On the pitch and off it, Germany are showing the rest of Europe the way. Not content with being the only financially stable member of the Eurozone, their top flight football teams had the temerity to actually make a collective profit last season, as well as consolidate their position as Europe’s most popular league, attendance wise.
For the 2012/13 season, the 50th in Bundesliga history, the big question will be whether Bayern Munich can knock Borussia Dortmund off their perch as champions after being left trailing in the Ruhr side’s wake for the last two years. Dortmund had won their last five games against Germany’s traditional number one club before this year’s Super Cup, but having so far resisted attempts to lure most of their star names the Borussen should be optimistic that they will mount a strong challenge for a third successive title. Keeping Mario Gotze was a key step, as was signing Marco Reus from Borussia Monchengladbach to replace Shinji Kagawa.
Bayern Munich have not looked back on last season with fondness, even though in technical terms they did well; but being runners-up in the three competitions entered is not the way things are meant to be for FC Hollywood. The signing of Dante will bolster a defence that was inconsistent last year – unbeatable at times and surprisingly weak at others. The front three of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Mario Gomez is one that strikes fear into most defences across the continent, but it is in midfield where the Bavarians can lack some bite without Bastian Schweinsteiger as they were for a chunk of last season. The probable capture of Spain star Javi Martinez will be aimed at countering that problem.
Further down, Schalke have lost Raul but they boast last year’s top scorer in Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Borussia Monchengladbach were the surprise of 2011/12, but have lost Reus and Dante. The signing of Atletico Madrid’s Alvaro Dominguez could fill the void left by Dante, but it is a daunting task for the Spaniard. Coping with the Champions League, if they make it to the group stage, will be an added complication for Lucien Favre’s men.
Further down the table lie a host of teams who will hope next season is better than last. Wolfsburg and Stuttgart harbour hopes of breaking into the top four, as may Bayer Leverkusen. Werder Bremen are looking to stabilise after losing a number of key names, while Hoffenheim have strengthened ahead of a renewed attempt to qualify for Europe.
Hannover, Nurnberg and Mainz have enjoyed impressive campaigns for the last two years and are aiming for a similarly comfortable season. At the wrong end, Augsburg just want to avoid relegation again despite a change of manager, whilst the newly promoted trio of Eintracht Frankfurt, Greuther Furth and Fortuna Dusseldorf may have their work cut out, as could Hamburg. The 1983 European Cup winners will be looking to rejuvenate their fortunes, but it could be another long season for the club, and the German giants may drop into the second tier if they are not careful.
Another tough season lies in store for Augsburg, who did superbly last season to avoid the drop. The side have lost manager Jos Luhukay, who did so well last time around, and now look to Markus Weinzierl to keep them in the top flight for a second season.
Midfielder Andreas Ottl is a very handy signing from Bayern Munich, but this is likely to be a far harder campaign for the Bavarians, particularly given the loss of Axel Bellinghausen. Koo Ja-Cheol may be a good addition if he can repeat the form he showed on loan towards the end of last season. But Weinzierl has never managed at this level and that could come to haunt Augsburg at the campaign’s end.
Key arrivals: Koo Ja-Cheol (Wolfsburg – loan); Knowledge Musona (Hoffenheim – loan), Kevin Vogt; (Bochum); Aristide Bance (Al-Ahli); Ragnar Klavan (AZ Alkmaar); Milan Petrzela (Viktoria Plzen); Andreas Ottl (Hertha Berlin)
Key departures: Axel Bellinghausen (Fortuna Dusseldorf); Hajime Hosogai (loan return – Bayer Leverkusen); Daniel Brinkmann (Energie Cottbus); Nando Rafael (Fortuna Dusseldorf); Marcel Ndjeng (Hertha Berlin)
Joint managers Sascha Lewandowski and Sami Hyypia have a tough job trying to return the Rhinelanders to the Champions League. Andre Schurrle was one of the best players in the league last season, but is attracting admiring glances from elsewhere.
With the departures of Michael Ballack, Tranquillo Barnetta and Eren Derdiyok, Leverkusen have work to do to replace the experience and quality they brought to the team. The signing of Philipp Wollscheid should help shore up the defence and much may be expected of Junior Fernandes to help find the net after his transfer from Chile.
