90min’s Definitive Bundesliga Manual: A Premier League Fan’s Guide to Picking Which German Team to Support

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    The Bundesliga could be the first major European league to get back underway amid the coronavirus crisis.

    League officials are discussing the possibility of hosting games behind closed doors, which in Germany is known as Geisterspiel or ‘ghost games’, as early as next month.

    The Bundesliga is already the go-to place for many English fans to get their football fix every weekend, but for most of us, what goes on in Germany’s top flight is still something of a mystery.

    But with football set to return in less that a month in the Bundesliga, now is the perfect time to get clued up on German football’s biggest and best teams.

    90min have got you covered on that front. So sit back, relax, and pick which German team you’re going to start following while we all wait for the Premier League to come back onto our screens later this year.


    20. Hamburg

    Hamburg sit third in the 2. Bundesliga table

    Nickname: Der Dino (The Dinosaurs)
    Stadium & Capacity: Volksparkstadion (57,000)
    Star Player: Sonny Kittel

    Six-time champions Hamburger SV have had a tough time as of late. They were relegated to the second division in 2018, ending their status as the only team to play in every Bundesliga season since it’s inception in 1963.

    Der Dino weren’t able to climb back into the top flight at the first time of asking, but Hamburg are currently sitting in the second division’s play-off spot and they’re just one point off an automatic promotion place.

    There’s a big range of young and old players which make up Hamburg’s first-team squad, while experienced manager Dieter Hecking was brought in at the start of the season to secure promotion this time around, and it should be an exciting end to the season for fans in northern Germany.

    Would suit fans of: Manchester United


    19. Stuttgart

    Stuttgart are fighting for automatic promotion this season

    Nickname: Die Schwaben (The Swabians)
    Stadium & Capacity: Mercedes-Benz Arena (60,449)
    Star Player: Nicolás González

    Like Hamburg, VfB Stuttgart are one of the true giants of the Bundesliga. They last won the league title in 2007 and have been the heavyweights of Germany’s south-west for even longer, but they too have fallen on hard times, especially under former president Wolfgang Dietrich.

    With household names like Mario Gómez, Holger Badstuber and Gonzalo Castro in their ranks, as well as world football’s most exciting talents which have been spotted by sporting director Sven Mislintat, Stuttgart have a squad which should be competing in the top flight.

    And while it’s been an area which hasn’t blossomed in recent years specifically, Stuttgart still have one of the most famed academies on the planet, nurturing the likes of Sami Khedira and Gómez, Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich.

    Would suit fans of: Southampton


    18. Paderborn

    Paderborn were relegated to Germany’s Regionalliga in 2017

    Nickname: N/A
    Stadium & Capacity: Benteler Arena (15,000)
    Star Player: Dennis Srbeny

    The Bundesliga table might suggest SC Paderborn have taken the role as the league’s whipping boys this season, but their tale is actually one of the most interesting in European football.

    In October 2014, Paderborn were sitting at the top of the Bundesliga. But they were ultimately relegated that season and in fact went on to endure three consecutive relegations – even, in theory, dropping into Germany’s Regionalliga in 2017, which is the equivalent of non-league football.

    The club were only saved from dropping out of the third division as 1860 Munich couldn’t afford their licence for the league, so Paderborn stayed in the 3. Liga and have following that up with back-to-back promotion campaigns to return to the Bundesliga.

    It really is quite the fairytale.

    Would suit fans of: Chelsea


    17. Werder Bremen

    Werder Bremen won the Bundesliga title in 2004

    Nickname: Die Werderaner (The River Islanders)
    Stadium & Capacity: Weser Stadion (42,358)
    Star Player: Milot Rashica

    Werder Bremen were being tipped for big things this season, but Florian Kohfeldt’s side haven’t lived up to expectations and they find themselves in the automatic relegation spots.

    The loss of star forward Max Kruse last summer has hit the club harder than expected and Werder Bremen are desperately trying to find some balance, looking towards Milot Rashica, Maxi Eggestein and Davy Klaassen to carry them over the line.

    Werder Bremen’s squad is good enough to survive this season, but the club’s seemingly blind loyalty towards their manager Kohfeldt is what will be the deciding factor for the future of the 2004 Bundesliga champions.

    Would suit fans of: West Ham United


    16. Fortuna Düsseldorf

    Rouwen Hennings has scored as many goals as Serge Gnabry this season

    Nickname: Die Flingeraner (Relating to a district in Düsseldorf)
    Stadium & Capacity: Merkur Spiel-Arena (54,600)
    Star Player: Rouwen Hennings

    Fortuna Düsseldorf aren’t the smallest team in German football by any stretch of the imagination. They won the league title in 1933 and were runners up three years later, but their recent notoriety has come from the brilliant, Football Manager-esque way they’ve been run.

