Because I like to give you guys something to talk about, it’s time for another edition of ‘[insert league/competition here] XI].’
This time, the focus is on the Bundesliga, which is set to kick off in a week and a half when Bayern Munich take on Hamburg SV on the 15th. The Bundesliga, whether they are a force on the club level in Europe or not, aren’t short on talent, both with home-grown talent and imported talents as well.
So, I didn’t have any issues with having names to slot into this XI, though certain positions were much easier to fill than others, and as was the case with the forwards, I could’ve taken my pick and come up with a quality partnership no matter what (and this time, I did include real strikers).
Here were the rules I gave myself for this one:
1) No more than two outfield players from one side – That meant that there were a lot of players who you might like to see in here that got left out.
2) Anyone who’s been in a previous XI of mine couldn’t be selected. That means no Diego, Rafinha, or Vincent Kompany, who were selected in my Olympics XI.
3) Any player who has transferred INTO the Bundesliga this summer is ineligible, so that rules out names like Orlando Engelaar or Andrea Barzagli.
4) This one is the biggest one – no players from Bayern Munich. Nothing against Bayern in the least, but the readers out there may be a little more familiar with their key names than they may be with others who are on this list.
And so, without further ado, here’s your Bundesliga (minus Bayern Munich) XI.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer, Schalke 04
The 22-year old Neuer took over as Schalke’s #1 in the 2006/07 season and last season, Neuer showed why he’s in the running to be the next mainstay for Germany’s national team as the club made the Champions League quarters and finished with the third-best defensive record in the league behind Bayern and Hamburg SV.
Defender: Dede, Borussia Dortmund
The 30-year old Dede has been at Dortmund for a decade, and he’s still a steady performer at the back for BVB. He had a chance to move to Roma last summer, but instead of taking the money and going for greener pastures, he stayed in Dortmund, and he’s now a naturalized German citizen. Not only is he a key cog at the back, but he helps out on the attacking front, setting up several scoring opportunities for his teammates.
Defender: Joris Mathijsen, Hamburg SV
Mathijsen was a big reason why Hamburg SV had the second-best defensive record in the Bundesliga behind Bayern Munich, allowing only 26 goals in 34 league matches. The 28-year old has thrived in his two seasons at HSV, and along with Kompany, forms quite the imposing pair in the center of Hamburg’s defense.
Defender: Per Mertesacker, Werder Bremen
The 23-year old center back established himself as a name for the future at Hannover 96, where he broke into the first team in the 2003/04 season. Not long after, he was in Jurgen Klinsmann’s national team. After greatly impressing in the 2006 World Cup, he moved to Werder Bremen and has continued to develop into a top-class defender. He has 49 caps for Germany with many, many more to come.
Defender: Arne Friedrich, Hertha Berlin
Friedrich’s main position is right back, but he can also slot into the center of defense. Wherever he is, he’s a quality marker, and is a key man for both club and country, having earned 61 caps for Germany and taken part in the last two European championships and in the 2006 World Cup.
Midfielder: Thomas Hitzlsperger, VfB Stuttgart
Remmeber when he played at Aston Villa? Hitzlsperger showed great potential at Villa, but after leaving the Midlands in 2005 to return to his home country, Hitzlsperger has really blossomed. Last month, he was named the captain of VfB after the departure of defender Fernando Meira to Galatasaray, and earlier in the summer, he was a part of Germany’s squad at Euro 2008.
Midfielder: Simon Rolfes, Bayer Leverkusen
Rolfes may well be a defensive midfielder, but his biggest contributions for Bayer Leverkusen last season may have been in the scoring department. He scored eight league goals for the club last term, finishing third behind Theofanis Gekas and Stefan Kiessling. He’s also broken into the German national team over the last year-plus and started two games at Euro 2008.
Midfielder: Ivan Rakitic, Schalke 04
The 20-year old Rakitic is one of several young talents that Croatia currently has in their ranks, along with the likes of Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar. Rakitic made the jump from Swiss side FC Basel to Schalke last summer, and in his debut season, established himself as a key squad member and a future star, setting up a number of goals and chipping in with a few as well. That form translated into him starting for Croatia in Euro 2008, and if he keeps it up, it’ll translate into a big-money move to Spain/Italy/England in the near future.
Midfielder: Roberto Hilbert, VfB Stuttgart
The 23-year old Hilbert is valuable to VfB because of his versatility to man the right flank as a defender or as a midfielder/winger. He can score goals when needed, and he can also chip in with the regular assist. He’s picked up eight caps for Germany, and come World Cup 2010, could/should be a key player for the national team.
Forward: Kevin Kuranyi, Schalke 04
Kuranyi has been one of the top forwards in the Bundesliga for the last several seasons since bursting onto the scene with VfB Stuttgart in 2002/03. He does suffer with bouts of inconsistency at times, but he’s good for at least 15-20 goals per season. Last season, he netted 20 times in all competitions, including four in one outing against Energie Cottbus.
Forward: Markus Rosenberg, Werder Bremen
Rosenberg moved from Ajax to Werder Brenen before last season, and he made an instant impact, scoring 14 league goals and chipping in with several assists. The 25-year old Swede is also one of many people who has had an up-close and personal meeting with Christian Poulsen’s ‘touchy-feely’ side.
Now, there are a lot of names that I left out that I could’ve put in there, like Schalke’s Jermaine Jones, Hamburg’s Piotr Trochowski and Ivica Olic, Werder’s Torsten Frings, Stuttgart’s Mario Gomez, and that’s just to name a few. Gomez may be the most glaring omission, but I decided to stick two Stuttgart men in midfield instead, which crossed him off the list.
So, as is always the case when I do these things, let me know who you’d rather see in here, or make your own Bundesliga (minus Bayern Munich) XI to compare. That being said, I think this one can go out and compete very well against the best in Germany, but hey, you may not agree, so it’s your turn now.