The Bundesliga's 49th season kicks off on Friday night, when defending champion Borussia Dortmund hosts a completely re-engineered Hamburger SV. Last season's intoxicating randomness proved how difficult it is to predict Europe's most open league but here's a moderately educated guess as to how the 18 teams might finish -- subject to some last-minute wheeling and dealing, naturally.
The post-Bosman age of contractual freedom has made it much harder for the smaller European teams to hold onto their best players. In the case of German champions Borussia Dortmund, however, the fact that it succeeded with the youngest ever side now rather than, say, 20, years ago, actually works in its favor. In those days, every half-decent Germany player was snapped up instantly by Serie A clubs and Jürgen Klopp's side would have been dismantled in the time it takes to drink an espresso. But the Bundesliga's newfound prosperity has stopped the migration across the Alps in recent years. The crème of young German talent will only move to a handful of European super-clubs now, and for that reason alone it is unlikely that Borussia's brave young squad will suffer too much hemorrhage. It's therefore safe to disregard the "Mario Götze to Arsenal" or "Neven Subotic to Chelsea" rumors that will abound this summer. But some -- almost exclusively foreign -- players will still be on the
The Bundesliga's 48th season kicks off on Friday night, when defending champion Bayern Munich meets 2008-09 winner VfL Wolfsburg, now coached by Steve McClaren. Here is a (moderately) educated guess as to how the 18 teams might finish -- subject to some last-minute wheeling and dealing, naturally:
One prominent player agent in the Bundesliga has bought the domain mediocritysucks.de. He also loves sending out provocative letters with famous quotes from varied people -- Karl Marx, Confucius and Lukas Podolski have all been featured in the past. His latest missive came this week, in a letter with a big "Steven Gerrard for England" sticker, and it carried a good line at the back of the envelope: "We don't fear the competition, we are the competition."
As ascents to the footballing summit go, that of 1899 Hoffenheim takes some beating, more state-of-the-art cable car than rope and crampons. A year ago, the club based in a micro-conurbation in the southwest of Germany was mid-table in the Second Division, eight points off a promotion slot. Twelve months later, Hoffenheim topped the Bundesliga at the winter break, albeit only on goal difference from Bayern Munich.
Preseason forecasts of the survival chances of newly promoted clubs tend to be of the dark, doom-laden and deeply condescending variety, the vast majority condemned even before a ball is kicked. So it made a refreshing change for Bundesliga rookies 1899 Hoffenheim to be welcomed aboard in August to the sound of optimism.