Stats & Links: Analysis of the kicker rankings
At the end of each half of the season, the kicker editors choose the best Bundesliga players at several meetings and conferences. The players are split up into the categories world class, international class, wider circle and in focus. Thereto, the athletes are grouped according to their positions. The exact criteria are available here (in German).
In last season’s second half, six defensive players from FC Bayern made it into the ranking straight away. With Hummels, Süle, Kimmich and Alaba, four of them are rated as international class. That is surprising insofar as Kimmich was the only one ranked so high after the first half. The right back tops the list at his position just as the leaving Hummels does, respectively.
Goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is back in the ranking for the first time in two years. As performance is the decisive factor for the kicker, the keeper did not make it into the list recently because of his injuries. Previously, the German international keeper had been graded world class four times in a row. This time around, Neuer is in the wider circle at seventh spot. He is especially criticized for the second leg against Liverpool in the Champions League.
Therefore, the German record champions have been waiting for a defensive field player that the kicker values as world class since summer 2016. With Hummels, Boateng and Lahm, there were even three at that time.
For midfield, the kicker differentiates between defensive and offensive players, but only central positions are considered. In the second half of the season, Thiago leads the international class on the 6, followed by Aranguiz and Rode. Back in winter, the Spaniard was excelled by Witsel. In total, that is the fifth time the key element of Bayern’s game was classified as international class.
All other central midfielders of the champions were assigned to the wider circle. Those are Martínez, Müller, James and Goretzka. Compared to the season’s first half, all four improved. Yet, trivialities prevented the promotion to international class. The kicker criticizes James, who also left the club, for his performances in the Champions League.
There is a noticeable loss of quality in this part of the squad. In summer 2016, Alonso and Müller were two players with international class, Vidal was even rated as world class. It will be thrilling to see how Tolisso will be graded in the upcoming season. The French world champion missed almost the entire season because of a severe injury. The year before, the kicker placed him in the wider circle.
Regarding the offensive flanks, the German magazine locates both wingers Coman and Gnabry in the ranks of international class. The partially outstanding Gnabry tops the list. A slight correction after BVB signing Hazard and BVB talent Sancho led the way in winter.
Traditionally, Bayern are amongst the leaders when it comes to wingers. The club legends Ribéry and Robben cumulated 14 nominations for world class and international class, respectively. Between 2013 and 2015, the Dutchman was listed in the highest category five times. In 2008, his French partner became Bayern’s first offensive world class player since Effenberg in summer 2000.
There is also a comeback to the pole position in the strikers ranking. Our player of the season, Robert Lewandowski, placed fourth in winter, deservedly reclaimed his top spot. The fourth place was his worst placement since 2011. The Pole fell just shy of his sixth classification as world class. Especially his „total absence“ in the matches against Liverpool was held against him by the kicker.
For the fourth time in a row, the Bundesliga lacked players ranked world class. The years 2002 to 2005 were the last period with that many consecutive rankings without world class players.
Previously, at least two players were ranked in the highest category each year until summer 2012. After the German final at Wembley in 2013, actually ten players from the two finalists made it to highest level. After the German World Cup win in 2014, the kicker dubbed eight players as world class.
But, the times of plenty are over. A conclusion at which anybody will arrive who follows Germany’s highest division on a daily basis. Not only are numerous German internationals preferring to play abroad, but at the same time less players of international class are joining the Bundesliga. Currently, signing an international star like World Cup winner Xabi Alonso is hardly imaginable. FC Bayern are feeling this status on the transfer market, too.
This is aggravated by the lackluster results of the German teams internationally. Only Eintracht Frankfurt rescued the Bundesliga from an even bigger disgrace by reaching the semi-finals of the Europa League.
Nevertheless, the talent is available. This is evident by the high number of players with international class. BVB will chase Bayern with a crucially improved squad and, starting in summer, with five players of international class. They are followed for example by Bayer Leverkusen with Havertz as well as German youth international Tah. Frankfurt, Leipzig and Wolfsburg too have promising, young squads and can prove their potential internationally next season.
Translated by Mahir.
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