Key arrivals: Junior Fernandez (Universidad de Chile); Daniel Ramos (Real Madrid); Phillipp Wollscheid (Nurnberg), Hajime Hosogai (loan return – Augsburg); Carlinhos (Sao Paolo – loan)
Key departures: Michael Ballack (released); Rene Adler (Hamburg); Eren Derdiyok (Hoffenheim); Thanos Petsos (Greuther Furth); Tranquillo Barnetta (Schalke); Danny da Costa (Ingolstadt – loan); Nicolai Jorgensen (Kaiserslautern – loan); Vedran Corluka (Tottenham Hotspur – loan return)
Two seasons without a league title is something of a rarity for Bayern Munich and nothing short of success this time will be satisfactory for the Bavarians. Dante comes in to add quality to a defence which was inconsistent last season. At times, such as at the start of the campaign, it seemed impregnable. At others, notably the cup final defeat to Dortmund, it was all at sea.
The signings of the creative Mandzukic and Shaqiri will add craft and variety to a team who can be too focused on attacking down the flanks through Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Matthias Sammer has replaced Christian Nerlinger in the boardroom and all the tools are there for a side who were close to success on three fronts last time.
In the Champions League sheer misfortune denied success at home in the final, whilst domestically it was ultimately costly defeats to the teams around them. Borussia Monchengladbach took six points off Bayern Munich, whilst Dortmund also won both encounters, and comfortably too. Coach Jupp Heynckes must find a way to beat Dortmund this term at last and put what is becoming a jinx to rest, otherwise it could be another frustrating campaign at the Allianz Arena. Javi Martinez seems set to arrive, and Bayern Munich will look to rotate more than last season, which could help finally win back the title.
Key arrivals: Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg); Dante (Borussia Monchengladbach); Xherdan Shaqiri (FC Basel); Tom Strong (Hoffenheim); Claudio Pizarro (Werder Bremen), Mitchell Weiser (Koln)
Key departures: Ivica Olic (Wolfsburg); Jorg Butt (retired); Danijel Pranjic (Sporting Lisbon); Breno (released); Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka); Nils Petersen (Werder Bremen)
Last year Dortmund lost Nuri Sahin, yet coped nonetheless and secured a second successive league title. This time around the Ruhr giants have sold Shinji Kagawa, but have brought in Marco Reus. Having been so influential in the Bundesliga last year, Reus is an ideal replacement for the hard working, creative and prolific Japanese forward.
Dortmund were irresistible at times in 2011/12, with Robert Lewandowski forcing his way into the first team and challenging Gomez for the title of ‘most feared forward in Germany’. Jurgen Klopp’s men will want to make a mark on the Champions League this year in a way they struggled to last season. It is hard to imagine the champions doing as badly again in that competition and should they progress, the toll of playing three times a week towards the end of the campaign could give Bayern Munich the chance to knock them off their perch.
Key arrivals: Marco Reus (Borussia Monchengladbach); Leonardo Bittencout (Energie Cottbus); Oliver Kirch (Kaiserslautern); Julian Schieber (Stuttgart)
Key departures: Shinji Kagawa (Manchester United); Lasse Sobiech (Greuther Furth – loan), Lucas Barrios (Guangzhou Evergrande); Antonio da Silva (Duisburg)
Lucien Favre has done a remarkable job to date for Gladbach. Recruited to save the side from relegation in 2011, he did just that and then more during the last campaign. Gladbach started 2011/12 by stunning Bayern in Munich, and did the double over them over the course of the season on the way to a highly creditable fourth. A remarkable success by all accounts, achieved through hard work and no little counter attacking skill, but to replicate that without Marco Reus is a challenge that may be beyond a doubtlessly talented side.
Losing Dante in defence is another blow, but Gladbach should at least be able to fight for a return to Europe’s top table after some intelligent summer signings. Alvaro Dominguez has plenty to do to fill the void left by Dante, but Luuk de Jong is the ideal man to lead the line, whilst the highly talented youngster Granit Xhaka should add quality in midfield.
Key arrivals: Alvaro Dominguez (Atletico Madrid); Luuk de Jong (FC Twente); Granit Xhaka (FC Basel); Peniel Mlapa (Hoffenheim)
Key departures: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund); Roman Neustadter (Schalke), Dante (Bayern Munich)
Frankfurt return to the Bundesliga with plenty of firepower, including three of the top scorers from the second tier last time around. They outscored their rivals on their way up into the Bundesliga and will look to survive that way at this level. Vadim Demidov should be a very good signing in defence, with his experience and quality, making Frankfurt possibly the best placed of the promoted teams to survive.
