It’s funny how suddenly, the footballing world finds itself highly interested in the Bundesliga. German football made its beautiful return to our screens very recently and pulled in billions of views worldwide throughout the nine games on its first weekend back. Before the current pandemic we all knew probably one lad, who would rock an Augsburg jersey they found in the clearance section on an online retro jersey store but now we all find ourselves as experts of the German game. The German craze is set to continue for the next coming weeks but will be dropped in record time when the Premier League makes its hotly anticipated return.
Our short-lived loyalties to the likes of Schalke, Union Berlin and Dortmund will be put to one side as we go back to supporting our English teams of choice as they look to round of their respective seasons. All of this got us thinking about the German players that have graced the Premier League over the years. The country has always produced masses of talented players so trying to name the best of all time outright will lead to sleepless nights. So, let’s instead take on the still tough task of selecting the best five players to ever play in the Premier League in order.
For this list only a players Premier League career will be taken into consideration not their international careers or whatever they did elsewhere. This will mean the likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger will miss out as he only played about 20 games for Manchester United in the twilight of his career sorry Bastian mate, I know you’ll be gutted when you read this. The player didn’t have to be in the league for a long time either the picks are based off performances in the league, success in the league and general legacy. Current players also came into consideration for the list but spoiler alert now of them made the cut with one just missing out if.
As always, we will start off with some honourable mentions that have just missed out for one reason or another. They are Lukas Podolski, Christian Ziege, Leroy Sane, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Hitzlsperger, Andre Schurrle and Iikay Gundogan.
5. Robert Huth
Robert Huth now finds himself as a veteran of the Premier League and is the German player with most league appearances with 322. He never played at senior level in his native German instead joining Chelsea at youth level from Union Berlin in 2001. He broke into the Chelsea senior team soon after making his debut in the final day of the 2001/02 season in a losing effort at home to Aston Villa.
Ever since Huth has become a regular face in the Premier League over the years. He played for Middlesbrough for three seasons, was a vital player in the heart of the defence for Stoke City from 2009 until 2015. He also permanently moved to Leicester City after a loan spell it’s a move that gave Huth his finest hour in England. Huth was a vital part of the famous Leicester City team that went on to win the Premier League in the 2015/16 season. He played most of their games that season and built up a solid centre back partnership with Wes Morgan.
Over his 322 league games in the league Robert Huth has scored 21 goals and helped keep 82 clean sheets. He also has three Premier League winners’ medals with Leicester as just mentioned and two with Chelsea for the 2004/05 and 2005/06 campaigns. Now 35 Huth has been retired from the game since January 2019 after opting to leave Leicester City in 2018 after a year out with an ankle injury. Surly he can look back proudly on the career he made for himself in the Premier League.
4. Jens Lehmann
Let’s start off with a stat that will surprise you Jens Lehmann has been playing senior football since making his debut for Schalke in 1988 and had a career that spanned 23 years.
He spent five years of that career with Arsenal in the Premier League during two spells that the club. He joined Arsenal ahead of their now famous invincible season in 2003/04. He was a vital member of that unbeaten team playing every game during that league campaign and done brilliant to fill that big boots left by David Seaman. He also had a successful 2005/06 season making his 100th appearance for Arsenal and went on a remarkable run of cleans sheets in the Champions League going 853 minutes without conceding a goal.
Lehmann ultimately left Arsenal in 2008 to return to Germany to play for Stuttgart. He made a short return to Arsenal coming out of retirement in 2011 to help the club out who were going through a disastrous time with injury in their goalkeeping ranks making only one senior appearance away to Blackpool in a 3-1 win.
On his day Lehmann was one of the best keepers in the Premier League during his tenor. He was also known for been inconsistent and for having a mistake in him when he would go through patchy spells of form. Lehmann was also a bit of a livewire on and off the pitch known for making rash decisions and aggravating opposition players and supporters alike.
On his day he was one of the best keepers Arsenal had in the Premier League who had a strong mentality along with some great distribution of the ball to round of his strong goalkeeping ability. He made 148 appearances in the league keeping 54 clean sheets and won the Premier League title as mentioned in the 2003/04 season along with an FA Cup in 2005. Retired since leaving Arsenal in 2011 he is now assistant coach at German side Augsburg in the Bundesliga. A role he took up after been let go from the Arsenal coaching team in 2018 when Unai Emery arrived.
