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Behind The German Invasion: Lehmann, Klinsmann & Ballack
With the number of German players in the Premier League on the rise, Rayyan Dabbous looks at the three players who kicked off the invasion – Klinsmann, Lehmann & Ballack.
The fact that they are Germans, and therefore invidiously associated with World War II, ruthless, robotic, efficiency, and a charmless lack of humour, is no barrier to achieving legendary status in the Premiership.
Arsenal trio Mesut Ozil, Per Mertesacker and Lukas Podolski, Tottenham’s Lewis Holtby and Andre Shurrle of Chelsea are all making the headlines here in England. They are Germans and their skills and talent are igniting the Premier League week after week. One thing is certain, Germany’s academy has never been so productive before and we will see more German footballers coming to these shores in the next few years.
Such influx is undoubtedly beneficial for the league and Premiership clubs are relishing in their prosperous German players. With more clubs setting sights on Germany’s prodigies, I look back at those who are behind this German invasion; the very first Germans who carved their names in the stadium walls of the greatest football league in the world.
The first German to make an impact in the Premier League was Tottenham’s Jürgen Klinsmann. When he moved to the White Hart Lane in the summer of 1994, the fans and the media were very critical – mainly because the striker was part of the 1990 German national team that knocked England out of the World Cup. However, Klinsmann enjoyed a brief yet memorable stint in London with the excellence of his play and self-deprecating goal celebrations where he mocked his reputation as a serial diver by flying to the ground with his teammates. He scored 29 goals in all competitions for Spurs; displaying a typical German combative style of play.
Another German who enjoyed his spell in London was Jens Lehmann. After completing a move from Borrusia Dortmund in 2003, Lehmann quickly adapted to the Premier League; playing every match as Arsenal went unbeaten for the entire 2003–04 season. The Invincible then later went on to be named the 2005-06 UEFA Club Goalkeeper of the Year; holding the UEFA Champions League record for the most consecutive clean sheets, having not conceded a goal in 10 matches.
While at Arsenal, he also displayed another typical German trait; aggressiveness, holding the record for a goalkeeper to have collected 8 yellow cards in one season and being the first player and only goalkeeper to have been sent off in a Champions League/European Cup final.
Michael Ballack (Chelsea)
Last but not least, the German who has had the most success in England was arguably Michael Ballack. The three-time German Footballer of the Year enjoyed four seasons at Stamford Bridge; lifting three FA Cup titles and the Premiership trophy in 2010. The former German captain used to display imperious play in midfield: head held high, tracking back, driving forward and casually transferring the ball from left foot to right. A third German characteristic we can deduce from Ballack’s spell in England is their talent in slotting the ball in from the penalty spot. This is what Shaun Custis of the Sun had to say after Michael slotted his first for Chelsea:
“Chelsea have found the cure for the English penalties disease – give the kicks to a German.” [Source: Sun]
So, these are the three German footballers who started the German invasion of the Premier League. Combative, aggressive and a player for crucial moments, the Germans are welcomed to join the spectacular action of the Premiership and it seems those of today are already fighting hard to get their hands on the prestigious Premier League trophy.