Armin Veh’s side are clearly looking for experience at the back, with Paul Scharner on trial and Carlos Bocanegra linked with a move and should be able to enjoy a successful battle against the drop.
Key arrivals: Martin Lanig (Koln); Stefan Aigner (1860 Munich); Kevin Trapp (Kaiserslautern); Stefano Celozzi (Stuttgart), Bastian Oczipka (Bayer Leverkusen); Olivier Occean (Greuther Furth); Takashi Inui (Bochum); Vadim Demidov (Real Sociedad)
Key departures: Caio (released); Mohamadou Idrissou (Kaiserslautern); Umit Korkmaz (Ingolstadt); Matthias Lehmann (Koln); Gordon Schildenfeld (Dynamo Moscow)
Dusseldorf arrive in the top flight via the playoffs, having relegated Hertha Berlin over two legs in May, but have lost their two best players. Assani Lukimya in defence and striker Sascha Rosler will prove difficult to replace and Norbert Meier will have a difficult job on his hands preserving the team’s status in the top flight this year. Dusseldorf have been particularly busy in the transfer market in a bid to stay in the division.
Their rise has been impressive after languishing in the third tier with financial problems not long ago, and this year will be their first in the top flight since 1997. Meier’s men should particularly enjoy having been promoted as rivals Cologne were relegated, but may be joining their neighbours in the second tier sooner than they would hope. However, having made the signing of Andriy Voronin on loan, as well as bringing in Bellinghausen, Dusseldorf may have recruited enough quality to earn a second season in the Bundesliga.
Key arrivals: Andriy Voronin (Dynamo Moscow – loan); Stelios Malezas (PAOK); Bastian Muller (Bayern Munich); Du-Ri Cha (Celtic); Nando Rafael (Augsburg); Fabian Giefer (Bayer Leverkusen); Ivan Paurevic (Borussia Dortmund); Leon Balogun (Werder Bremen); Bruno Soares (Duisburg), Andre Fomitschow (Wolfsburg)
Key departures: Adam Matuschyk (Koln – loan return), Thomas Broker (Koln), Maximilian Beister (Hamburg – loan return), Assani Lukimya (Werder Bremen); Moritz Volz (Duisburg)
Christian Streich performed wonders last year, dragging the team away from relegation danger despite selling star striker Papiss Cisse to Newcastle mid-season. Freiburg have had an understated summer in the transfer market, but should have a fighting chance of remaining above the battle against relegation once again.
Known for their excellent youth system, Freiburg will look to bring players through and rely on a defence that was excellent towards the end of last season. They also possess a good midfield, but the main concern will be getting more out of forwards such as Garra Dembele. Without that firepower they may have to settle for the bottom half of the table.
Key arrivals: Vegar Hedenstad (Stabaek); Max Kruse (St Pauli); Marco Terrazzino (Karlsruhe)
Key departures: Ezequiel Calvente (Real Betis, loan); Stefan Reisinger (Fortuna Dusseldorf); Michael Lumb (Zenit St. Petersburg); Andreas Hinkel (released)
The departure of Olivier Occean, top scorer last year, is a huge blow for the third promoted team to the Bundesliga; particularly as he joined Eintracht Frankfurt, who will battle against the drop with Greuther. This is the minnow’s first season in the top flight and they will begin the campaign with a mouth-watering home clash against Bayern Munich.
One for the picture book maybe, but not the ideal first match when trying to get off to a promising start to the season. Having won the second division in style last season they should be able to battle valiantly against demotion this season with confidence. Greuther Furth may have to go through the promotion/relegation playoff to preserve their status though.
Key arrivals: Baba Rahman (Asante Kotoko); Lasse Sobiech (Borussia Dortmund – loan); Thanos Petsos (Bayer Leverkusen); Wolfgang Hesl (Dynamo Dresden); Michael Hefele (Unterhaching); Djiby Fall (Lokeren); Tobias Mikkelsen (Nordsjaelland)
Key departures: Christian Rahn (Regensburg); Stephan Schrock (Hoffenheim); Dani Schahin (Fortuna Dusseldorf); Jasmin Fejzic (Aalen); Asen Karaslavov (Botev Plovdev); Olivier Occean (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Declining Hamburg finished just above the bottom three last season and look set to have another tough year ahead of them. Pablo Guerrero has left, as has Mladec Petric and David Jarolim. Rene Adler is the side’s key signing, whilst Paul Scharner will bring useful experience. But Hamburg have seemed in freefall for a while now and unless something significant changes it will be the same again this time around.
