Leverkusen welcomes a new Son

By Ross Dunbar

“With his open nature, Sonny is the face of HSV and our organisation,” admits Hamburg Chairman Carl E. Jarchow, back in 2012. Commercially, and on the park, the South Korean international was the ‘Poster Boy’ of the club and commanded promising opinions of his playing qualities, and his reputation.

Particularly for a club like Hamburg SV, boasting a great pedigree in Europe and supported by a far-stretching fanbase in Germany. Whilst the title-winning impact of Shinji Kagawa gripped the Japanese audience, and moreover, created a ripple-effect across Germany, Hamburg – a club who traditionally have explored nearby Denmark for rich talent – opened the door to South Korea, nurturing the country’s brightest talent since Park Ji-Sung.

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He scored a ‘poker’ at the age of 34, so what’s next for Pizarro?

By Ross Dunbar

Saturday’s 9-2 victory over rivals Hamburg SV wasn’t enough to clinch the Bundesliga, as results elsewhere went against Bayern, but they did re-write the 50-year-old record books with the heaviest defeat enforced on the Dinosaur since a thrashing by the it wasame scoreline, ironically, against the blue-half of Munich in the first league campaign in 1963/64.
But the sheer assertiveness of Bayern’s victory certainly struck at the heart of the 10,000 travelling Hamburg supporters. The reward of a free barbeque mid-April ahead of their match with Fortuna Dusseldorf might not repair the mental damage, of fans, and players. Keeping an eye on a Champions League Quarter Final, Jupp Heynckes handed Claudio Pizarro the chance to grab the glory – and he made no mistake. 
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The timing was perfect for the Peruvian. After all, inside 90 minutes, he brushed aside club supremo Karl-Heinz Rummenigge to become the 10th highest-scoring player in the Bundesliga history, whilst adding his first league strike this season and enhancing his position as the league’s all-time leading foreign goalscorer and in the top-10 Bayern marksmen.
Pizarro was influential in six of the nine goals, opening his account on the half-hour mark, leaving his run to late from a corner-kick to connect perfectly from just a few yards out. He turned his hand to creating goals with a deft back-heel for Arjen Robben, which he went on to replicate in his hat-trick goal, meeting Robben’s cross at the front-post with strength and an ingenious flick.
His second on the stroke of half-time was to tap-in the rebound from Xherdan Shaqiri’s long-range effort that clipped the post before falling in the path of the veteran. Pizarro held his run efficiently to tap-home Thomas Muller’s cross into an empty, minutes after shrewdly holding-up play for Bayern’s Dutch winger who up-staged his team-mates with a majestic chip over the inauspicious Rene Adler.
“It was the best match of my career” said Pizarro, described as an “excellent player with great qualities” by chief trainer Jupp Heynckes in the wake of their win. To eclipse that, Franz Beckenbauer reacted, “We have Mario Gomez, Mario Mandzukic and we have Claudio Pizarro, who is actually the best of all, if he is fit,”
Pizarro might lie claim to a regular seat on the Bayern bench but his vast experience and composure was a refreshing commodity for a side that capitulated towards the end of last season, and freezing on the final stage, against Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea in their home Champions League final. He points to the trend over the last decade of clubs building around a core of experienced, knowledgeable players to be one of the lead players on the pitch.
He told TZ-Online.de: “This is a phenomenon that I have observed always in German football. Guiding players with temperament is important on the pitch, and there has always been a hierarchy. I think that’s very important. It takes a leading player within a group. In Bremen, I have shown that I am someone who can lead a group.”
Abreast from his two spells in Munich, Pizarro’s first stint in the Bundesliga was at SV Werder Bremen, where he endowed an abiding relationship with the club for four-and-a-half seasons. At 17, he debuted for local side Deportivo Pesquero and earned a move to Allianz Lima, averaging a goal every two games that alerted then Peruvian NT coach Francisco Maturana. Pizarro was one of the first signings under Werder’s newly-appointed head coach Thomas Schaaf, who had spared the club from relegation weeks earlier, as he cleaned up the untidy mess left by Felix Magath. 
The striker settled quickly into life in Northern Germany, which he noted was “similar” to the working-class lifestyle of South America and he immediately became a cornerstone of Schaaf’s early side. Two strong campaigns with 10 and 19 goals respectively, he was signed by FC Bayern for £7m, turning down offers from Borussia Dortmund, among others. His relationship, though, with the club and boss Ottmar Hitzfeld became detached eventually with the “laid-back” culture of Pizarro, clashing head-on with the demands of Hitzfeld.
In 2003, Pizarro played second-fiddle to Dutchman Roy Maakay and he branded the pragmatic style of Hitzfeld as “too defensive” which angered the most successful Bundesliga coach of all-time. The 62-time Peruvian internationalist out-stayed Hitzfeld who departed and replaced by Magath, a year later, and still, the striker found himself behind Maakay in the pecking order.
Only in his final season, Pizarro reclaimed a regular starting berth in Magath’s last season with the club, and with a number of clubs eager to sign the South American on a bosman, he tested the water and switched to the Chelsea revolution, under Jose Mourinho. With the likes of Hernan Crespo and Mateja Kezman trodding on his toes, Pizarro was content to remain in London for a season, before agreeing to return to Bremen in 2008.
Rated as “the best ever” by former Werder friend and championship-winner Ailton, Pizarro claimed he back to win on the Weser-Strand and his 35 goals, in all competitions, steered Schaaf’s side to guaranteed Champions League football, and a memorable run to the UEFA Cup Final, losing to Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donestk. His initial loan-spell turned into a permanent move, worth around £2m to the Blues, and Pizarro would score a further 42 league goals in three extra seasons in Bremen.
Yet, the demise and struggle of the River Islanders to secure Champions League football on a regular basis led to a streamlining of the club’s playing staff. Pizarro – one of the club’s highest-earning players – was one, followed by Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Naldo, to be ushered out of the exit door. He signed a 12-month-deal with his old employers FC Bayern, appeased at a place on the bench behind Mario Gomez and Mario Mandzukic with the Bavarians competing on all-fronts.
Away from the training pitch, Pizarro looks after breeding horses in Peru and following the progress of two racing horses, one co-owned with Marseille midfielder Joey Barton called ‘Crying Lightning’ and the second with former Werder Bremen team-mate Tim Borowski named ‘Black Arrow’. The latter has a good record on the German circuit winning the Derby Trial in Hannover, two years ago, which he went on to sell for a profit following that race victory.
As for his future, Pizarro’s goal-fest against Hamburg was a sign of his qualities and ability to keep FC Bayern topping the Bundesliga, and holding strong in other competitions. The coach-in-waiting, Pep Guardiola, has raised the yardstick and elevated expectations with the former Barcelona coach looking to emulate the success of Heynckes next season, whilst implementing a change in style on the park.
He might be approaching the final few years in his career, but Pizarro’s contribution is one that could continue into the new era for Bayern. His style will be welcoming for Guardiola and the motivation of increasing his goal haul will keep the 34-year-old hungry for future success at the Allianz Arena, or indeed, elsewhere in Germany.

