With the Bundesliga coming to a conclusion this weekend, it’s time to pick the top XI.
Goalkeeper: Oliver Baumann (Hoffenheim)
If there was an excuse to pick someone else between the sticks this season, then Oliver Baumann was among a bunch of impressive performers. Rune Jarstein of Hertha BSC may be hard done by not to make the best XI, but Baumann’s role, which includes his advanced positioning and build-up play, carries a little more weight. He’s more than just a goalkeeper; it can be an unglamorous job at times, but Baumann did fantastically well this term. He kept the second-highest number of clean sheets this season, and marshaled one of the best defences in the division.
Defender: Kevin Vogt (Hoffenheim)
You would be hard pushed to find a player, who has made such considerable improvements in his game this season. A midfield destroyer for Augsburg, the 25-year-old has seamlessly converted into one of three centre-backs for Julian Nagelsmann’s side. Hoffenheim boasted the third-best defensive record in the league, conceding 39 goals.
Defender: Marc Bartra (Dortmund)
When the Spaniard arrived last summer, the comparisons to Mats Hummels were clear. It was initially too much for Bartra who needed time to adjust to the quick transitions and power of German football. But the 25-year-old has grown in confidence and assurance as a Hummels-like replacement. Bartra ranks fourth in Impect Media’s list of players who best penetrate defensive lines, with 57 defenders taken out of the game. Bartra’s season was cruelly cut short following the attack on Dortmund’s team bus in March. If the former Barcelona academy graduate can regain that form next season, then Dortmund will have lots to look forward to.
Defender: Jesus Vallejo (Frankfurt)
One of two players to sign for Eintracht Frankfurt from Real Madrid, the capture of Jesus Vallejo was a masterstroke. The 21-year-old arrived with around 50 second-tier appearances with Real Zaragoza before joining the newly-crowned Spanish champions. What’s interesting about Vallejo is that most of his expertise relies on positioning and anticipation. He’s far from the most imposing character and clearly prefers to stay on his feet.
Defender: Benjamin Hübner (Hoffenheim)
Another Hoffenheim defender deserves recognition for consistent performances at the back, Benjamin Hübner. One of Ingolstadt’s standout players last season, the 27-year-old was picked up for about 800,000 euros and represents one of the signings of the summer. In Hoffenheim’s build-up play, Hübner assumes a more dynamic role to get the ball from back-to-front. He falls just behind Bartra in the Packing data and one ahead of Bayern-bound Niklas Süle.
Midfielder: Naby Keita (RB Leipzig)
Keita’s first season in the Bundesliga was enough evidence that he could go on to grace any of Europe’s teams. Helping RB Leipzig secure Champions League football, Keita was invaluable. He ended the season joint-first with Franck Ribery as the league’s best playmaker, according to Impect Media. He dazzles at pace, breaking midfield lines like a pane of glass. He is the prototype for the modern midfielder: he does everything, he sees everything, he controls everything. The Champions League next season is the right platform for the Guinean.
Midfielder: Thiago (Bayern)
In what was an underwhelming first season under Carlo Ancelotti, Thiago Alcantara was the light that shone brightest. The 26-year-old playmaker experienced three injury-hit seasons under Pep Guardiola, so it’s somewhat ironic that his best form arrived under the Italian. He became the fulcrum of the midfield, dynamic on the ball and aggressive off it. Though Bayern’s defensive game may have declined under Ancelotti, Thiago’s has certainly improved. He should be a better player in future for this season.
Midfielder: Kerem Demirbay (Hoffenheim)
It was little surprise that Kerem Demirbay finally received the call to represent Germany’s national team this summer. The 23-year-old was just behind Keita and Ribery in the league’s best playmaker statistics, but this season was always about making an impact. After a poor spell in Hamburg, this was his third shot at the Bundesliga. In his own unique way, languid and clever, he became Hoffenheim’s creative hub. The exposure of international competition – for club and country – should put the German-Turk among the best in Europe.
Forward: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern)
Up there with the greatest strikers of the generation, Lewandowski’s performances across the season were barely surprising. At times, you could have forgotten that Bayern had changed coach and style. What remained was a highly-impactful Polish striker, who went on to net 30 in 33 this season, an extraordinary strike rate at this level.
Forward: Timo Werner (RB Leipzig)
Werner was one of the Bundesliga’s leading marksmen with 21 goals since joining from relegated Stuttgart last summer. Others have netted more, but the wide-range of finishes and broad variation in his play sees him make the list ahead of Anthony Modeste and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. If Leipzig went direct to clear the danger, the 21-year-old was on hand to run in behind, in front and pressure the opposition defenders. The number of goals is impressive, but Werner showed this season how much of a team player he is at RB Leipzig.
Forward: Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
The Swedish international assisted more than any other player in Europe’s top-five divisions. Forsberg’s importance to Leipzig makes him a shoe-in candidate and one of the strongest shouts for the out-right player of the season. While others like Wagner and Kramaric at Hoffenheim could have made the cut, Forsberg’s has delivered consistently across the campaign. If he hadn’t received a three-game suspension in the winter, then perhaps we may have been talking about a title race after all.