    Despite their limited resources, Fortuna were able to avoid relegation last year and are on track to do the same again this season, only this time they’ve got Lutz Pfannenstiel – the brains behind Hoffenheim’s rise and even somewhat Julian Nagelsmann’s – running the show behind the scenes.

    The club still have a lower-league feel about them as they rely heavily on loan players being brought in from bigger clubs, but Fortuna have everything in place to achieve some relative success in the Bundesliga.

    And with Uwe Rösler now in charge, what’s not to love.

    Would suit fans of: Brighton & Hove Albion


    15. Mainz

    Mainz have never won the Bundesliga title

    Nickname: Die Nullfünfer (the 05ers)
    Stadium & Capacity: Opel Arena (33,305)
    Star Player: Robin Quaison

    Mainz are a difficult team to describe. They picked up their best-ever finish in the Bundesliga just 10 years ago – they were only promoted in 2009 – but since then the club have slipped into limbo, not making many steps forward or backwards.

    Mainz are all-too aware they’re one of German football’s stepping stone clubs, most recently providing a platform for Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Abdou Diallo to move onto bigger and better things, while current stars Jean-Philippe Mateta and ​Aarón Martín will be next on that list.

    The citywide carnival celebration is partnered with special edition kits each season which fans understandably rush to get their hands on, and while Mainz won’t be challenging for silverware any time soon, they are a work in progress, which fits the bill for anyone’s second team.

    Would suit fans of: Norwich City


    14. Augsburg

    Augsburg are Bayern Munich’s Bavarian rivals

    Nickname: Die Fuggerstädter (Relating to the Fugger family)
    Stadium & Capacity: Augsburg Arena (30,660)
    Star Player: Florian Niederlechner

    Even as a club who are based in Bavaria, Augsburg aren’t a flashy team in the slightest.

    With players like Alfred Finnbogason, Philipp Max and captain Daniel Baier standing out as their star players in recent years, Augsburg are what many Premier League fans would refer to as a ‘proper football team’.

    The club have added a sprinkling of flair recently in Ruben Vargas and academy graduate Marco Richter, and having just appointed Heiko Herrlich as their new boss, it could be a sign of things to come at Augsburg in the near future.

    Would suit fans of: Burnley


    13. Hertha

    Investor Lars Windhorst now owns 49.9% of the club

    Nickname: Die Alte Dame (The Old Lady)
    Stadium & Capacity: Olympiastadion (74,649)
    Star Player: Krzysztof Piątek

    Every league has a team which becomes the butt of almost every joke and the Bundesliga’s is Hertha BSC, but the Berlin-based club might not be a joke for much longer.

    Jürgen Klinsmann has left the building and the club have already started to splash the cash following Lars Windhorst’s high-profile investment, spending an eye-watering €76m during the January transfer window alone.

    Their current stint in the Bundesliga hasn’t been long and they last won a league title in 1931, but thanks to their new money Hertha could be about to climb the ladder, finally establishing a top-level football team in Germany’s capital city.

    Would suit fans of: Watford


    12. Eintracht Frankfurt

    Eintracht Frankfurt won the DFB-Pokal in 2018

    Nickname: Die Adler (The Eagles)
    Stadium & Capacity: Commerzbank-Arena (51,500)
    Star Player: Filip Kostić

    Outside of Germany’s top two, Eintracht Frankfurt should be one of the most well-known teams across Europe right now. But their recent success both domestically and in Europe isn’t a common occurrence for fans at the Commerzbank-Arena.

    Their DFB-Pokal win in 2018 was so monumental it was even turned into a film, while it wasn’t until their run to the Europa League semi finals last season that Eintracht really won the hearts of the continent.

    Adi Hütter is steering the ship at Frankfurt and the renowned scouting system which is behind him has the club on the cusp of something even more special.

    Would suit fans of: Tottenham Hotspur


    11. Union Berlin

    Union Berlin were promoted via the relegation playoff match last season

    Nickname: Die Eisernen (The Iron Ones)
    Stadium & Capacity: Stadion An der Alten Försterei (22,012)
    Star Player: Sebastian Andersson

    Union Berlin aren’t even the biggest team in their city, but right now, they are the best.

    Urs Fischer’s side only gained promotion after beating Stuttgart in the play-off match last season, but they’ve proved to be one of the surprise packages on the pitch, although it’s in the stands where Union really shine.