Financial problems are hampering their cause too, preventing them completing a move for former player Rafael van der Vaart. Coach Thorsten Fink arrived last year, but was unable to arrest their slide down the Bundesliga, and it will be arguably even harder for him this time around.
Key arrivals: Rene Adler (Bayer Leverkusen); Artem Rudnevs (Lech Poznan); Paul Scharner (West Brom); Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb)
Key departures: Gokhan (Rubin Kazan); Mladen Petric (Fulham); Romeo Castelen David Jarolim, Mickael Tavares (all released); Soren Bertram (Bochum); Pablo Guerrero (Corinthians)
Last season was not quite as spectacular as 2010/11, when Hannover almost reached the Champions League. But to finish seventh in a competitive league and make it into Europe again was impressive for Mirko Slomka’s men. That they were able to cope with both a European and domestic campaign demonstrated that they have a good squad, and they have kept together the bulk of the same team for this year.
Key players such as Karim Haggui and Mohammed Abdelloue will be vital if Hannover are to qualify for Europe for a third successive season. Hiroki Sakai was a part of the Japan side which was so impressive at the Olympics and his signing looks a good one to help assuage the loss of Emanuel Pogatetz. Felipe should be another useful addition in defence. The stability of Hannover contrasts with that of some of their rivals and that should mean they are in the race for a European spot again this year.
Key arrivals: Szabolcs Huszti (Zenit St. Petersburg); Hiroki Sakai (Kashiwa Reysol); Felipe (Standard Liege); Adrian Nikci (FC Zurich)
Key departures: Moritz Stoppelkamp (1860 Munich); Emanuel Pogatetz (Wolfsburg); Daniel Royer (Koln)
Hoffenheim, having gone from Bundesliga upstarts following successive promotions to mid-table ‘mediocrity’ recently, will start the season with renewed optimism as they look to spend their way into European contention.
Tim Wiese and Eren Derdiyok are excellent signings, two proven and adept Bundesliga performers. Joselu has joined and having strengthened throughout his team, Markus Babbel’s side are shaping up nicely ahead of the new season. They should be able to secure a Europa League place if they live up to their potential, but the battle for Europe will be a particularly tough one this year.
Key arrivals: Joselu (Real Madrid); Chris (Wolfsburg); Stephan Schroeck (Greuther Furth); Matthieu Delpierre (Stuttgart); Eren Derdiyok (Bayer Leverkusen); Tim Wiese (Werder Bremen); Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaka – loan)
Key departures: Chinedu Obasi (Schalke); Jukka Raitala (Heerenveen); Tom Strong (Bayern Munich); Knowledge Musona (Augsburg – loan); Gylfi Sigurdsson (Tottenham Hotspur); Peniel Mlapa (Borussia Monchengladbach); Srdjan Lakic (Wolfsburg)
Thomas Tuchel’s side were unable to repeat the remarkable form of the 2010/11 season last time around, but had to absorb a large number of new players. The coach will be more optimistic of pushing for a top half finish or even European football now, with a settled squad at his disposal. One of the quieter teams in the transfer window, Mainz’s main signing has been Nigerian midfielder Chinedu Ede.
Andreas Ivanschitz will be a key creative force going forward, particularly after Mohamed Zidan left for the United Arab Emirates, whilst Mainz will also look to Eric Choupo Moting to fire in the goals to keep them in the security of mid-table. There are few causes for fear for Tuchel, but Europe should be beyond them.
Key arrivals: Junior Diaz (Club Brugge); Chinedu Ede (Union Berlin)
Key departures: Zoltan Stieber (Greuther Furth); Mohamed Zidan (Bani Yas)
It was another steady season for Nurnberg, who have been understated in the transfer market this summer. That is not to say they have been quiet – boss Dieter Hecking has done one of the best piece of business in the Bundesliga by signing Hiroshi Kiyotake. Another star for Japan at this summer’s Olympics, he was one of the best players in the J-League last year and is an exciting prospect in attacking midfield, with superb technique. Kitoyake and Timo Gebhart will add youth, energy, pace and no little skill to Hecking’s side and go some way to offsetting the loss of Daniel Didavi, who returns to Stuttgart.
Much will still rest on the shoulders of Tomas Pekhart though, their joint top scorer last season for one of the least prolific sides in the Bundesliga, and so any serious injuries could hit them hard. Europe is probably beyond the Franconians, but the new season is welcomed with open arms by Nurnberg.
