A diet of kebabs, pizza, and Coca-Cola, as well as an odd fascination for the Great White Shark. Hardly the average traits of a player in the Bundesliga.
But for Alexander Meier, it is having riveting results. After 16 matchdays, the Eintracht Frankfurt captain leads the goalscoring charts with ten goals, level alongside VfB Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibisevic – and ahead of names, such as, Robert Lewandowski, Mario Mandzukic and Thomas Müller.
For years, the 29-year-old has been just a regular member of Eintracht’s first-team squad. Someone who gets on with the job and at times has come under criticism for his general ability. Meier, though, is a symbol of what can be achieved through work-rate and enthusiasm – two attributes the player has never lacked when pulling on the famous Eintracht jersey.
His club - known as die Adler (The Eagles) – have made a comfortable transition from the 2.Bundesliga to the top-flight this season, making a quick recovery from their relegation in May 2011. Armin Veh’s confident squad lie fifth in the table – but enjoyed the lofty heights of second in the early parts of the season.
Eintracht Frankfurt assembled the very best of the 2.Bundesliga during the summer transfer window in the way of top scorer Olivier Occean, 1860 midfielder Stefan Aigner, Bochum’s Takashi Inui and Kaiserslautern’s talented young goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp. Rather than spending funds on less-progressive Bundesliga journeymen, the club opted to enhance the development of the aforementioned group who had shown real progress in the second division.
But the core of the Frankfurt team was constructed around the vastly-experienced Meier who has 172 Bundesliga appearances under his belt at the age of 29. He has spent eight seasons at the Commerzbank Arena and his role has varied between centre-forward, attacking-midfielder and central midfielder.
This season, Veh’s choice to deploy Meier in a 4-2-3-1 supporting-striker role has been a wise decision. Meier, with 42 Bundesliga goals overall to his name, may not be blessed with terrific pace and dynamism – but his in-game experience and intelligence has allowed him to make penetrative runs from deep midfield positions and timing challenges towards crosses from the flanks expertly.
Two of his nine goals in the Bundesliga have come from headers, largely, helped by the superb crossing of full-backs Bastian Oczipka and Sebastian Jung. Meier has hit eight of his 10 goals in Frankfurt which is connected with Veh’s insistence on the Eagles moving on the front-foot with Sebastian Rode and Pirmin Schwegler in the centre of the park, looking to dominate.
Described as the Eintracht “Messi” recently – more concerned with his influence, rather than ability – his coach Veh praised his presence in the first-team squad. In a recent interview, he claimed: “He has grown into a personality.”
The 52-year-old boss continued on the same theme after his two-goals against SC Freiburg in October. “He has in recent years made a big jump with his personality.” Veh said. “It helps him to be better now than he ever was. He believes in himself.”
The secret of his success? The old cliché “practice makes perfect”.
Meier has always had a variety of attributes: physically, his running ability, winning headers and being a tidy finisher. The striker has shown immense discipline and professionalism as his years have gone on, citing the legendary Tennis star Roger Federer as to why continued practice is important.
He told SPOX: “I have been practicing as a child. It’s about perfecting the simple things. Federer’s forehand practices continue now, even though, he can perfectly,”
Eintracht Frankfurt have a fascinating history. After all, they are previous champions of Germany (1959), four-time German Cup winners, UEFA Cup winners and European Cup finalists. It was that era of the early 1960s which resonates with many regulars at the Commerzbank Arena.
The likes of Jürgen Grabowski notched up 109 goals for the Eagles and further behind, Meier is already closing in with 68 strikes and is now level with Anthony Yeboah. Ahead of him, the great Bernd Hölzenbein has 160 goals for Eintracht Frankfurt, whilst Bernd Nickel has 141.
For a player that has been a hit-and-miss in his Eintracht career, his club record is impressive to say the least. Also, only three German international Bundesliga strikers have scored more top-flight goals than Meier who has averaged 0.24 goals per league game in his career - Mario Gomez (128), Cacau (87), Patrick Helmes (45).
Has the international call passed him by? Veh has his doubts. He said: “We do not talk about the national team. Now it is too late, but … five years ago? Maybe”
In terms of ability, Meier is probably not the right fit for the DFB-elf but there is a clear lack of quality forwards at Joachim Löw. The record-breaking Miroslav Klose is in the final stages of his career and it is something of a taboo topic when it comes to the German national team.
However, Löw takes a party of internationals to the United States in the summer of 2013 and there could be a spot on the flight for the Frankfurt forward. Meier has a strong affection for the USA – Miami, in particular – and it could be the perfect emotional swansong for the 29-year-old.
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