    Even in a country where clubs are owned by their members, Union are a fan-led club unlike any other in the Bundesliga, which makes their promotion last season all the more special, and they’re on course to retain their top-flight status for another campaign.

    Would suit fans of: Crystal Palace


    10. Köln

    Köln’s mascot is an actual goat, which is called Hennes

    Nickname: Die Geißböcke (The Billy Goats)
    Stadium & Capacity: RheinEnergieStadion (49,968)
    Star Player: Jhon Córdoba

    There will always be a few different Bundesliga clubs which are on everyone’s footballing bucket list, and although FC Köln aren’t the first team many would think of, they should be right up there with Borussia Dortmund and co.

    Even with the unique feel of every Germany club, Köln are unlike anything else that’s on offer. They have an actual goat called Hennes as their mascot and they hold a grand service inside a church before the first home game of every season.

    Even if what’s on offer on the pitch at the RheinEnergieStadion, there is always plenty to do off it in Köln.

    Would suit fans of: Aston Villa


    9. Hoffenheim

    Hoffenheim are controversially owned by software millionaire Dietmar Hopp

    Nickname: Die Kraichgauer (From the Kraichgau Region)
    Stadium & Capacity: Rhein-Neckar-Arena (30,150)
    Star Player: Andrej Kramarić

    While Köln as a city might have plenty to offer, Hoffenheim certainly does not. 

    With a population of just over 3,000 people, TSG Hoffenheim truly are a village team who are playing in the Bundesliga, but fans of other clubs will be quick to point out that Die Kraichgauer don’t deserve any praise for their achievements.

    Before Red Bull’s venture into Germany football, Hoffenheim were known as the most hated team in the country. That’s because they’re the only team who, without any historical reason, don’t follow the coveted 50+1 rule and instead it’s software tycoon Dietmar Hopp who owns 96% of the club.

    Would suit fans of: Manchester City


    8. Freiburg

    Freiburg are known for overachieving under manager Christian Streich

    Nickname: Breisgau-Brasilianer (Breisgau Brazilians)
    Stadium & Capacity: Schwarzwald-Stadion (24,000)
    Star Player: Luca Waldschmidt

    If you’re not from Germany, you might find it quite difficult placing Freiburg on a map. The club are actually based right on the edge of the country’s Black Forrest and are about as close to Strasbourg or Metz in France as they are to Stuttgart.

    Like Köln, SC Freiburg is a club which fans should consider visiting for any Bundesliga trip, but it’s not just for the aesthetics.

    They’ve been punching above their weight throughout their four-year spell in the Bundesliga and fans rarely tip Christian Streich’s side as relegation candidates these days.

    Would suit fans of: Bournemouth


    7. Wolfsburg

    Wolfsburg are owned by Volkswagen

    Nickname: Die Wölfe (The Wolves)
    Stadium & Capacity: Volkswagen Arena (30,000)
    Star Player: Wout Weghorst

    Fans outside Germany might know that VfL Wolfsburg have been underperforming given their resources in recent years, but what they might not know is the history that goes with the club and even the city, which makes them one of the teams which were given an exemption to the 50+1 rule.

    Wolfsburg’s ties with Volkswagen aren’t hidden, especially as the car manufacturer actually owns the club.

    And that’s because the club were actually formed by employees of the company just after World War II. The city itself was created just seven years earlier in 1938, with the sole purpose of housing those employees which, at the time, were making what is now known as the Volkswagen Beetle.

    On the pitch, Wolfsburg have been failing to live up to expectations over the last few years, but the appointment of Oliver Glasner as their new manager and some impressive recruitment in the transfer market has the club back on track.

    Would suit fans of: Everton


    6. Schalke

    Schalke have ex-Huddersfield manager David Wagner in charge

    Nickname: Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues)
    Stadium & Capacity: Veltins-Arena (62,271)
    Star Player: Amine Harit

    The Bundesliga is known worldwide for being very traditionalist. The clubs and fans in Germany don’t forget their roots, and there aren’t many places where that rings more true that with FC Schalke 04.

    While local rivals Borussia Dortmund’s history is in the steel and beer industries, Schalke’s is in coal. Gelsenkirchen and its surrounding areas are as working class as they come, and even now you’d be hard-pressed to find tourists there for any other reason than football. But in this area of Germany, someone’s reason for being there isn’t important at all.

    The only thing that matters is the colour of the shirt you’re wearing, and if you’re planning to visit Schalke specifically, make sure you leave anything yellow at home.