This article is written by Ross Dunbar, an AFR Senior Writer and Bundesliga specialist. You can follow him on twitter @rossdunbar93. Comments below please.

He scored a ‘poker’ at the age of 34, so what’s next for Pizarro?

By Ross Dunbar

Saturday’s 9-2 victory over rivals Hamburg SV wasn’t enough to clinch the Bundesliga, as results elsewhere went against Bayern, but they did re-write the 50-year-old record books with the heaviest defeat enforced on the Dinosaur since a thrashing by the it wasame scoreline, ironically, against the blue-half of Munich in the first league campaign in 1963/64.

But the sheer assertiveness of Bayern’s victory certainly struck at the heart of the 10,000 travelling Hamburg supporters. The reward of a free barbeque mid-April ahead of their match with Fortuna Dusseldorf might not repair the mental damage, of fans, and players. Keeping an eye on a Champions League Quarter Final, Jupp Heynckes handed Claudio Pizarro the chance to grab the glory – and he made no mistake.

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Shawn Parker: The next German-American whose stock is rising in the Bundesliga

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By Ross Dunbar

Shawn Parker prefers not to say much. His performances for FSV Mainz 05 have spoken enough – and now he could be the next star in the making for either the United States or Germany.

Turning 20 last week, the forward rose to prominence in the Bundesliga this season having made the breakthrough in late 2012. The sharp man-management skills of trainer Thomas Tuchel offered Parker a new lease of life, which meant he worked with the first-team, whilst playing in the Regionalliga Südwest with the reserve team.

It reversed a slump in form in the second team and a glimpse of the prosperous Bundesliga status sparked the teenager into life. "He told me that I need to change my approach to the game and I do not want to rest on my talent,” he said.

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Nils Petersen is proving his worth in the Bundesliga at the perfect time

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By Ross Dunbar

After all, the league’s most prolific goalscorer for 2012 and this season, overall, is a player of the old-fashioned ‘Number 9’ mould, whilst the Bundesliga continues to accommodate what is a dying breed of forward across Europe.

Hailing from the East German town of Wernigerode, Petersen has moved up the ranks, from his provincial club FC Einheit Wernigerode, to Carl-Zeiss Jena and then on to Energie Cottbus in the 2.Bundesliga. His move to Cottbus was worth around €300k and after a season in the reserves, he burst on to the scene at the age of 21 with 10 goals in 22 games in 2009/10. The following campaign, Petersen came into his own with 25 goals in 33 games for the second division side.

