Step aside Borussia Dortmund- VFL Wolfsburg is the new darling in German Football. This is good news especially when you consider the absolute monarchy that operates in Germany’s top tier Division. The Wolves may be eight points behind Bayern Munchen in the league but there is no denying the fact that the Wolf pack led by Dieter Hecking boasts of a really strong, attacking and enterprising team. The Wolves even eased past Bayern Munchen 4-1 in January.
He’s brought in two Chelsea outcasts; Kevin De Bruyne and Andre Schurrle. The former has blossomed into a top talent at the Volkswagen Arena after a frustrating spell at the Bridge as he has weighed in six assists since the turn of the year and leads the German Division with fifteen. The latter has an assist in four league games for Die Wolfe.
Furthermore, Dutch Forward, Bas Dost has been in incredible form since Bundesliga resumed on the 30th of January. He has scored 13 goals in 8 games with 11 of those 13 strikes coming in the Bundesliga. This spellbinding form is made more impressive when you consider the fact that the former Eredivisie top scorer had registered just one goal before the winter break. Only Messi has scored more than the 6’5 feet Striker over the same period among the top five leagues in Europe. This Wolfsburg squad has almost everything a Coach wants: a Top Goalkeeper, Diego Benaglio and Young Prospect, Ricardo Rodriguez, Roger Federer’s countrymen; Solidity, you talk of Brazil’s Naldo; Experience, look to Gustavo, Flair and Pace, Andre Schurrle and Ivan Perisic tick the boxes in that regard and the Forgotten Man, Nicklas Bendtner.
At this rate, Hecking’s men are currently on course to smash the fifth place finish they posted in the 2013/14 season. They are also one of the top contenders for the Europa League. There’s no stopping them one is tempted to say. However, this is where it might end. Why? Well because of a certain High Voltage Power in the Division that has the Financial and “Electric” Power to suck life out of a rival who enters the “danger zone” leaving them dry; Bayern Munchen the name of the culprit. The Bavarians have developed a knack for poaching the best talents in their rivals nest just when the eggs are ready to hatch. Uli Hoeness, former Bayern President said in February 2012 “Honestly it is not our intent to weaken other teams” before later soberly admitting that “We have done that at times in the past but it is a side issue”. Well said, a side issue that leaves Die Roten rivals in the side of things right?
We at TouchlineUI have done a run-down of 10 Players who were bought over by the Bavarian Power from Rival Clubs for your reading pleasure:
1 Lothar Matthaus (Borussia Monchengladbach) (1984)
In the 1970s, Borussia Monchengladbach enjoyed domestic success winning the German Bundesliga. Die Fohlen however struggled to replicate such feat in the 80s save the 1983-84 season in which they narrowly failed in their bid to win a sixth Bundesliga Title on goal difference. Instrumental to that near success was a 23 year old Lothar Matthaus.
Ahead of Monchengladbach DFB-POKAL Final against Bayern Munchen in 1984, Matthaus announced his transfer to rival Die Roten for a then record 2.5 million Deutshce Marks. Munich would go on to win the German Cup 7-6 on penalties with Matthaus missing the decisive kick. He was branded “Judas” by fans of Monchengladbach.
Lothar Matthaus went on to become one of the greatest players in German history winning 7 Bundesliga Titles and 4 DFB Pokal Crowns in his two spells with the Bavarians while Borussia Monchengladbach finished fourth the following season with 39 points, 11 adrift of champions – Bayern Munchen. Matthaus weighed in 16 League goals, the highest by a Bayern Player.
*Do you know Lothar Matthaus is the first recipient of the FIFA World Player of the Year Award? The 53 year old won it in 1991. He’s also the only German to have received the award.
*Do you know he played in five World Cups (1982, 1986, 1990, 1994 and 1998)? That is more than any outfield player. He’s also holds the record for most World Cup matches played by a single player (25).
* Do you know Lothar Matthaus is the most capped German player of all time with a total of 150 appearances?
2 Stefan Effenberg (Borussia Monchengladbach) (1990, 1998)
Munchen would again in 1990 return to the Prussian club to sign 22 year old tireless midfielder, Stefan Effenberg nicknamed Der Tiger.
In his first two years with the Bavarian Giants though, the German failed to win silverware and was shipped to Italy where he had a spell with Fiorentina before returning to Monchengladbach in 1994. In 1998, he however made a surprise return to Munchen (a surprise considering the fact that he made quite a few friends in his first stint at the club), was made captain in 1999 and won 3 Bundesliga Titles and a German Cup. The crowning moment of his Bayern career came in 2001 when Die Bayern won the UEFA Champions League thus cementing his status as one of Bayern’s greats. For Monchengladbach, since his departure, they’ve finished in the top three places just once and that was in the 1986/87 season.