Key arrivals: Timo Gebhart (Stuttgart); Hiroshi Kiyotake (Cerezo Osaka); Marcos Antonio Elias Santos (Rapid Bucharest)
Key departures: Philipp Wollscheid (Bayer Leverkusen); Albert Bunjaku (Kaiserslautern); Christian Eigler (Ingolstadt)
Last year was not straightforward for Schalke despite their stroll to a Champions League spot. Coach Ralf Rangnick left early on suffering from stress, and Huub Stevens came in and did admirably. The Ruhr giants have lost Raul to Qatari football, but last season’s top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar should fire in enough goals to keep them in the hunt for another top four finish.
Tranquillo Barnetta’s arrival gives Schalke added creativity, but with a Champions League campaign to fight, it will be a tough ask to match their league performance last year. Stevens may be relieved that there are few teams who look capable of taking fourth ahead of his side.
Key arrivals: Chinedu Obasi (Hoffenheim); Roman Neustadter (Borussia Monchengladbach); Tranquillo Barnetta (Bayer Leverkusen)
Key departures: Raul (Al Sadd); Levan Kenia (Zenit St. Petersburg); Jan Moravek (Augsburg – loan return); Mario Gavranovic (FC Zurich); Tim Hoogland (Stuttgart – loan)
Bruno Labbadia’s team can mount a challenge for a Champions League spot if they can develop consistency. But without any real eye-catching signings allied to allowing a host of squad players to leave this summer, Stuttgart are not doing themselves any favours. The return of Didavi will help though, while Vedad Ibisevic will be a key player once again this term.
Martin Harnik can also be relied upon to produce this season and Stuttgart have a reasonable chance of even pushing for a top four place if things go their way and they get the rub of the green. There are a lot of ‘ifs’ however, and so that may be what separates Stuttgart from a Champions League berth.
Key arrivals: Jerome Kiesewetter, Tunay Torun (both Hertha Berlin); Tim Hoogland (Schalke – loan)
Key departures: Matthieu Delpierre (Hoffenheim); Timo Gebhart (Nurnberg); Khalid Boulahrouz (Sporting Lisbon); Stefano Celozzi (Eintracht Frankfurt); Julian Schieber (Borussia Dortmund)
Werder Bremen have been gradually disintegrating in recent years and now coach Thomas Schaaf is facing a huge challenge just to keep the side competitive in the Bundesliga. The club have lost key men Claudio Pizarro, Marko Marin, Tim Weise and Naldo, in a series of blows.
Winger Eljero Elia is a useful signing, but hardly set the world on fire at Juventus, and defender Theodor Gebre Selassie will be a good player too. A home clash with Dortmund is not the ideal way to start the season and a tough campaign lies in wait for the 2004 champions. Expect Werder Bremen to be some way off a European challenge, but also far enough away from the bottom three not to have to worry about the relegation scrap.
Key arrivals: Nils Petersen (Bayern Munich – loan); Richard Strebinger (Hertha Berlin); Theodor Gebre Selassie (Slovan Liberec); Eljero Elia (Juventus); Kevin De Bruyne (Chelsea – loan); Assani Lukimya (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
Key departures: Marko Marin (Chelsea); Tim Wiese (Hoffenheim); Mikael Silvestre (released); Markus Rosenberg (West Brom); Claudio Pizarro (Bayern Munich); Naldo (Wolfsburg)
Wolfsburg improved significantly last year, but it was still not enough for European qualification. Felix Magath, who led the Wolves to the title in 2009, has made some astute signings this summer. Naldo will help bring some reliability to what was a leaky defence last year. Ivica Olic is a proven scorer at this level and is a smart signing, whilst Bas Dost should be a good bet to adapt and further boost their forward line – the pair will help offset the loss of Mario Mandzukic and the long-term injury to Patrick Helmes.
With the tricky Czech Vaclav Pilar also arriving, Wolfsburg should be a good bet to snatch one of the two Champions League spots seemingly up for grabs.
Key arrivals: Bas Dost (Heerenveen); Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich); Vaclav Pilar (Viktoria Plzen); Naldo (Werder Bremen); Emanuel Pogatetz (Hannover); Fagner (Vasco da Gama); Srdjan Lakic (Hoffenheim)
Key departures: Mario Mandzukic (Bayern Munich); Hasan Salihamidzic, Thomas Hitzlsperger (both released)