    Would suit fans of: Sheffield United


    5. Bayer Leverkusen

    Bayer Leverkusen are owned by a pharmaceutical company

    Nickname: Die Werkself (The Factory Eleven)
    Stadium & Capacity: BayArena (30,210)
    Star Player: Kai Havertz

    Without a doubt, Bayer Leverkusen are the biggest team in Germany to never win the domestic league title – stretching back to the first official league season in 1903, well before the modern Bundesliga’s inception.

    They’ve finished as the runners up five times throughout their history, but Leverkusen – who are owned by the pharmaceutical company Bayer – are still searching for a league title to go with their one DFB-Pokal and UEFA Cup.

    Success might not be too far away, however, as an exciting team of young stars have been brought together at the BayArena which, on their day, has the ability to beat any other team in Germany at a canter.

    With former Ajax boss Peter Bosz in charge, Leverkusen don’t promise any sort of consistency, but as long as you can stomach some glaringly obvious defensive problems, they are the go-to side in the Bundesliga for exciting, attacking football.

    Would suit fans of: Arsenal


    4. Borussia Mönchengladbach

    Marcus Thuram, son of Lilian, has scored six goals this season

    Nickname: Die Fohlen (The Foals)
    Stadium & Capacity: Borussia-Park (59,724)
    Star Player: Marcus Thuram

    The ‘other’ Borussia were actually the Bundesliga’s original super club.

    Before Bayern Munich started stealing the show in the 1980s, Borussia Mönchengladbach won five league titles during the Bundesliga’s formative years, but Die Fohlen haven’t even finished inside the top two since 1978.

    If this season is anything to go by, however, then it’s safe to say Gladbach have turned a corner. 

    Some incredible recruitment has seen them spend a lot of the 2019/20 season right at the top of the table, but it’s actually Marco Rose – a manager who used to be part of Red Bull’s network of clubs – who is really helping to transform them into a top-level team once again.

    Would suit fans of: Wolverhampton Wanderers


    3. RB Leipzig

    Timo Werner has scored 21 Bundesliga goals this season

    Nickname: Die Roten Bullen (The Red Bulls)
    Stadium & Capacity: Red Bull Arena (41,939)
    Star Player: Timo Werner

    RB Leipzig are comfortably the most hated team in the Bundesliga, and most fans of other clubs would rather see Bayern Munich win every league title for eternity than Red Bull’s German project get their hands on just one.

    But love them or loathe them, Leipzig are a fascinating team to watch and they have one of the most impressive systems in place to help them climb the ladder of European football’s hierarchy.

    They’ve scouted some outstanding players under the radar to reach where they are now, but it looks like it’s the brave appointment of 32-year-old manager Julian Nagelsmann which could get them some domestic silverware sooner rather than later.

    They’re well drilled, play with incredible intensity, and almost every player in their squad is also being watched by the richest teams in Europe.

    Would suit fans of: Liverpool


    2. Borussia Dortmund

    Dortmund are four points off the top of the table

    Nickname: Die Schwarzgelben (The Black and Yellows)
    Stadium & Capacity: Westfalenstadion (81,365)
    Star Player: Jadon Sancho

    Borussia Dortmund are the hipster team in world football, but it’s been a long road to reach the level of popularity they have globally, and it’s one the club’s older fans could never have expected would happen.

    They didn’t win their first modern Bundesliga title until the 1990s, but after careless spending, Borussia Dortmund almost went completely bust just a few years after the turn of the century.

    Fast-forward to today and Dortmund are one of the most loved teams across the planet, with the iconic Westfalenstadion playing a huge role in their popularity, while they are more than happy to play up their role as the most high-profile feeder club in Europe.

    Would suit fans of: Leicester City


    1. Bayern Munich

    Bayern Munich are on track for an eighth straight Bundesliga title

    Nickname: Die Bayern (The Bavarians)
    Stadium & Capacity: Allianz Arena (75,000)
    Star Player: Robert Lewandowski

    Bayern Munich are unique. And not just because of their incredible success in the Bundesliga, which has seen them lift the Meisterschale an incredible 29 times – 20 times more than Germany’s next most successful team, FC Nürnberg.

    Bavaria is almost an entirely different country, so fans in its capital city Munich, there is always an extra special feeling that comes with supporting their hometown and academy players.

    There are plenty of shiny, silver-plated reasons why someone would want to start following Bayern, but being a fan at the Allianz Arena is much more about the hard-working, self-believing mentality that comes with their ‘Mia San Mia’ motto.

    Would suit fans of: Newcastle United


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