7 of the Most Under-Appreciated Players of the Bundesliga Hinrunde

The seventeenth matchday in the Bundesliga last week signalled the end of the Hinrunde (first-half of season) and, after the DFB-Pokal third round in mid-week, the winter break in German football has commenced. 

This season has already thrown up some surprises with the demise of FC Koeln – who won their first league game on the final matchday – to the erratic form of Borussia Dortmund and the resurgence of Bayer Leverkusen.

There has been no shortage of excellent players having entertained millions, but while the Lewandowskis and Thiagos will take the plaudits, many others have put in great memorable shifts, too. 

7. Salif Sane – Hannover 96

Salif Sane has been a loyal servant to Hannover since joining in 2013. After the club were relegated in 2016, the Frenchman helped seal promotion at the first try.

Since then, die Roten have done well to end the year in a mid-table finish with Sane playing all but one game. The centre-back makes full use of his towering 6ft4 height to dominate in the air, while an eye for blocking passing lanes, averaging 2.6 interceptions per match.

Salif has a brother also playing in the Bundesliga in Lamine Sane of Werder Bremen.

6. Philipp Max – FC Augsburg

Not to be confused with Maximilian Philipp of Borussia Dortmund, Philipp Max has been one of the main reasons Augsburg have surprised many this campaign.

The left-back has impressed defensively, but excelled going forward, notching nine assists and a single goal. Die Fuggerstaedter were tipped to finally face the drop, but the silver Olympic medallist’s key passes and attacking prowess may be a catalyst for change in pushing Augsburg back into the European spots.

Little wonder the defender has been linked with Manchester City.

5. Thomas Delaney – Werder Bremen

Arriving almost a year ago, Thomas Delaney has perhaps had the biggest influence on a struggling Werder Bremen side mired in constant relegation worries. The Dane has kept die Gruen-Weissen together as they finally look to be turning a corner after a long winless run.

Delaney has averaged 2.9 tackles in all of Bremen’s league matches this season, and, despite Bremen sitting in 16th, the 26-year-old has been a major reason as to why the side have, statistically, the third-best defensive record in the league – weirdly.

4. Alfred Finnbogason – FC Augsburg

Another instrumental player for the lesser-known Bavarian side, Alfred Finnbogason has already bettered his goal tally than his last two seasons in the Bundesliga. 

Sitting behind only Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the race for the Torjaegerkanone (top-scorer award), the Iceland international has an immaculate eleven goals and two assists already – having a hand in almost half of Augsburg’s goals.

Moreover, Finnbogason is the only player to have bagged two hat-tricks this season and is finally blossoming at the age of 28.

3. Mark Uth – TSG Hoffenheim

After being largely confined to the bench in Hoffenheim’s sensational top-four finish last season, Mark Uth has been entrusted with more game time, and has not disappointed.

Like Finnbogason, Uth has already bettered previous campaigns in a matter of months. With nine goals to his name, the former Heerenveen striker has helped Hoffenheim in their dose of second season blues. 

The 26-year-old has scored some important strikes, too, in picking up points for Julian Nagelsmann’s constantly changing side, including a brace against FC Bayern Muenchen.

2. Leon Bailey – Bayer Leverkusen

After being forced to watch from the bench during the disaster that was last season, Leon Bailey has blossomed into being Bayer Leverkusen’s best player this year.

Featuring in fourteen Bundesliga matches, the Jamaican winger has injected a huge dose of speed into a Werkself side that seemed in limbo in the summer. Stealing the spotlight from fellow forward Julian Brandt, Bailey has six goals and four assists to his name already with dribbling skills bellying his age.

Sitting in fourth place, Leverkusen look to be back among Germany’s finest, and while they may not face a struggle to keep hold of the pacey youngster.

1. Naldo – FC Schalke 04

After being deprived of Joel Matip in 2016 by Liverpool, Naldo was a mainstay in a leaky Schalke defence last season, but has since grown in stature after Benedikt Hoewedes left for Juventus in the summer.

Naldo is enjoying one of his finest seasons in Germany, having spent a considerable time with Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg. Commanding at the back, the Brazilian has been adept at passing out from the back, with a pass success of 87.8% and an average 4.9 duels per game.

Not your average centre-back, Naldo has a flair for contributing to the attack and has a penchant for long shots and free-kicks in particular. At the age of 35, the defender has three goals and two assists this season. 

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Man City Overthrow Bayern Munich With New All-Time European Unbeaten Record

??Manchester City’s unrelenting march to the Premier League title appears to be a foregone conclusion after Wednesday’s win at ?Newcastle.

Pep Guardiola’s juggernaut are now a whopping 15 points clear of nearest rivals ?Manchester United, and it would take a spectacular implosion for them to throw away their unassailable lead even at this stage of the campaign.

It will come as no surprise, then, for fans to learn that City now hold the record for the best ‘start’ to a season – previously held by ?Bayern Munich – in Europe’s biggest five leagues thanks to their mind-boggling run of 19 wins and one draw from 20 matches:

Only ?Everton have managed to prevent City from chalking up a win in every one of their league clashes so far this term as the latter leaves their title rivals in the dirt with half the season to go.

