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Now that the Bundesliga is done and dusted and Wolfsburg are deserved champions, one should spare a thought for Hamburg SV who until a few weeks ago were in the running for three trophies. They ended up with none.
But Hamburg are arguably the only team in the Bundesliga this season who managed to play high level football in all competitions. Wolfsburg only needed to do it for one, after being eliminated early on in the UEFA Cup and the German Cup. Bayern were out in the last eight in the Champions League and the German Cup.
Third-placed Stuttgart and fourth-placed Hertha Berlin also had only the Bundesliga to focus on.
Martin Jol’s Hamburg, plagued by injuries and suspensions throughout the season, were in the running for the Bundesliga title until three weeks from the end. They also reached the German Cup and UEFA Cup semi-finals where they lost to rivals Werder Bremen. And that is the really bitter part.
Werder, their rivals in northern Germany, eliminated them in both competitions and a week later also inflicted a Bundesliga defeat that dashed all of Hamburg’s title hopes.
Wolfsburg are only 90 minutes away from winning their first German championship and they have equalled or broken several records in achieving that.
No other team have ever had two strikers score 20 goals or more in a Bundesliga season. Grafite has 26, Edin Dzeko 25.
Having seen the changes at the top of the Bundesliga in the past few months you cannot help but feel sorry for newcomers Hoffenheim, who have played some of the most exciting football this season.
They won promotion last year and halfway through the season they topped the standings in a sensational run. They shared the top spot at the halfway mark with Bayern Munich but were ahead on goal difference and style of play.
When former Germany keeper Jens Lehmann said earlier this month he wants to play at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, many said it was just another provocative statement by the 39-year-old at the twilight of his career.
Even Germany coach Joachim Loew and national goalkeeping coach Andreas Koepke ruled out a return, saying there were four talented keepers in the squad already, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Rene Adler, Hanover 96 keeper Robert Enke, Manuel Neuer who plays for Schalke and Werder Bremen’s Tim Wiese.
Former Germany goalkeeper Jens Lehmann is no stranger to controversy. But in recent weeks he has stirred up a debate despite being in the twilight of his playing days.
First he delayed the publication of his memoirs for next year and then signed another one-year contract extension with Stuttgart after saying last year this was his final season.
Wolfsburg coach Felix Magath was asked two weeks ago, after his team won their fifth consecutive league match, whether they could become German champions
“If we win all our 11 remaining fixtures then we can be champions,” he told the reporter with a hint of sarcasm. “But we are not title contenders, let’s make this clear,” he quickly added.
What a Bundesliga season! Exciting, fast-paced and at least five teams in the running for the title and believe it or not, Bayern are not top of the table.
But next season may be very different. Many of the league’s top players who have carried their teams into title contention could leave at the end of the campaign.
The credit crunch is biting into German soccer, with teams starting to consider the idea of salary caps to further reduce annual running costs.
It was Bayern Munich manager Uli Hoeness who first warned some time ago that the financial downturn would hit Bundesliga clubs, especially mid-table ones, who would not be able to balance their budgets. Now Bayer Leverkusen sports director Rudi Voeller and, more surprisingly, Hoffenheim billionaire backer Dietmar Hopp have come out in favour of salary caps.
Like political pundits on local election night, football reporters can’t help reading too much into the results of international friendlies.
Pretty much the least interesting thing about England’s error-strewn 2-1 win over Germany in Berlin on Wednesday was the result, but there was food for thought in the performances of two under-strength teams.
England are without Beckham, Gerrard, Rooney, Ferdinand, Heskey, Owen and a couple of Coles, and Theo Walcott has now joined the injured list.