Both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich can still swell their trophy cabinets this season with bona fide silverware, but only the champions are carrying off some prized swag as the season-ending, never-imitated frequently-bettered Never Mind the Ballacks end-of-term trinkets are dished out with gay abandon.
Given they boast the best-ever points total for a Bundesliga season and set a swathe of league and club records in the campaign, you could accuse Jürgen Klopp’s men of being plain greedy. That accusation certainly can be levelled at Lucas Barrios, who must already have a team of accountants working round-the-clock to calculate just how many pots of noodles €6.7m a year will buy in Guangzhou, but there is little doubt Dortmund deserve our first accolade, the Jermaine Jones Gilded Shinpad. The Schalke enforcer, who racked up an impressive BL-high 14 yellow cards this season, is an ‘artist’ who enjoys carving up the opposition in an almost literal sense. Dortmund, of course, are more subtle, and have chipped away at the woodwork a league-high 25 times this season in a cleverly-concealed attempt to write ‘Nuri who?’ into goalposts across the nation.
While facemask manufacturers have enjoyed a bumper season – Danke Messrs Kadlec, Pezzoni et al – so have Bundesliga clubs courtesy of their remarkable fans, who are deserving recipients of a cheque equal in size to Marko Arnautovic’s habitual contribution to Werder Bremen games this season. OK, that’s more than a little unfair on the fans, who – unlike the wilful Austrian – have actually been active inside stadiums on a regular basis, giving the German top flight an average of 45,116 per match, a league record. One man who has put in a shift, albeit a not particularly effective one of late, is Levan Kobiashvilli. The indefatigable Georgian made his 336th Bundesliga appearance on the final day of the season to draw level with Ze Roberto as the BL’s leading foreign appearance maker, and earn himself a sought-after, very limited edition copy of the Michael Skibbe Guide to Keeping Your Job.
One man who has clearly ignored everything the ephemeral Hertha Berlin coach has yet to put into print is Christian Streich, whose surname sounds as though he should be manning the barricades. Instead, Streich has been hard at work, somehow keeping Freiburg in the top flight despite losing his most potent striker in the January transfer window. With his team the seventh-best in the second half of the season, Streich is the unanimous winner of the Lucien Favre Phoenix from the Ashes Phoenix, only just pipping the man himself following the revival of both his reputation and his team at Mönchengladbach.
Patrick Helmes has undergone a similar resurrection at Wolfsburg. Unloved, unwanted, and unfit – according to Felix Magath – at the start of the season, the former German international pushed himself to the brink of his nation’s EURO 2012 squad with 12 goals in 16 league matches after being brought in from the cold, which – in Wolfsburg – is a very chilly place indeed. For his efforts, Helmes is the proud new owner of a cross sculpted lovingly from a Signal Iduna Park goal by Robert Lewandowski himself, an award which will also come in handy for Magath when he needs to tie Helmes down and whip him into shape in pre-season.
While Cologne’s opponents can comfortably cover the floors of their boardrooms with the red carpet the Bundesliga’s most generous side – 75 goals conceded – rolled out for them, the two-week all-expenses paid trip to the Klaas-Jan Huntelaar Finishing School goes to Kaiserslautern. The Dutchman scored five more goals than the entire FCK squad between them, though Olcay Sahan can console himself in 2. Bundesliga with the fact his plum strike against Dortmund in Week 16 may well just be the best the season saw.
Eurosport 2 Bundesliga commentator
Thanks for joining us for the Bundesliga season 2011-2012. The good news is that we’ll be back in August with more live matches and more blogs. See you then!