Decade Under the Crossbar – Volume 3

26 05 2010

The Dutch legend re-gained Bayern Munich’s hold on the German Bundesliga and sparked Volume 3 of our series.

The European neighbors have shared players, coaches and history.  We’ll venture first to Louis’ homeland and catch up with the Dutch Eredivisie over the last decade.

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Recently the status quo has been put upside down with new teams taking over.  Since 1965, three Dutch teams have dominated the league.  AJAX, PSV EINDHOVEN, AND FEYENOORD have won all but three titles (AJAX leads with 29 total).  Two of those three “slip-ups” have happened in the last two seasons.  AZ (Alkmaar Zaanstreek) won in 2009 and FC TWENTE won this year’s title.    Currently the Eredivisie is slotted at #10 on the UEFA European National Ranking.  Over the last 40 years they been in flux hitting there domestic heights in the 70’s.  Recently the Russian and Ukrainian leagues have been on a tear up the lists.   With a so called down turn for the Dutch its amazing to see their National team so highly touted and even favorites for the upcoming World Cup (O don’t worry we’ll spend a lot of time on the Mighty Oranje for our WC preview).   So lets break-down the dutch over the last decade.

1999-2000 – PSV EINDHOVEN dominates in route to its 15 Dutch title.

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Meet Ruud before Man U – In 4 years and 67 games for PSV the Dutch Legend netted 64 goals.  He was signed by PSV from Heerenveen for a then Dutch Record of more then $7 million.  His first season he set a goal-scoring record with 31 in 34 games but PSV finished in third.   The turn of the century saw Ruud lead PSV to back-to-back titles before he embarked for English glory.  In this the first of those two title seasons Ruud netted 29 goals and won his second (back-to-back) Dutch Player of the Year awards.

2000-2001 – PSV pulls off the double (first time since 1990-1992).  A new scoring machine would shine.

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Mateja Kezman would join the long line of PSV Eindhoven strikers to win scoring titles.  An injury to Ruud had opened the door for the Serbian youngster.   The championship would give PSV 16 total.

2001-02 – AJAX reminds the world that AMSTERDAM is the Capital of Netherlands.

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The title would give them 28 in their history – double the next top team (PSV EINDHOVEN).   The team that Louis Van Gaal would first gain his name for in the early 90’s had been on a recent downturn.   They’d only placed as high as 3rd once in the last three seasons – this after they DOMINATED the late 90’s.  Van Gaal ended his AJAX tenure in 97′ and the team went through 4 managers until Ronald Koeman took over in 2001.  The Dutch giants would take home the double and things appeared to be on the change under “KO” Koeman (my nickname – not official!).  Journey-man Pierre Van Hooijdonk would win his only scoring title, netting 24.

2002-03 – The top three teams put on one of the most memorable races in Dutch history.

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PSV would win the title by one point (84pts) to AJAX (83pts) and FEYENOORD would finish third (80pts).  As usual Mateja Kezman would lead PSV, this time taking home his second scoring title with a crazy 35 goals!!  Mateja by that point had garnered the nickname Batman and with his winger teammate, Arjen Robben, a new tandem was born.  “Batman and Robin” (get it – Batman for Mateja and Robin for Robben!) would lead PSV back to glory.  The season marked the return of Guus Hiddink who would bring his World Cup Glory with South Korea to Eindhoven.  He also brought along Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo to give his Dutch squad a Korean flair to the line-up.  The Korean duo along with Batman and Robben would regain dominance for PSV.

2003-04 Ajax continues the back and forth with PSV.

Mateja Kezman would continue his amazing goal-scoring run as he took home his third scoring title with 31 total.  Even without a top 5 goal-scorer AJAX did have the most exciting talent with Swedish Sensation Zlatan Ibrahimovic.  His talented performance this season would gain him a highly profiled move to Italian giants Juventus in the transfer window.  Ronald Koeman had won 2 titles in 4 years and looked as if AJAX had been restored to glory.  This marked the 29th title for the Dutch leaders.  It is there last title to date!

2004-05 – PSV repeat of mid-80’s glory days would begin this year!!