Ironically it was Guardiola himself who led Bayern on their 18-match winning streak, and the Spaniard can now point to an even more remarkable record in the north west of England.

It pains us to say it but the ?Premier League is no longer competitive – trophy wise at least – when City can blow the opposition away so soon into the season.

England’s top flight has always prided itself on being one of the more entertaining leagues due to its nature of having three or four contenders for the crown, but that mantle has passed to ?Serie A with the other four top divisions pretty much seeing their title fights wrapped up already.

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City fans won’t care one jot, but everyone else may want to think about stopping something similar next time around…

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Bayern Munich Youngster Joshua Kimmich Set to Sign 5-Year Extension With the Bavarian Giants

Bayern Munich’s Joshua Kimmich is reportedly set to sign a new deal with the Bavarian outfit once the new year arrives – putting his signature onto a contract that will extend his stay at the Allianz Arena until 2023.

The back end of 2017 has been a hugely significant one in the 22-year-old’s career. With the retirement of Philipp Lahm arriving in the summer, the right back position was left to Kimmich, and the German has filled in brilliantly – registering a remarkable 10 assists already this season.

And now, according to German outlet Kicker, Kimmich will join teammate Kingsley Coman in signing a new contract with the club, which will see him pen a new five year deal – with significantly improved terms on the contract.

However, that’s not the only piece of good news that has arrived for the young defender recently. Kimmich has also been named ?Bayern’s ‘Player of the Year’ by the readers of newspaper Bild.

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“I am very pleased about the award, above all because the fans value and reward their own achievements. At the same time, it is also an incentive to keep improving myself,” he told the paper upon receiving the award.

Kimmich doubled the amount of votes received by second placed Robert Lewandowski (17%) by earning an impressive 35 percent from fans, while third placed Sven Ulreich (a surprise inclusion) received 10 percent.

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After a rocky start to the ?Bundesliga season, Bayern have once again managed to establish their dominance over the rest of Germany, and the Bavarian outfit sit 11 points clear at the helm of the top flight.

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Italian Giants Plan January Move for Liverpool Midfielder With Outcast to Be Used as Makeweight

Juventus are hoping they can convince Liverpool into selling Emre Can in the January transfer window by offering Marko Pjaca as part of the deal.

Can is entering the final few months of his contract and will be available to arrange details over a summer transfer in January. 

However, Juventus want to bring the German international to Turin in the winter transfer window as the midfielder has been attracting a lot of interest from across Europe.

Bayern Munich are understood to be interested in bringing Can back to Bavaria in the summer, five years after the Liverpool star first left the Allianz Arena. 

However, Juventus will be willing to offer Pjaca and cash to secure the signing of their long-term target before Bayern have a chance to swoop in, according to Tuttosport.

Pjaca only joined Juventus in 2016, leaving hometown side Dinamo Zagreb in a mega £20m deal. However, the 22-year-old winger has been left on the fringes of the Bianconeri first-team, making just 20 appearances for the Old Lady.

This season, Pjaca has been forced to play in Juve’s Primavera side, scoring two goals and registering three assists in four appearances for their youth team.

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Despite being a more regular choice for the Croatian national team, having made 13 appearances in his short career, Pjaca will want to make sure he is on the plane to Russia next year and could be tempted into leaving Juventus to book his spot at the World Cup.

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Yannick Carrasco Set for January Exit After Atletico Madrid Boss Diego Simeone Approves His Sale

?Atletico Madrid star Yannick Carrasco will be allowed to leave the club in January after his manager Diego Simeone gave his sale the all-clear.

Carrasco joined the Spanish side in 2015 and made 96 appearances in his first two seasons, scoring 19 times in those games. The 24-year-old has made 15 outings so far this season, netting three times, but hasn’t been involved in recent games for Los Rojiblancos.

According to ?AS, Diego Simeone is ready to let Carrasco exit the Wanda Metropolitano in January. The winger has become a problematic figure at the club after a number of incidents in the past year. The Belgium star has reportedly had bust-ups with teammates Koke and Gabi and fitness coach Oscar Ortega.

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Atletico star Vitolo, who has been on-loan with Las Palmas for the first part of this season, will become available to the club in January and will be a direct alternative to Carrasco.

Bayern Munich have apparently been linked with Carrasco before and a number of Premier League sides could also be interested. But if the star doesn’t move on in the January transfer window, Simeone will use him as a impact substitute for the second half of the campaign.

The Belgium international will join teammates Luciano Vietto and Nicolas Gaitan, who are also set to be sold in January. Atletico defender Sime Vrsaljko, who was originally himself set for the exit door, will now stay at the club at Carrasco’s expense.

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Atletico Madrid’s next fixture will be against Lleida in the Copa del Rey next Wednesday, after the Spanish winter break is over. 

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