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The Swiss Super League is certainly not the strongest in the world but it’s a fairly safe bet to say that it beats the German fourth division. So why has 18-year-old Nassim Ben Khalifa, one of Switzerland’s most exciting prospects, swapped the former for the latter?
Last year, Ben Khalifa hit the headlines when he led the attack in the Swiss team which surprised everyone by winning the world under-17 championship in Nigeria.
He was runner-up in the vote for the best player of the tournament and also scored four goals. Back home, he was a regular first-team player in his debut professional season for Grasshoppers, scoring eight goals as he helped them finish third in the table.
In the midst of all this, German Bundesliga outfit VfL Wolfsburg stepped him and snapped him up for the 2010-2011 season. Yet they appear to have little intention of fielding him any time soon. Ben Khalifa told Swiss media this week that he is fifth or sixth in the strikers’ pecking order and would have to fight for his place with Edin Dzeko and Grafite, the two players who have topped the Bundesliga scoring charts in the last two seasons.
One of the best Bundesliga seasons I can remember came to a disappointing end in Saturday’s DFB-Pokal final.
While the league gave us two great stories with the rise and fall of Hoffenheim and the ultimate triumph of Wolfsburg, the Cup final was a damp affair.
Unless you happen to be a Werder Bremen fan, you’d probably agree with the rest of Germany that Werder’s 1-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Saturday’s Cup final made for a deflating end to the season.
Germans have a term for it: “Angsthasen Fussball” (scared rabbit football) — an appropriate description for a fear-filled struggle between two of Germany’s biggest underachievers this year, doing everything they could to avoid one last defeat before the holidays.
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.
Bayern Munich’s decision to sack Juergen Klinsmann five rounds before the end of the season with the team just three points out of first place might end up working out for the club, with the title still very much up for grabs, but it’s sad news for the Bundesliga.
It is also sad for fans of the exciting, attacking style of football that the former Germany striker brought to Munich. Klinsmann had won myriad new enthusiasts for soccer in general and Bayern Munich in particular with his innovative approach — quite an achievement considering Bayern were probably the most hated club in Germany outside Bavaria.