Through hard-work and this impressive nous of scoring goals, Petersen earned a €2.7m move to FC Bayern in the summer of 2011. With Mario Gomez and Klose as competition, the striker was frozen out by the returning head coach Jupp Heynckes making only nine appearances – but scoring twice. The humble 24-year-old refused to let his lack of game-time affect his confidence and was appreciative of his time with the German giants.

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Germany’s young masterminds: Klopp, Löw and the upcoming Julian Nagelsmann

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By Ross Dunbar

The success and legacy of Klopp at Borussia Dortmund has been favourable in the balance of less-experienced coaches aiming for employment at the highest level of the game. Younger coaches – or trainers as known in Germany – are more respected than ever before and the latest trend in modern coaching is encouraging the development of those with a less-prominent background in professional football to flourish at the top level.

Julian Nagelsmann might be acquiring knowledge rapidly at just 25 years of age – but he has circumstantially learned to deal with a range of challenging environments. Plying his young career as a right-sided full-back at 1860 Munchen, he sustained a problematic knee cartilage injury in 2006 during an U19 match against Eintracht Frankfurt, which left him on the treatment table for nearly two years.

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A forgotten past, and the rise of Chelsea’s new signing Demba Ba

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It didn’t take long for Premier League fans to embrace Newcastle’s Senegalese striker. After all, it’s hard to resist a player that admits“I love syrup … It’s something I can’t live without, like an addiction.”

But before this interview with Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves in 2012, Demba Ba was still relatively new to the British game, having only swapped the Bundesliga for the Premier League a year previously. The contrast between Ba’s reputation in England and Germany is interesting, to say the least.

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From Robbie Kruse to Stefan Reisinger: A goal that will live long in the memory of Fortuna Düsseldorf

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It marks a dramatic return to the Bundesliga, following a 15-year absence, which was a traumatic period for the club. A decade ago last Friday, Fortuna were thrashed 6-0 by Wuppertaler SV in the fifth-tier of German football, as they made small steps on their ascent to become the only side to be demoted to the regional leagues and return to the top-flight.

Seven days that will be monumental in Fortuna’s Bundesliga history starting with a routine 2-0 home win against Hamburg SV, three weeks ago. A well-earned draw would follow in Dortmund in midweek before an impressive 4-0 win against Eintracht Frankfurt on the following Friday.

Years of financial difficulties and licensing problems has marred one of the most traditional clubs in German football. Like many in the 1990s, Fortuna were hit hard by the financial problems widespread in German football and in the end, they plummeted to the regional divisions – participating as low as the Oberliga Nordrehin. Commercially, the club was in dire straits and it took a local punk rock band, Die Toten Hosen, to bail them out for two year’s worth of sponsorship revenue.

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Felix Magath will strike back!

By Ross Dunbar

Felix Magath’s relationship with VfL Wolfsburg may have recently ended abruptly, but he still threatens to reach the summit of German football once again. He is far from everyone’s cup of tea.

On his CV, there are two Bundesliga triumphs for FC Bayern, a place in the Champions League for VfB Stuttgart and the incredible 2009 championship victory for Wolfsburg. Perception and reality is two completely opposite things; and in Germany, “the dictator’s” reputation is far from glowing at the moment.

But interestingly, Magath has never been this type of character. Indeed, his time as a footballer has almost certainly shaped his managerial credibility as we know it.

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The unexpected rise of Tolgay Arslan

By Ross Dunbar

It could have panned out very differently for Tolgay Arslan. On September 22nd, 2012, he could have been kitted in the ‘schwarz-gelb’, the black and yellow of Borussia Dortmund, to take on Hamburg SV. Instead, he played a vital role in the downfall of his former club, which he left three years ago, producing a domineering performance to leave ‘die Borussen’ licking their wounds.

The match resulted 3-2 for Hamburg and more importantly, they terminated their opponent’s 31-game Bundesliga unbeaten streak. Although the performances of Van der Vaart and two-goal hero Son Heung-Mi attracted most attention, Arslan’s display certainly pleased coach Thorsten Frink, who could not hide his delight at the adaptability in the young midfielder, which he highlighted: "Tolgay [Arslan] showed that he also can work so well on the defensive side and that has really surprised me.”

Arslan’s developing into a fine well-round midfielder, and his defensive game has complemented his dynamic offensive play very well. In the match against Dortmund, his presence was well noted: running 11.6km, executing 15 successful tackles and completing 83% of his passes. A set of strong stats from the prospering player and things can only get better for him, which was not expected. But so is Hamburg’s start to the season.

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