyne, you won the Bundesliga. Congrats.

But the gingy wonder also scored 10 goals, which is noteworthy, considering the how pre-occupied he must have been in creating 111 scoring chances for others. De Bruyne’s assist-making is a product of his other superlative skills, like his high dribbling rate, unworldly running rate, and willingness to work hard by tracking back, etc. During VfL matches, De Bruyne seemingly was everywhere between the boxes. He always managed to find open spaces for receiving passes in transition, then used his world-class dribbling skills and speed to catalyze VfL’s deadly attack.

De Bruyne achieved his attacking success on only 44 passes per match (75% completion rate). The Belgian’s *low* completion rate is a product of his frequent lowballs (averaging about 43 meters) in attack. The gingy is direct. No tiki-taka nonsense for the kid.

Of course, De Bruyne’s staggering 2014/15 success means that a mini-cotttage industry of transfer rumors sprouted up around his future. VfL remain adamant that he’s staying for now. Besides, why would De Bruyne want to leave now? His club should rock the UCL next season, perhaps seriously challenge Bayern for the salad plate, and will try to defend their 2014/15 Pokal title. Call me possessive, but given the gingy’s wondrous season, I know I am begging for more brilliance from the young attacking midfielder. Besides, do we even know all of what he’s capable of? I get the sense we’re just getting started with the Kevin De Bruyne spectacular spectacle. (Travis Timmons)

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 30-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball and on the @AufstiegPod.