On the eve of the new Bundesliga campaign, there are two players who in many ways symbolize the changing of the guard in terms of the leading talent that will now drive the German national game.
The World Cup often proves definitive in the careers of footballers, and considering the pedigree of German participation at the most prestigious tournament in global soccer, any progress is invariably watched by fans across the planet.
The experience of Michael Ballack and Mesut Ozil over the showcase in South Africa, however, could barely be more contrasting.
Ballack, prior to June, looked set for an awesome finals. The free-scoring captain of the side, coming up for his hundredth cap, was aiming to better his second and third finishes at previous World Cups by lifting the trophy in Soccer City.
Tiger Woods cheated on his wife. John Terry seems to have done the same and now Ashley Cole is allegedly the most recent to fall off the morality wagon. Shocked? Or just shockingly bored of all the fuss?
The media certainly isn’t. In recent weeks, the “outrage” in the British tabloids about celebrity adultery has been a daily affair.
Ask the man on the street, and you’ll find he is not all that indignant. Not to worry. The press has been offended enough for all of us.
But being famous is not the same as being a role model. To my mind, John Terry and Ashley Cole have one responsibility - and that is to perform on the pitch.
That is why clubs pay millions to buy them, that is why fans around the world adore them. Their job is to play good football. And they should be held accountable for that and that alone.
Ashley Cole is a Chelsea defender. He might be able to teach children how to tackle. But why should he have to teach them how to live?
Children should take an example from those directly involved in their own lives.
From the coach of their under-11 football team. From their father on the sidelines. From the men and women who have a direct impact in their lives on a daily basis. Why the buck should be passed to their favourite footballer is beyond me.
From John Terry or Ashley Cole I expect a purely sporting example. Their level of achievement requires dedication, discipline and team spirit. Let’s let the footballers be good at football. Moral guidance can be sought elsewhere.
Watching Tiger Woods apologize to the world was proof enough to me. These sportsmen shouldn’t have to go through the humiliating process of resigning as role models. A position forced upon them simply because of fame and fortune. We just shouldn’t appoint them on those grounds in the first place.
Bavarian nerves had been jangling – Bayern Munich fans endured a disappointing second-place finish to champions Wolfsburg last season, a situation that was only compounded by an inauspicious Bundesliga start that included two draws and a humbling defeat to newly-promoted Mainz.
Bayern Munich general manager, Uli Hoeness, responded as best he knows how – and pulled out his checkbook, spending $37 million on former Real Madrid winger Arjen Robben. With his target landed the only thing that remained to be seen was whether the 'flying' Dutchman could live up to his potential.
Well, if the the 25-year-old's baptism of fire against defending champions Wolfsburg was anything to go by, there is reason for optimism. Robben made a dream debut, coming on in the second half to net two goals and seal Bayern’s first win of the season. But it was the style of Robben playing alongside Franck Ribery that stuck in the mind. The incredible performance from the attacking duo did much to ease the hurt of Bayern’s worst start to a season in 43 years. And it sent the German media into raptures.
The puns were never-ending, and “Rib and Rob”, or “Robbery” were saluted as Europe’s best counter-attacking combination, whilst the Bild paid homage to the “Baylacticos” and their “football from another planet”. Bayern may not possess the star quality of Real Madrid, but the double act will certainly take some stopping this season – Bundesliga be warned.
Robben’s addition to the team looks to have given Bayern new life. And their strength up front is undeniable. But little has been done to solve the ills in the team’s defense.
Exploiting that weakness looks to be the only hope for Bayern’s opponents in the next round, Borussia Dortmund. The Bavarians will be the latest of a number of big-name opponents for Dortmund after the black-and-yellows lost to Hamburg before drawing with Stuttgart a week later. Last weekend’s match in Frankfurt was a chance for Juergen Klopp’s side to prove its potential against a middling side – but a disappointing 1-1 draw showed the team has a long way to go to return to the impressive form it showed at the end of last season
Bayern’s big bucks looked to have set the Bavarians back on track. That’s a luxury Dortmund can’t afford – and which will most likely cost them the game.
In the run-up to the new season, Bayern Munich may have been tipped favorites for the title, but they did little to prove why in their season-opener on Saturday.
After their second trophy-less season in three years, Bayern decided to spend big (by Bundesliga standards at least) and splashed out over $70 million on new recruits – all the while failing to cover the side’s weak spots in defense and goal.
Bayern Munich President, Franz Beckenbauer, has called the team “the best Bayern squad of all time”. But the team’s performance on Saturday painted a different picture.
Playing away to Hoffenheim, a side entering just their second season in the German top flight, Bayern appeared to struggle for long periods of the game.
Hoffenheim should have gone ahead early on – if it weren’t for a glaring mistake from the referee.
The visitors’ only goal came against the run of play, with Hoffenheim pulling one back not too long after.
In short, the hosts were fresher, faster and more fired-up. Bayern may have improved in the second half, but they were fortunate to come away with a point at all.
Some might argue the Bavarians were bound to be below-par due to the absence of injured playmaker Franck Ribery, and strikers Luca Toni and Miroslav Klose.
But with the transfer window still open – and other clubs keenly eyeing-up both Ribery and Toni – their absence could yet become a permanent fixture.
Since his arrival at the club, Ribery’s presence on the pitch has been pivotal to the club’s success. The French playmaker has been one of the hot topics on this summer’s transfer markets, and Europe’s top clubs have all shown an interest.
Bayern insist he’s not for sale, but rumors persist. The club could be left with little choice if Ribery hands in a transfer request – once he’s picked up his Bayern loyalty bonus on August 14th, of course.
The Bavarians’ top scorer for the last two seasons, Luca Toni, could also be on his way out of the Bundesliga. Premier league sides West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur are both said to be lining up to start the bidding.
Out of favor with coach Louis van Gaal, but a personal friend of West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, his departure looks to be a near certainty.
After signing striker Mario Gomez, a prolific scorer in the Bundesliga for former club Stuttgart, Bayern aren’t likely to be too concerned. But Gomez still has to prove he can perform when the stage is bigger and the pressure greater.
At his first opportunity, he made a less than convincing start. Ahead of the season-opener, van Gaal said his side will need time to find its best form this season. Saturday proved him right.