Is The Bundesliga Really On The Up?

The German Bundesliga is on the up or is that just an illusion?

Two blockbuster transfers have taken place in recent weeks. Raul, yes Raul Gonzalez Blanco has swapped the white of Real Madrid for the blue of Schalke. And, Sami Khedira has packed his bags and said goodbye to Stuttgart. Awaiting him is most probably the toughest year of his footballing life in Madrid.

Nelson Haedo Valdez seems to be on his way to the English Premier League and out of Borussia Dortmund. Here is where the story really begins. 1997 was a great year for German football. Both the major European trophies headed to Germany with Dortmund swapping up the Champions League and Schalke winning the UEFA Cup in dramatic fashion. Dortmund then went on a major slump and even battled with relegation for a while. Juergen Klopp came calling and has since helped the club gradually rise up the table. They will finally return to Europe this season in the Europa League. Dortmund's major star of the previous season was undoubtedly Lucas Barrios and this man seems to want to leave the club if recent reports are to be believed.

If Dortmund sell their major star, there might be trouble again; Dortmund fans definitely won't want anymore trouble after what they have gone through in recent years. Dortmund's performance in the Europa League this year will really show the improvement they have undergone in recent seasons under Juergen Klopp. Neven Subotic is another player who has been a target of English clubs, especially Man United for a while and might move on.

Dortmund's hated neighbours, Schalke are also on the rise. In 2008, they made it to the quarters of the Champions League. Under Felix Magath, Schalke have turned from a club in turmoil into a club ready to battle it out for a place in the last 16 of the Champions League. Magath's sides usually tend to be defensive; this will stand Schalke in good stead in the Champions League considering that they also have some good attacking players. Considering that Schalke could afford to send Lewis Holtby, another promising German youngster on loan, Magath must have immense belief in the Schalke midfielders and strikers. Schalke's performance will go a long way in judging the quality of the Bundesliga.

And then, there is that bully who likes bullying its little German neighbours, Bayern Munich. Bayern haven't made any new additions to their squad; the last time they didn't make any new signings was when they ended up playing in the UEFA Cup in 2007. Bayern made it to the final in 2010 but I doubt whether they will win it this year. Perhaps a quarter final or a semi final exit is what awaits Bayern if not an earlier exit.

Werder Bremen are contenders for the Bundesliga every year; but they fail to make the cut in the Champions League thanks to their overtly offensive style of play. Yet, Thomas Schaaf doesn't learn his lessons. His two new signings this year are Felix Kroos and Marko Arnautovic; both are attackers. Their defence is just not consistent enough to hold out for ninety minutes when under attack.

The quality of the league seems to have gone up considering the current players- Franck Ribery, Arjen Robben, Ruud Van Nistelrooy and now Raul Gonzalez. Edin Dzeko and Zvejdan Misimovic will not be moving on this year while the German and Dutch contingent at Bayern will seemingly spend another season together. Most teams in the league have adopted an attacking style of play- Bayern, Werder, Leverkusen, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Dortmund to a certain extent and Hoffenheim. Schalke and Koeln are amongst the defensive sides. Thus, the entertainment the league provides has increased. Football is after all, a form of entertainment.

However, a league cannot solely be judged on its players; the Bundesliga's true development will be found in this season's European competitions. Only Bayern progressing into the latter stages will not be good enough; Stuttgart did well last season but Wolfsburg were very disappointing after a promising start. Financially, the Bundesliga is sound. The clubs are not run by a single rich billionaire, no team will have to suffer what Liverpool or Manchester United is going through. However, will the football be good enough? Will the German teams rise in Europe and take away that fourth Champions League spot?

A long and hard season awaits for German teams as they aim for more than just the Bundesliga and the DFB Pokal. It's time that the league's development shows in Europe. After all, it has been nine years since a German team last claimed one of the two major European trophies (Bayern Munich's Champions League 2001). Werder and Hamburg have made it to the UEFA Cup semis and finals but haven't won it in recent seasons. Bayern became the first German team to break into the Champions League semis since 2002 when Leverkusen achieved that feat.

Thus, German football will truly be on the up if the teams accomplish something in Europe this season. I certainly am looking forward to that.

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