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The top two goal scorers (Dirk Kuijt and Saloman Kalou) would both reach over 20 goals, but they would end up in a disappointing 4th place for Feyenoord.  Mark Van Bommel and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink would anchor the PSV club.  Van Bommel would parlay his mid-field dominance (would win Player of the Year – The Golden Shoe – his second with PSV) with a move to Barcelona the next season and Jan would leave the following year for Scottish champs Celtic.  PSV would clinch their 18th title with a 10 point lead over AJAX.

2005-06 – Peruvian footballer ignites PSV to back-to-back titles.

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Peru’s Jefferson Farfan wouldn’t win the scoring title, but his 20 goals would keep Guus’ team on top of the league.  Farfan was handpicked by the genius of Guus, who had a knack for finding talented scouts.  Farfan would eventually leave the club four mighty years later for the whooping figure of 10 million EUROS!  For all us American fans Guus would pick-up a winger from America – DeMarcus Beasley!!!  The young lad would take over Arjen Robben’s wing position and the #11 jersey – high honors for a relative unknown on the European front.   PSV would make it all the way to the semi-finals of the Champions League before losing to Milan, Demarcus would garner a lot of respect for his 4 goals in 12 CL matches.

2006-07 – PSV wins three in a row!!!

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PSV would have the closest season you can have with another team.  Both PSV and AJAX finished with a record of 23 wins 6 draws and 5 losses for a total of 75 pts.   PSV allowed 25 goals, while AJAX allowed 35 goals, but AJAX would score 84 goals and PSV would net only 75.  That’s right, think about Goal Differential – a 1 point margin.  PSV had 50 to AJAX 49!!!  WOW – ONE goal was the difference.  AJAX would gain solace by winning the Dutch Cup, but PSV would pull off the three-peat!  Both teams ironically would beat each other away from home.  AJAX stomped PSV 5-1 in Eindhoven while PSV shutout AJAX 1-0 in Amsterdam.   The title would give PSV 20 titles joining AJAX as the only clubs to win 20 plus titles.

2007-08 – THE FOUR PEAT!!!

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For the first time since they accomplished the feat in the mid-80’s (85-89) PSV would complete four straight championship seasons.  The irony of this last title is the team did it without a single goal-scorer in the top ten (that started the year with PSV – they did sign Kenneth Perez midyear – but his goals with the club wouldn’t equal top ten).  They took home their 21st title.

2008-2009 – TIDES CHANGING – AZ is the first team to win the title outside of the big three – in over 40 years!!

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The Louis Van Gaal managed club would pull off a tremendous feat for their historic title victory.  The club would go on an unbeaten 28 game run,  including a stretch of 11 matches in which the opposing teams did not score a single goal.  Van Gaal would take this success to Bayern Munich the following season.   Dutch-born Moroccan Mounir El Hamdaoui would take home the scoring title with 23 goals for AZ.  HOW ABOUT THIS FOR A HISTORICAL note – PSV would finish in fourth place – the first time they wouldn’t finish in the top three since 1981.  Why is that historic – well it was the FIRST time AZ won the title – yep AZ has finished first only twice and both seasons were the last times PSV didn’t have a top three finish!!  WHEW.

2009-2010 – FC TWENTE make history this season.

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Englishman Steve McClaren would join Sir Bobby Robson as the only British coaches to take a Dutch team to title town.  The title would be FC Twente first ever and also the first champion in the last 45 years outside of the top three and AZ.   McClaren was awarded the Rinus Michels Award for Dutch manager of the season.  McClaren’s side would be lead by Costa Rican striker Bryan Ruiz.  He would end this year with 24 goals and in second place.  FC Twente won the title by 1 point.  AJAX finished second with 85 points.   Twente clinched the title on the final game of the season, they ended with only 2 losses overall.  And to nicely transition to the German Bundisliga – Steve McClaren has departed Twente for Bundesliga giants Wolfsburg and Twente countered by bringing in Belgium manager Michel Preud’homme.

Before we venture to Germany.  Here is the Dutch All-Decade team.

GK – Heurelho Gomes – Brazilian is adored by PSV Eindhoven fans.

