Bundesliga Focus - Müller, Mertesacker and Raul show Germany’s domestic strength
The 2010 World Cup was highlighted for the emergence of young talent from across the globe. Among the nations sporting their finest flair were Uruguay with Luis Suarez, Netherlands’ Elerjo Elia, Angel Di Maria from Argentina and Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik. But it was Germany that stood tall and proud as Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller came away from South Africa with major plaudits. Bayern Munich’s Müller was awarded Young Player of the Tournament and the Golden Boot.
The current theme in Germany seems to be to keep German football a self-reliant, self-funding machine through non-inflated ticket prices for die-hard fans trekking into stadiums week in, week out. Attendances and decibel levels are consistently high in turn keeping the big names at home in Germany. At the time of the World Cup selections, the entire 23-man German squad plied their trade in the Bundesliga, a remarkable fact considering the amount of players from across the world that come to England to play in the Premier League. It is a testament to the strength of the Bundesliga that the stars of Germany pledge their allegiance and remain in Deutschland.
Raul’s switch from Real Madrid to Schalke 04 is a clear symbol of German football’s attraction. The Spanish legend had stated that the twilight of his career would be in either England or Germany. Schalke Coach Felix Magath wasted no time in securing his services and giving him his famous number seven. The youth in Germany will no doubt benefit from experienced stars like Raul, Bastian Schweinsteiger a key example - the last few seasons have seen the fledgling midfielder turn into Bayern and Germany’s midfield custodian, integral to both his club and national team, orchestrating play with stunning authority, vision and power. While in his teens and early twenties, Schweinsteiger played alongside Bayern legend Mehmet Scholl which no doubt helped his career development and has learnt the tricks of the trade into developing into a world class midfielder. Bayern’s new wunderkind Thomas Müller is a rising star, as his career develops he is sure to benefit from his tall, deadly colleague Miroslav Klose and has already shown glimpses not dissimilar to Munich’s No 18.
The danger or perhaps benefit that most stars have at this age are the Premier League or La Liga clubs vying for their services, a tug of war ensues and financial constraints force clubs to sell. While clubs from other leagues are often unable to hold onto big players, Bundesliga outfits have a knack for keeping their talent to groom in their own backyard. Werder Bremen’s Per Mertesacker has reiterated his will to stay at Weserstadion despite being linked with a high profile move to Arsenal. Mesut Özil has made waves attracting a wide variety of interest, notably from Manchester United and Barcelona. Oozing bags of confidence and skill, Özil has become Germany’s new poster boy, similar to Mario Gomez (foreign descent but taking German nationality). Mesut Özil is potentially the one big name from the German squad - after Sami Khedira moving to Real Madrid - that could leave Germany. The question remains whether Özil will break the precedent and develop his career abroad. In addition to this strong loyalty to the league, Asia’s new current crop of footballers seem to have found their niche in German football. Borussia Dortmund’s friendly against Manchester City last week saw Shinji Kagawa net in a 3-1 win. Kagawa may have missed out on Japan’s World Cup campaign but looks the part to settle comfortably in Germany. Hopefully this latest influx of Asian players is not merely an entryway to more glamorous football of Western Europe.
With the start of the Bundesliga season just over a week away, Germany’s friendly against Denmark was clearly ill-timed and met with fierce criticism of the German Football Federation (DFB). Joachim Löw prioritised the Bundesliga and left the big name players at home to prepare for the start of the season and while this has temporarily put an end to the club vs. country dispute, the quarrel is sure to rear its head again as Germany take on Belgium on September 3 in a 2012 European Championships qualifier two weeks after the season starts. Internationals at the beginning of the season have an ugly habit of crippling many teams with injuries and further congesting the fixture list, with such loyalty and respect shown to the league from the players and fans alike, perhaps the DFB should reciprocate and allow the focus to be on the Bundesliga.