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The Bundesliga gets a bad rap at times. German clubs have for the most part failed to reach the latter stages of the Champions League in recent years, matches can sometimes seem to move in slow-motion and the officiating can be uneven or even downright scandalous (see Hoyzer, Robert).
But despite all that, Bundesliga players have been sparkling in Euro 2008. And with players from the German league on 15 of the 16 teams no league is more widely represented.
There have been players from the German domestic league in the starting line-ups of almost all the teams that have played of the tournament. Only Spain have no Bundesliga players in their squad.
And many are making a mark — from Franck Ribery of France to the Netherlands’ Rafael van der Vaart and Croatia’s Josip Simunic. Even the first goal of the tournament was scored by a player who cut his teeth in the Bundesliga — Vaclav Sverkos of the Czech Republic, who spent 2003 to 2007 at Borussia Moenchengladbach and Hertha Berlin.
After watching so many Bundesliga players popping up in post-match TV interviews and speaking their lightly accented German, I had a hunch the Bundesliga was probably the most represented of all domestic leagues at the Euro. And so it is, at least according to the Bundesliga’s website, which says there are 65 players on 15 teams at the Euro, comfortably beating the Premier League (44), the Primera Liga (43) and Serie A (38).
Here are a few possible explanations why:
German clubs — lacking the deep pockets of their rivals in England, Spain and Italy — have long been especially open to young (i.e. inexpensive) talent from Eastern European and Southeastern European countries, where bargains can be found. Secondly, Germany has large groups of immigrants from many countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe and some of the best players for Turkey, Croatia and Greece, for example, grew up in ethnic communities in Germany and play in the Bundesliga.
Another factor contributing to the international feeling of the Bundesliga is that some clubs in the heart of Europe seem to go out of their way to bring together a nucleus of internationals from one country or another. Bayern Munich have their French connection in Ribery and Willy Sagnol. Hamburg SV have a Netherlands trio — Van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong and Joris Mathijsen. Nuremberg are filled with players from the neighbouring Czech Republic and Eintracht Frankfurt have a big Greece contingent in Sotiris Kyrgiakos, Ioannis Amanatidis, and Fanis Gekas.