*Do you know that upon Der Tiger’s retirement, his 109 career yellow card was a Bundesliga record?
3 Oliver Kahn (Karlsruhe SC)
Following his role in Karsrusher’s 1994 run to the UEFA Cup semi-final and a sixth placed-finish in the Bundesliga, Kahn transferred from childhood club to Bayern Munchen, the defending champions, for 4.6 million Deutshe Marks (a record-fee for goalkeepers at the time). Bayern finished sixth the following season while Kahn’s former side finished eighth but have been since been relegated (1997-98).
Over his 21`year career, he established himself as one of the greatest if not the greatest goalkeeper of his generation. He’s also one of the most successful German players of all-time. He won 8 Bundesliga Titles and 6 DFB Pokals, the UEFA Cup in 1996, the UEFA Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup both in 2001.
*Do you know that at the 2002 World Cup, Oliver Kahn became the first and only goalkeeper in the tournament’s history to win the Golden Ball?
4 Michael Ballack (Bayer Leverkusen (2002)
The 2001/02 season is one that 38 year old Michael Ballack wouldn’t want to remember. That season saw him finish runner-up in every competition he entered. Leverkusen finished second in the
German Bundesliga to Borussia Dortmund after squandering a five point lead, lost 4-2 to Schalke 04 in the German Cup Final, lost 2-1 to Real Madrid in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League thanks to a wonder goal from Zinedine Zidane. Bayer Leverkusen was even dubbed Bayer Neverkusen. Germany also lost to Brazil in the 2002 World Cup Final though Ballack missed the final due to suspension, thus crowning a miserable season for him. Despite the misfortunes, the “Little Kaiser” had an outstanding individual season finishing third in the Bundesliga goal-scoring charts with 17 league goals.
So it was no surprise when Bayern Munchen, also coming off their first trophyless season since 1995, came calling and a fee of 12.9 million Euros was agreed thus bringing to an end a 3 year association with Bayer Leverkusen. The German would win three Bundesliga Titles and 3 DFB Pokals (2003, 2005 and 2006) but for Leverkusen, the transfer was catastrophic with Ballack’s departure ushering an era of unrest in the successful 2002 squad as they slipped from second to fifteenth the following season and just about avoided the drop. He later returned to the Bay Arena later in his career in 2010.
*Do you know Michael Ballack wore the number 13 shirt for every team he played for except Kaiserslautern?
5 Ze Roberto (Bayer Leverkusen) 2002
Following Michael Ballack to Bayern Munchen was Brazilian Ze Roberto. It wasn’t however easy for the Bavarian Giants to secure the talents of the Brazilian as Leverkusen Chairman, Reiner Calmund, was determined to keep his successful squad intact. After all the verbal and media exchanges which included the Brazilian saying “After all, there have been lots of players from Leverkusen that end up with Bayern”, Roberto was eventually sold for a fee of 12 million Euros. He would claim the League and Cup Double twice while Leverkusen has since failed to replicate their success of the 2002 season.
6 Lucio (Bayer Leverkusen) 2004
Leverkusen managed to hold on to Lucio for two more seasons despite the exits of Ballack and Ze Roberto. However, in 2004, following another trophyless season and after a transfer war between Juventus, AS Roma and Bayern, the Bavarian Giants secured the services of the Brazilian. He went on to win three titles and cup doubles. Two years later, only three players out of the starting eleven in the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final remained at Leverkusen. The club slid into further mediocrity.
*Do you Lucio was the one that got the leveler for Bayer Leverkusen after Raul put Real ahead in the 2002 UEFA Champions League?
7 Miroslav Klose (Werder Bremen) 2007
Fresh from winning the German Bundesliga, Werder Bremen signed Polish born German Forward, Miroslav Klose. He joined on a 4 year contract for a fee of 5 million Euros from Kaiserslautern. However in 2007, the poacher was a subject of a controversial move from North German side, Werder Bremen, to Bayern Munchen. The World Cup All-Time Highest Goal scorer announced on the 7th day of June, 2007 that he would be leaving for Bayern the following summer after the expiration of his contract. Bremen’s hands were tied and they were forced to sell their star forward to their rivals. Perhaps Lewandowski took a ‘Polish’ cue from this.
Though his time at Bayern Munchen was not as successful as his time with the German National Team, he still won two League and Cup Doubles and he also formed a lethal partnership with Luca Toni. For Werder Bremen, despite being one of most successful clubs in the early 2000s, they slipped down the ladder in recent years and have failed to appear in a European competition since the 2010-11 season.