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He has the record for highest percentage of clean sheets in the Eredivisie, with him keeping a clean sheet in 60% of his league games for PSV.  In his first season in Holland, Gomes went 16 hours and 11 minutes without conceding a goal. In the same season, Gomes went on another run without conceding any goals, this time he didn’t concede a goal in 817 minutes. In his third season, 2006–07, he had again a notable streak. Gomes didn’t concede in 956 minutes, which eventually played a huge part in PSV’s surprise capture of the championship title.

Defender – Jan Heintze – Dutch great maybe only player to be on all 90’s and all 00’s!!

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The veteran allowed PSV youngsters like Wilfred Bouma to learn from him.  He helped train the squad that would take home 4 straight titles (he was part of the original four-peat PSV club.).  395 total games in a PSV Eindhoven uniform.

Defender – Eric Addo – Ghanaian starts out slow but leads the Eindhoven defense to Title after Title!!

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Part of all 6 title winning teams in the 00’s – Center-Back ruled the Dutch league.

Defender – Thomas Vermaelen – The Belgium Brick Wall.

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Never won the championship while at AJAX – but established himself as one of the world’s up-and-coming star defenders.  Is now the best defender on Arsenal’s back line.  A machine with a hell of a knack for heading the ball.

Midfielder – Mark Van Bommel

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The Controlling midfielder was twice named Dutch Player of the Year.   He also lead 4 PSV teams to title glory.  Considered one of the best controlling/defensive midfielder in Dutch history.  Bayern Munich controlling anchor for fellow dutchmen Louis Van Gaal.

Midfielder – Wesley Sneijder – Hero of Inter Milan’s Treble was an AJAX wonder-kid.

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The youngster has become such a talented spot-kicker that he has done the duties for AJAX, Real Madrid and now Inter Milan.  Widely regarded as the best dutch player right now.  He built a legacy with Ajax.  He won one title with Ajax (only have two this decade), two Dutch Cups, rookie of the year and player of the year.

Midfielder – Saloman Kalou – Chelsea’s left-wing maestro built his legacy with Feyenoord.

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His speed, agility and great ball-handling have established him as one of the world’s deadliest left-wings.  In the Dutch top flight for only three seasons from 2003 to 2006.  During his time at Feyenoord, Salomon scored 35 goals in 67 league appearances for the Rotterdam club, and also won an individual award when he won the Johan Cruijff Award in 2005 for being the most promising young talent of that season.

Midfielder – Arjen Robben – Wing has captivated England, Spain, and Germany since leaving Eindhoven.

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When discussions of best Dutch player it starts and ends with Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.  Both men were highlighted in this past weekend’s Champions League final.  Robben may have started to lose some hair, but he is still an incredible midfielder.  In only two dutch seasons Arjen went from talented winger to 18 million euro move to Chelsea.  Yep his partnership with Batman (Mateja Kezman) had captivated English soccer (Sir Alex badly wanted him for Man U!!).  His epic move to Chelsea was followed by another epic move to Real Madrid and finally he ended up with German giants Bayern Munich.

Midfielder – Dirk Kuyt – Liverpool’s fiery-haired Dutchman dominated back at home.

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A phenom by all meanings of the word.  He spent five years at FC Utrecht and in his final season he won his first senior honor, the Dutch Cup, and was chosen as the season’s Dutch Golden Shoe Winner.  He moved to Feyenoord the following year and eclipsed everything there.  He became the club captain in 2005 and was a prolific goalscorer at the Rotterdam club; he was the club’s top scorer for three consecutive seasons, the top goalscorer in the 2004–05 Eredivisie season, and the 2005–06 Dutch Footballer of the Year.  Kuyt missed only five games over seven seasons from 1999 until 2006 and appeared in 179 consecutive matches between 2001–06.

Striker – Ruud Van Nistelrooy – Short time at home – but Historic.

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In two memorable years at PSV he won a player of the year award, back-to-back scoring titles and league titles.   You don’t go down in history as the greatest Dutch goal-scorer without being brilliant.  The guy is one of the world’s greatest scorers EVER!!

Striker – Mateja Kezman – Batman!!

