As the Bundesliga celebrates its 60th birthday, we have been taking the time to look back over the past and reminisce over many years of entertainment and glory. Even though the task of choosing an ultimate best-ever Bundesliga XI seems an impossible one, what with the seemingly never-ending list of top-class players to choose from- that is just what we have attempted to do.
So, here is our all-time Bundesliga XI from season one in 1963 right up to the present day. There are of course glaring omissions, but such is the manner of the task. There is no expectation that there will be full agreement and you may find yourself getting irate at your favourite player’s absence. That is the joy of football and testament to the top quality of the Bundesliga. Trying to make it not too Bayern-heavy was tough, but here’s our final selection……
Here at the Fanatic, the Titan Oliver Kahn pipped his fellow Bayern keepers Sepp Maier and Manuel Neuer to the number one jersey. Its easy to forget that Kahn started out his Bundesliga career with hometown club Karlsruher, but it was with the Rekordmeister that he rose to prominence. His aggressive personality sometimes grabbed the headlines rather than his ability, but he was not short of the latter despite his outbursts.
Kahn made 429 Bundesliga appearances for the Bavarians across 14 seasons, winning eight Bundesliga titles. Six of Bayern’s twenty DFB Pokals were also won with Kahn in goal, and he conceded just four goals combined in those finals.
Like Kahn, Breitner wasn’t short of personality which got him into a fair amount of bother due to his outspoken views, but when your talent is as big as his was, then you can usually get away with it. Breitner signed for Bayern at the same time as Uli Hoeneß and their arrival coincided with Bayern going stratospheric in their dominance in the 1970’s. When his ego outgrew Bavaria, he moved to Real Madrid, but later returned to the Bundesliga with Bayern and Eintracht Braunschweig.
He may have been small in stature, but in terms of achievement Philipp Lahm was an absolute giant of the Bundesliga. 385 Bundesliga appearances for VfB Stuttgart and Bayern, he amassed eight Bundesliga titles and six DFB Pokal wins in his stellar career. Talented enough to play fullback or in midfield, Lahm was one of those players whose name would be first on the team sheet for whichever coach happened to be lucky enough to have him in their squad.
To many, the best player the Bundesliga has ever produced and it’s not for nothing that he earned the nickname the ‘Kaiser’. He was with the club from the very start in the Regionalliga days right up their Bundesliga and European Cup triumphs. Whether as the old fashioned libero or in midfield, Beckenbauer was the face of Bayern Munich and German football for nearly twenty years. He returned from his sojourn the US to end his career at Hamburg, and there will be hardly a whisper of objection to his (obvious) inclusion in the best Bundesliga XI. If it was a six-a-side team, he’d still be there!
Köhler’s fifteen seasons as a Bundesliga centre back took in Waldhof Mannheim, Köln, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. He won two titles at BVB and one at Bayern with a spell at Juventus in between. He made it into Kicker’s Team of the Year on six occasions and is seen as one of the finest and fairest defenders throughout the league’s sixty year history.
6- Lothar Matthäus
To succeed at Bayern you need to have the right mentality to go with ability and the player that perhaps sums this up perhaps the most is Lothar Matthäus. The midfielder made the move to Bavaria early in his career after coming to the fore at Mönchengladbach. With 302 appearances over two spells, he scored 85 goals and won the Bundesliga six times winning the Ballon d’Or in 1990. He remains a controversial figure thanks to some of his outspoken opinions, but there is little doubt that on the pitch he was one of the Bundesliga’s finest proponents of the beautiful game.
7- Franck Ribéry
It is easy to go through lists like these and complain that the ‘modern day’ players get preferential treatment due to their achievements being more current and in the public consciousness, bit in the case of Franck Ribéry, even the oldest Bundesliga observers would be forced to admit his brilliance. The French winger is seen by many as Bayern’s greatest-ever signing and with nine Bundesliga titles between 2007 and 2019 it clear to see why. He was an absolute favourite at the Allianz Arena, but fans all over Germany have to admit his immensely positive impact on the Bundesliga.
8- Wolfgang Overath
Overath was a one-club man notching up 409 appearances for Köln. His left-foot was like a magic wand and although he was in direct competition with the mercurial Günter Netzer, he often god the nod in the national team. He won the Bundesliga title in its very first edition with the Billy Goats and was still being voted into Kicker’s Team of the Season ten years later. He appeared in three World Cups and would surely have won a lot more honours but for his loyalty to the Domstadt club.
9- Gerd Müller
There are some players, who just do not need any case to be argued for their inclusion and ‘der Bomber’ Gerd Müller is one such example. Despite being initially derided as ‘short and fat’ by coach Cijk Cajkovski, the striker proved himself the most deadly marksman of the 1960’s and 1970’s winning the Torjägerkanone on seven occasions and scoring a whopping 398 league goals in 543 matches with an overall record of 563 goals in 605 appearances. Only Franz Beckenbauer can claim to having a more important impact on Bayern’s rise to the top.
10- Robert Lewandowski
Anyone who gets even close to the scoring feats Gerd Müller achieved must automatically be considered for the greatest-ever Bundesliga XI, but with Robert Lewandowski actually breaking the long-standing Bayern (Müller’s) record of 40-goals in a single season, his place here is practically assured. The Pole’s success was no flash in the pan with 74 goals in 131 games for Borussia Dortmund before adding 238 in 253 Bundesliga games for Bayern.
11- Klaus Fischer
Everyone knows about the achievements of Müller and Lewandowski, but third in the all-time Bundesliga scoring charts is Klaus Fischer with 268 goals. A career spent at 1860 Munich, Schalke, Köln and VfL Bochum saw him score goals wherever he was and he remains the Königsblauen’s record scorer.
In an effort to forestall the criticisms over any omissions, we’ve opted for a subs bench of players many will feel deserved a placed in the first XI. The list could of course be longer, but we’ve tried to be concise.
GK- Uli Stein, Harald Schumacher
DF- Bernard Dietz, Matthias Sammer, Manfred Kaltz
MF-Stefan Effenberg, Günter Netzer, Uli Hoeneß, Thomas Müller
CF- Uwe Seeler, Jupp Heynckes