3. Dietmar Hamann
A criminally underrated midfielder Dietmar Hamann spent most of his playing career in the Premier League. He began his career in England signing for Newcastle United in 1998 from Bayern Munich. He impressed and got a £8 million move to Liverpool in the summer of 1999. Liverpool is where Hamann would pick up all his silverware in England. Despite never winning the Premier League he would win two FA Cups in 2001 and 2006 along with two league cups in 2001 and 2003. Its also worth mentioning his European successes being apart of Liverpool’s famous Champions League winning team in 2005 along with having a UEFA Cup winners medal and two UEFA Super Cup winners’ medals.
Overall Hamann made 191 league appearances for Liverpool netting eight goals.
He would also go on to play for Manchester City in a strange turn of events. He initially signed a pre contract with Bolton Wanderers in 2006 but after only spending a day at Bolton he had a change of heart and decided to join Man City instead. Manchester City agreed to pay Bolton £400,000 in compensation, but Bolton announced they never actually officially signed the player it was just a strange situation.
He went on to be a consistent figure for Manchester City making 54 Premier League appearances over three years with the club.
Always an extremely reliable player Hamann was always an excellent technical player in the middle of the park never the flashiest player in the world but ever dependable to say the least.
He tried his hand at coaching with his last role been Stockport manager in 2011 he now has a career in sports media as a columnist and television pundit.
2. Jurgen Klinsmann
For Jurgen Klinsmann his two spells in the Premier League with Tottenham Hotspur were just another chapter in a storied career. While with Spurs he didn’t have success in the form of silverware he did manage to capture the hearts of the North London faithful and become a cult hero at the club.
Klinsmann first joined Tottenham in 1994 arriving from Monaco for £2. He arrived in England as a villain that the people wanted to hate after been apart of the West Germany squad that knocked the English out of the 1990 World Cup and for his well-known reputation for diving. This perception quickly changed as he went on to score 20 goals in 41 games during the 1994/95 campaign. He was quickly and loudly beloved by everyone at Tottenham and quietly admired by fans elsewhere for his obvious abilities. His first goal for Spurs came during his debut away to Sheffield Wednesday when he headed the ball into the back of the net and celebrated by diving on the ground having a laugh at his own expense. Still to this day the image of that celebration is probably the first thing that comes to mind when fans hear his name.
Klinsmann left Spurs after one season to return to Germany to sign with Bayern Munich. However, he couldn’t stay away and signed back for Tottenham on loan for the 1997/98 season. His goals helped save Spurs from relegation with his best day coming in a 6-2 win over Wimbledon scoring four goals himself. He finished up that season with nine league goals in 15 games leaving him with a total of 29 goals and 15 assists during 56 games in the Premier League.
That season would be his last at a high level and Klinsmann can now be found in the hotseat at Hertha Berlin as his latest role in his managerial career.
1. Michael Ballack
Topping our list is midfielder Michael Ballack who spent four seasons at Chelsea from 2006 until 2010. He joined Chelsea from Bayern Munich after heavy rumours that he would come into the league as a Manchester United player but instead Ballack chose the blue of Chelsea.
He made his Premier League debut on the third week of the 2006/07 season in a 2-0 Chelsea win away to Blackburn Rovers. He went on to play 105 Premier League games for Chelsea scoring 17 goals and having 10 assists. He has a league winners medal from the 2009/10 season along with two FA Cup winners’ medals and a league cup winners medal from his time in England.
Some people believe Chelsea fans never seen the best of him but what they did see is a very versatile midfielder one of the best from his generation who was a very physical treat and quite commanding with excellent leadership skills. He could also smack a ball when given a chance and for my money Ballack showed his fantastic ability during his time at Chelsea and can only look back at his time with pride he adapted to English football perfectly. Despite wanting to retire at Chelsea he left the club after a falling out with owner Roman Abramovich and returned to Germany to finish his career. Which is a shame because it robbed the Premier League and its fans the pleasure of the best German to ever grace the league not finishing his career under the leagues banner.