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Batman – dominated the first half of the decade by winning a Dutch title, Player of the Year Award, and taking home three scoring titles (most by anyone this decade).  He also established one of the best duos ever with Arjen Robben.   The Serbian Scorer left a hell of legacy at Eindhoven.

And now we cross the border…

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Compared to the other big European leagues the German’s are late bloomers, but blooming they are!!  They were founded only in 1963 (yep!!) but in this short of time the German’s have established a rabid fan base.   Other then the National Football League (NFL!!) and the Indian Premier League (Cricket folks!!) the German Bundesliga is the third most attended sporting event (averages attendance that is).  That’s right as a whole the English Premier may make more money and have a slight lead in TOTAL overall attendance but the German’s draw more folks for every league match then ANY soccer league!  Wow indeed.  So lets jump into the fun stuff.  What the heck Da Germans have been up-to this decade.  When you talk German futbol there is only one team that is king.  Champion League Final Runner-up – Bayern Munich –

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In total they have won 21 titles the next closest team is Borussia Mönchengladbach with 5 titles (all before 1978).  And Bayern Munich still reigns supreme this decade (yeah you’ll read a lot about ol’ Van Gaal’s team).

1999-2000 – Bayern carry the winning ways into the 00’s by defending there 1999 title.

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Look Oliver – you’re going to have like 20 pictures for this post – CALM DOWN ALREADY!!  The team was at an all-time high after narrowly losing the Champions League final to Manchester United (famous treble that made Alex Ferguson a Sir!!).  Bayern Munich hired Ottmar Hitfeld in 1998 and he immediately brought the team to a new level.  His main weapon was his Goalie – the before mentioned screaming giant that is Oliver Kahn.  OK can easily be argued to be one of Germany’s greatest players ever.   The team brought home there second straight title with Ottmar as manager and pulled off the double by winning the German Cup.  It was not an easy title as they finished the year with 73 points tied with Bayer Leverkusen, but Oliver Kahn helped out a bit as Bayern finished with only 28 goals allowed (lowest in the league).  Bayern won by a goal differential of of seven!!!

2000-01 – Bayern kept it tight till the end but still pulled off the THREE PEAT!!

The German giants have pulled off three-peats two other times in there history (early 70’s and mid 80’s) and then the turn of the century.   Like the previous season they had to win on the final day of the season.  But 2001 will be most remembered for Ottmar bringing home the Champions League title (they beat Valencia on penalties – thanks Oliver again).  The title was there 4 major European Championship and the first CL title (they’ve been runner-up twice – 99′ and 2010).

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2001-02 – Bayern fall and Borussia Dortmund take home the title!!!

Marcio Amoroso took home the scoring title with 18 goals but the big man in net was making a statement as well.

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Jens Lehmann – the mad man has some of the most kick-ass records…Jens holds the record for most red cards for any player of Borussia Dortmund as well as for any goalkeeper in the German Bundesliga.  This temper would lead to him exiting Germany for Arsenal – but not before he helped Dortmund win it all.  And like the two previous races it would come down to the final day.  Munich would end up third with 68 points, Leverkusen (“the almost champs” so many times!!) with 69 points and Dortmund hit the 70 mark.

2002-03 – Hey Oliver CALM DOWN you won it again.

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The team won another double and this time they killed the competition.  They won the title by a record 16 pt margin (ouch!!).  The team was loaded with talent – they picked up future German captain Michael Ballack from Leverkusen and a few South American’s stood out.  Brazilian Elber lead the league in goals and Peruvian striker Claudio Pizarro was his partner up top.  Both men are # 1 and #2 for foreign born goal-scorers in the Bundesliga.  Expect Claudio is #1 and Elber #2.

2003-04 – W = Win = Werder Bremen!!!

