Bundesliga’s Back: Fake fans, plastic teams, old hands & young superstars

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The Belarusian Premier League. Tajikistan Higher League. K League. Now the German Bundesliga is about to begin play, making it the highest profile soccer league in the world in action.

The league resumes with 25 games already played and Bayern Munich – winners of seven straight titles – holding a four-point lead over second place Borussia Dortmund.

Red Bull Leipzig, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen round out the top five.

It’s an entertaining league with some exciting some talent and some big-time veterans. The crowds, which are among the world’s best from a number standpoint, obviously won’t be there but the talent will be.

From a psychological standpoint, it’s also great to have a big league back, with hopes that La Liga, Serie A and the English Premier League may soon follow suit.

Here are some things to look for:

Mönchengladbach’s virtual fans

We’ve seen cardboard cutout fan photos and even robotic supporters in the stands at Taiwanese and Korean baseball games and the Bundesliga is getting in on the act too. For 20 bucks (maybe a bit more with the exchange rate) Borussia Mönchengladbach will take your photograph, make it into a cutout and put the image in the empty stands at Borussia-Park Stadium.

So far 4,500 have been produced, with another 12,000 on order (Note: the scheme has already been hijacked by English fans who signed up a notorious criminal as a Gladbach fan.)

Schalke wants you

Sixth place Schalke made a pitch to fans of the English Premier League, hoping to gain their support while the EPL is on hold. Schalke sent a tweet thread with an impassioned appeal to fans of every Premier League club.

Transfer speculation

Speaking of England, you bored Premier League fans can sit back and watch a number of rumoured transfer targets, including:

Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund): The 20-year old is one of England’s brightest young stars and it’s no secret that Manchester United are after him.

Philippe Coutinho (Bayern Munich): The on-loan (from Barcelona) Brazilian is still recovering from ankle surgery and may not take to the pitch. But that hasn’t stopped the rumours of an off-season move to Chelsea.

Timo Werner (Red Bull Leipzig): The prolific 24-year old has been the subject of transfer talks for a couple of years now, but when your own boss (Leipzig chief Ralf Rangnick) says a move to Liverpool would suit you, well it’s probably a done deal.

Jonjoe Kenny (Schalke): After a tough start at Everton, the on-loan 23-year old has been a revelation for Schalke and now there is interest from other Premier League sides, including (apparently) Arsenal.

The old men getting it done

He’s not using a Zimmer frame yet, but at the age of 31, in an elite sport, Robert Lewandowski continues to be one of the world’s best goalscorers. Bayern Munich’s Polish striker currently leads the league with 25 goals.

Meanwhile, 30-year old veteran and World Cup winner Thomas Müller tops the Bundesliga in assists, and still earns a spot in the media avoidance hall of fame for the time he pretended his passport was a mobile phone.

The Quiet Superstar

Thiago Alcantara, Bayern Munich: Arrived from Barcelona in 2013 and has been an integral part of six title teams. The 28-year old from Spain is arguably the Bundesliga’s best midfielder, with his touch, control and passing allowing the rest of Bayern’s superstars to shine.

The Kids Table

There are a stack of young stars in the Bundesliga, but keep an eye out for these three:

Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund): 19-year old son of former Premier Leaguer Alf-Inge Haaland is one of the best young players in the world. He’s been linked with Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

Giovanni Reyna (Borussia Dortmund): 17-year old son of former USMNT captain Claudio Reyna, ‘Gio’ has the potential to become one of the USA’s best ever exports.

Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich): 19-year old Canadian who was born in a Ghanaian refugee camp to Liberian parents. Played for the Vancouver Whitecaps at age 16 before moving to Bayern Munich.

The Red Bull problem

Despite its success, Red Bull Leipzig is pretty much hated by the rest of the Bundesliga. Think of the GWS Giants, an expansion team that has turned into a monster. Red Bull took over 5th division club SSV Markranstadt, changed their name and colours and in eight years, made it to the top of German football.

While undoubtedly a great achievement, supporters of traditional clubs (and even the clubs themselves – see above!) view them as a Johnny-come-lately ‘plastic’ team helped by corporate dollars.

The Table

Markets

Bundesliga markets here.

 

What do you think?