Goal runs through the best players in the German top flight in 2013-14 and picks out the top 11 performers over the course of the campaign
Bayern Munich retained their Bundesliga title in record time this season under the tutelage of new coach Pep Guardiola in what was an intriguing campaign in Germany.
Borussia Dortmund overcame a glut of injuries to finish runners-up, Schalke produced a fine second half of the sesason to seal a Champions League spot and Bayer Leverkusen languished after Christmas, costing Sami Hyypia his job.
And so, as 2013-14 draws to a close, Goal picks the best XI in Germany’s top tier, with the likes of Franck Ribery and Sokratis Papastathopoulos coming close but missing out in a testament to the division’s strength.
It looked as though Ralf Fahrmann’s Schalke careeer was all but over after injury saw Lars Unnerstall and Timo Hildebrand overtake him in the pecking order, but the German got the chance to stake his claim and he grabbed it with both hands, showing just why the club bought him to replace Manuel Neuer in 2011.
Kevin Grosskreutz found a new position at Borussia Dortmund, thriving at right-back in the absence of Lukasz Piszczek and even featuring ahead of the Pole following his return from injury. BVB lost many players throughout the season but the hometown boy was a model of consistency and dedication.
Jerome Boateng, meanwhile, enjoyed the best season of his career to date as Bayern romped to the Bundesliga title. His form, like many of his team-mates, dropped after they sealed the trophy, but he used his pace to great effect as Bayern obliterated opponents, despite appearing vulnerable on the break.
Joining the German at centre-back is Naldo of Wolfsburg. The Brazilian has spearheaded his side’s push for a Champions League finish with a series of solid showings at the back and has shown how destructive he can be in the opposition box too, chipping in with a few goals.
The final member of the back four is David Alaba, who cemented his status as one of the best full-backs in world football with a series of accomplished performances going forward and at the back for Bayern.
Another player who performed admirably in a new position is Philipp Lahm, who was shunted into a midfield role by Guardiola and took to it with aplomb quickly becoming Bayern’s heartbeat. Alongside the experienced Germany skipper is Johannes Geis, a young midfielder who shone as Mainz enjoyed a brilliant season.
Three players who have been among the goals sit in front of the “double-six”. Arjen Robben has gone from strength to strength since scoring the winning goal in last season’s Champions League final and terrorised countless defences with his incisive running.
In the middle of the attacking midfield trident is Roberto Firmino, who has enjoyed an extraordinary season for goal-happy Hoffenheim, and Marco Reus lines up on the left thanks to a string of brilliant perforrmances for Dortmund.
Up front, we are spoiled for choice. Adrian Ramos’ goals before Christmas saw Hertha Berlin to the top few places and helped the Colombian earn a move to Dortmund. Mario Mandzukic, meanwhile, continued his quiet brilliance for Bayern with a number of great showings and Josip Drmic looked like helping Nurnberg pull off a great escape with a great run of form at the turn of the year.
But there is only one man who can take the No.9 shirt: Robert Lewandowski. The Polish striker was a model of consistency once more for BVB and looks likely to seal the top scorer award, but his all-round game has been just as impressive.