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The club became only the fourth German team to win the classic double.  A historic season indeed.   They won the league by 6 points over Bayern Munich (Ottmar’s final year as manager).   Werder’s manager has one of the most unique and loyal stories i’ve ever heard.  Thomas Schaaf arrived at Werder Bremen‘s youth academy in 1972, turning professional six years later. After a slow start with the first team, where he made twenty league appearances during four years, he eventually became an important squad member. Schaaf went on to play 262 first division matches, eventually retiring in 1994.  Schaaf began his coaching career while still an active player, taking care of Werder’s youth sides. After this he proceeded to manage the reserve team, before succeeding Felix Magath on 9 May 1999 as the senior side’s coach, with Werder under serious threat of relegation until the last day of the season.  Yeah he then took them to double greatness only five years later!!  He owes a lot to his goal-scoring machine – Brazilian Aílton.   He netted 28 goals this season!!!  Due to his achievements at Bremen, he was selected in 2004 as the first foreigner to win the German Footballer of the Year award.  Not a bad story from Thomas to Ailton.

2004-05 – GUESS WHO’S BACK!!

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REALLY FREAKING FUNNY OLIVER!

A New Head Coach – Felix Magath, A New top goal-scorer Dutchmen Roy Makaay (22 goals),  but that same ol’ GK!!  They dominated the league winning it by 15 points.  Just keep chugging along.

2005-06 – Um who else but Munich – you getting the theme here?

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We hear ya buddy.  The team had a nice competition going with Werder Bremen, but losing only 3 games all year gave the title to Munich.  The team did have a brand new arena to play in thought – and that’s the coolest part of the season.  Allianz Arena opened with a title!

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2006-07 – Munich’s big rival city to the West takes home the title – VfB Stuttgart!!

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The youngest team that year finished with the top two honors (next to the title itself).  Manager Armin Veh who claimed his first championship as a Bundesliga coach was elected German Football Manager of the Year while striker Mario Gomez was named German Footballer of the Year in 2007.

2007-08 – The return of Ottmar brings glory back to Munich.  (well a year late – he came back in 2006).

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For the 2007–08 season, Bayern Munich made drastic squad changes to help retool and rebuild. They signed a total of eight new players and sold, released or loaned out nine of their existing players. Hamit Altintop from Schalke 04, Luca Toni from ACF Fiorentina, Miroslav Klose from Werder Bremen, and record signing Franck Ribéry from Olympique Marseille headlined the signings.  They all paid off – Luca Toni took home the scoring title and the diminutive French winger Ribery took home player of the year and Ottmar took home manager of the year.

2008-09 – Bark at the MOON!!! – WOLFSBURG wins their first title ever!!

logo though you might as well have this image for the team…

http://leaderswedeserve.files.wordpress.com/2009/08/vw-logo.png The team is 100% owned by Volkswagen Group.

The “Green” club made a huge move in the right direction when they brought on Bayern Munich’s old manager – Felix Magath in 2007.

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Drink up old boy…you earned it.  Notice the VW logo on his right arm!!

Under Magath, Wolfsburg claimed their biggest success by winning their first Bundesliga title after defeating Werder Bremen 5–1 on 23 May, 2009. During this campaign, Wolfsburg equaled the longest winning streak in one Bundesliga season with 10 successive victories after the winter break. They also became the only team in the Bundesliga to have had two strikers to score more than 20 goals each in one season with Brazilian Grafite and Bosnian Edin Džeko achieving this feat in their title-winning season, scoring 28 and 26 respectively. As a result of their title win, Wolfsburg qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in their history.   For a local connect – Wolfburg signed Midfielder Chad Deering (Born in Garland but starred at Plano Senior High !!!!) for two seasons (41 games – 5 goals scored).  He left Germany to join the newly formed MLS and his home town team – the DALLAS BURN.   Yeah I’ll respect a team if they have a fellow Texan, especially a Maroon and White member – (Markus knows about being a star athlete for the ol’ Senior High – well “star” might be pushing it – haha).

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2009-10 – Who do you expect to see?

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Yeah Louis NOT OLIVER!!! Kahn retired from Bayern Munich in 2008, but here is one final look at one of Germany’s all-time greats!