Likewise, Bayern in 2007 signed rising German star Jan Schlawdroff from Aachen in order to stop him from moving to rivals, Werder Bremen. He made only eight appearances in the 2007/08 season before Bayern sold him. He was never called to the National squad again.
8 Manuel Neuer (Schalke 04) 2011
I don’t think any transfer has ever been as controversial as this, generating anger from both set of fans. Manuel Neuer was coming off the back of a hugely successful season leading his boyhood club, Schalke 04 to surprise Champions League Semi-Final finish and a DFB-Pokal title in the 2010/11 season. With Bayern struggling to replace the legendary Oliver Kahn, it was no surprise they cast their eyes on Manuel Neuer. In his final games at the Veltins Arena, Schalke fans greeted him with chants of “Judas” while other held signs that read, “You wanted to be a Schalke boy? You’re just a Bayern pig”. If he thought he would receive a better reception at Allianz Arena, he was mistaken. His reception at Allianz Arena was arguably worse with the Bayern fans angered by his open support for his former side and his mockery of Oliver Kahn’s goal celebration.
Since joining Bayern, the soon-to-be 29 year old goalkeeper has won the League and Cup Double twice (2012-13 and 2013-14), the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and the FIFA Club World Cup. Unlike other clubs that saw their stock crash after the departure of their key players, Schalke 04 are still one of the stop sides in Germany though they have struggled to replace Germany’s Number One.
*Do you know Manuel Neuer’s 22 million Euros move from Schalke 04 to Bayern Munchen made him the second most expensive goalkeeper, only behind Gianluigi Buffon?
9 Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund) 2013
If Manuel Neuer’s departure prompted anger, then this one prompted heartbreak. Gotze joined Dortmund’s youth setup at the age of eight and will spend a further twelve years at the Black and Yellows. He was the symbol of the revitalization that took place at the Signal Iduna which was building a youth setup following a financial meltdown between the early and mid-2000s. It was on the back of this youth setup the club won back-to-back Bundesliga titles between 2010-2012 with Gotze key in that successful side. It looked like Bayern’s stranglehold on the league had been broken…
However, in the hours leading up to Dortmund’s Champions League with Real Madrid, Munchen announced that it had agreed to meet the young German’s release clause which was 37 million Euros. Decision was cruel but timing was worse. Dortmund would advance to the final only to fall to, well your guess is as good as mine, Bayern Munchen with Gotze looking on from the stands. Despite finishing
an admirable second the following season, it was the 25 point difference that highlighted the gulf between the two sides. Gotze on the other hand has won the League and Cup Double once since his switch.
*Do you know Mario Gotze’s 37 million Euros move to the Allianz Arena makes him the second most expensive German player to date, behind Mesut Ozil?
10 Robert Lewandowski (Borussia Dortmund) 2014
While Gotze’s was a shock and sudden, Robert’s Lewandowski free transfer to Munich had an air of inevitability. The Pole announced his intention to join Bayern for the 2014/15 season in November 2013. The Pole, before announcing his intention, had played for Dortmund in a sorry and moody state. The Pole is currently on his way to winning the Bundesliga title while his old side, until January, was publicly flirting with relegation. Dortmund is yet to recover as the likes of Ciro Immobile and Adrian Ramos have simply not stepped up to the plate.
Others worthy of mention include:
Karl Del Haye: Borussia Monchengladbach-Bayern Munchen
Claudio Pizzaro: Werder Bremen- Bayern Munchen (twice)
Mario Gomez: VFB Stuttgart- Bayern Munchen
Dante: Borussia Monchengladbach- Bayern Munchen
Bayern have never shied away from poaching the best talents from rival clubs. While that might not have been a cautious effort in the 80s and 90s, their trophyless 2001/02 season and a strong Bayer squad saw the strategy change. They raided the Leverkusen squad and left it short of inspiration. With Dortmund providing the very same threat at the turn of the decade, the Bavarians employed the strategy again.
Now with the Volkswagen revolution on ground, one begins to wonder what will happen; especially with Ribery battling injuries and Lewandowski far from settled… one can only wonder. Good one Wolfsburg have entered the “danger zone” but beware, the Bavarian “high voltage” is just around the corner. There might be the argument that the last time Wolfsburg won the league which was in 2008, Bayern did not snap their two key players, Grafite who finished top scorer with 28 goals and Edin Dzeko who finished with 26 goals in the 2007/08 season. That’s just an exception, it sure doesn’t rule out a potential purchase of motor parts at the Volkswagen Arena. Well, if you can’t beat them, don’t join them, just buy them!
Over to the Volkswagen Drivers, let’s see how far they can drive the “people’s car”!!