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Bye buddy – fun times watching ya!!  Bayern Munich welcomed the Dutch manager and after the first few months seemed like they made a HORRIBLE choice.   He got off to a poor start as Bayern Munich coach, winning only one of his first four matches in charge and by November the club was on the brink of a first round Champions League exit following two losses to Bordeaux. With Bayer Leverkusen at the top of the Bundesliga, speculation was rampant that van Gaal was on the brink of a departure from Bayern even earlier than his predecessor Jürgen Klinsmann.  On 28 August 2009 van Gaal strengthened his team by getting Arjen Robben from Real Madrid, this reunited him with van Gaal who debuted him in the Dutch National U20 team.  Louis kept strong and turned Munich back into winners.  On 8 May 2010, FC Bayern were finally crowned champions of the Bundesliga following a 3–1 win at Hertha Berlin. This feat made Louis van Gaal the first ever Dutch coach to win the Bundesliga. Bayern also won the German Cup (DFB-Pokal) on 15 May 2010, thus securing their domestic double and making van Gaal the winner of the Cup in the Netherlands, Spain and Germany.  For this crazy roller-coaster ride Louis won the Football Manager Of The Year award in Germany in 2010.  In doing so he became the first non-German person to win this prize.  Bayern Munich went from the gutter to ulimate glory and had a chance this past weekend to pull of the historic European Treble (instead Louis former coaching assistant Jose Mourinho pulled off the feat with Inter Milan).

German All-Decade Team (I lied Oliver Kahn makes one more appearance).

GK – Oliver Kahn.

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Hey Klose – I’m # 1!!!! – Here’s the run down for Mr. Kahn – eight German championships, six German cups, the UEFA Cup (1996), the UEFA Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup (both 2001). His individual contributions have earned him four consecutive UEFA Best European Goalkeeper awards, three IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper of the Year awards, the Golden Ball at the 2002 FIFA World Cup and two German “Footballer of the Year” trophies. He played for the German national team (from 1994 to 2006), where he was starting goalkeeper of the 2002 World Cup squad which reached the Finals and won the FIFA World Cup Golden Ball for his performance. Kahn is nicknamed “King Kahn” or “The Titan” due to his formidable presence and influence.

Defender – Phillip Lahm – the tiny terror

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Came into the forefront while at Stuttgart but his return to Munich has seen him remain the constant pick for Left-Back.  His pace and speed along the flank pushes him over other defenders.  Granted his success for the National team may outshine his Munich days – Its hard not to see him on the all-decade team.  He oozes top left-back (not bad for a right footed kid who played right-back all during his youth days).

Defender – Willy Sagnol – The French Anchor with an eye for a perfect cross!!

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Bayern Munich loves its defenders to scream up the flank and make a perfect cross (none were better then the Frenchman).  Sagnol’s superb crossing ability marked him out as a key player in Bayern’s attacking play. With the Bavarian club, he won the Bundesliga in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008, as well as the Champions League in 2001 and the German Cup in 2003, 2005, 2006, and 2008.

Lucio – Brazilian dominates the center of Leverkusen, Munich and our defense.

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He may have won the Champions League treble with Inter Milan – but the Brazilian built a legacy in Germany.  His mix of power and balance has always put him in the right place.  He is also a lethal goal-scorer on set pieces and seems to step up in the biggest games.  Three titles while with Bayern Munich and along with Mark Van Bommel were the vocal leaders of those clubs (Oliver Kahn wore the arm band and yelled a lot, but always respected his Center Defender).

Midfielder – Bernd Schneider – Leverkusen’s Maestro.

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The “White-Brazilian” is famous for his great dribbling skills and incredible accurate passing.  Even known more as the intelligent set-up man, he still scored goals (most rockets from way outside the box!!).  A master set-piece and free-kick taker Bernd is an icon for Leverkusen fans.   His on the ball talents easily slot him into the all-decade team.

Midfielder – Ze Roberto – Brazilian Winger shined for Leverkusen and impressed with Munich.

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During his four year stay at the club, Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed its most successful period, being German Bundesliga runners-up on three occasions and reaching the 2002 UEFA Champions League Final. In four years at the club Zé Roberto appeared in 113 league matches scoring 17 goals.  A falling out with Munich coach Felix Magath forced the Brazilian to split his time with Bayern.  Before Felix Ze Roberto was part of the domestic league and Cup double three times between 2002 and 2006.  His return marked a brilliant partnership with Mark Van Bommel.  Fun to watch is a solid enough reason to have Ze Roberto on any team.

Midfielder – Torsten Frings – Not that pretty but important.

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I’m a fan of any player that can be sum’d up with one word.  WARRIOR.  This guy is a freaking fighter, don’t let the girlish long-hair fool ya – Frings is on this team because he has no issue putting you on your ass.  His two spells with Werder Breman outshine his Munich stay, but his enforcer role was effective in both places.  He might not have the shiny stats or the flair of a Diego or Ribery, but Frings is a type of player you need.  He’s the guy that protects your stars because you fear him.  Warrior indeed.

Midfielder – Bastian Schweinsteiger – Lucky # 7.

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Ok so he is wearing my favorite number (#10 might get all the girls, but #7 is a classic number – DAVID BECKHAM anyone).  Beckham surprisingly comes to mind with Bastian – both have had wild hair-do’s, have lethal passing skills, and have been loved by the female fans.  Bastian though has always been more important then Ribery to Munich.  I know I’ll hear shit for that last statement, but Bastian is freaking awesome.  At only 25 years old, he is one of the longest-serving players at Bayern, having been at the club since he was a teenager.  He’s been a staple on the wing for all five of Munich’s doubles this decade.  Like Becks Bastian can put the ball ANYWHERE he pleases and that talent outshines any fancy dribbling any day of the week.   He is legit!

Midfielder – Michael Ballack – Big Mid with a hell of a rocket leg.

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Bayer Levekusen is the first place Michael started to turn heads.  Ballack was instrumental to the success of Leverkusen, scoring 27 goals in the league and nine in Europe over the course of his three seasons at the BayArena.  His final season with the club was pretty historic (it was during a WC season where he took the Germans to the final – but had to miss that game cuz of a red-card!!).  Ballack finished with 17 league goals, and his performance over the season led to him being voted into the UEFA.com users’ Team of 2002 as well being named German Footballer of the Year.  O then he joined Bayern Munich – haha.  In his four seasons with the club he finished with double digit goals three of those seasons.  He was an anchor and the face of the club, though Munich lackluster performances in Champions League play ended his love affair with the club.  He joined English Giants Chelsea in 2006.  Controlling Attack Midfielder don’t come across very often and known with Michael’s 6’3 frame.

Striker – Ailton – The Crying Brazilian knew how to score goals.

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People will bring up Claudio Pizarro, Elber, and a slew of other foreign folks who have impressed in Germany, but known had the flair that Ailton had.  Here’s the run down.  In 1999–00 he scored twelve goals, 13 in 2000–01, 16 in 2001–02 and 2002–03, the following season bringing with it 28 goals. He won the Bundesliga and the German Cup with Werder Bremen. Due to his achievements at Bremen, he was selected in 2004 as the first foreigner to win the German Footballer of the Year award.  Yep FIRST.  People might make fun of his emotional interviews while with Breman, but the guy was WONDERFUL to watch play.  Pizarro and Elber have nothing on the brilliance that Ailton pulled off in his short time in Germany.  The Cheeky Chubby Crybaby is easily the best of the best.

Striker –  Roy Makaay – Dutchman had the best shot in the game.

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Ok I know what you’re saying no Klose?  Well lets look at what the Dutchman did in four seasons with Bayern.  He never, let me say that again NEVER scored less then 15 goals.  78 goals in 129 appearances for Munich are better then Claudio’s 71 in 174 or Klose’s 76 in 166 (with Werder and Munich combined).  The guy was a goal-scoring machine.  In fact his final game ever he scored a hat-trick.

Thus my tale of a Dutch/German love affair has ended.  WHEW!!  Stay tuned.  Volume 4 deals with Portugal and France’s top leagues.  Volume 5 takes a look into the Italy and how a Scandal rocked the Soccer world.  Finally, we’ll peak in on Spain which many argued has become the best soccer league (even though they can’t seem to make any darn money – we’ll get into that don’t worry!!).   This all leads up to our World Cup Coverage which begins in June.  Don’t worry we’ll do much more then just soccer – just with the WC coming around PSD wants to make sure you’re ready.

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