At the end of each season, it is time to say goodbye to some players who end their active careers and start new chapters in their lives. Though the farewell parties have been a little different this year, the good news is that Bundesliga clubs have a reputation for supporting their own, and many players transition into new roles, to tackle new tasks and challenges for their clubs off the pitch.
Here is a look at some of the players who have hung up their boots – from international champions to true local heroes – the Bundesliga Heroes.
The 2019-20 season was undoubtedly extraordinary and will remain in the memory of football fans for many reasons. It speaks volumes, however, that many Bundesliga fans will remember 2020 as the year Claudio Pizarro ended his career.
It is hard to do his achievements justice, so here are some numbers
to reflect on: The Peruvian center forward scored 197 goals in 490 Bundesliga games and won a total of 17 trophies, including the UEFA Champions League and 6 Bundesliga titles.
During his two spells at FC Bayern München and four at Werder Bremen, Pizarro set records for the most goals scored by a foreign player in the Bundesliga and became the oldest goalscorer in Bundesliga history.
He also finished as Werder Bremen’s all-time top scorer. At the very end of his career, things got quite thrilling as Werder Bremen had to go through the Bundesliga relegation playoffs to secure their place in the league and Pizarro could celebrate with his teammates for one last time as a player.
The boy from Lima, who conquered the Bundesliga and became one of the most decorated South Americans to play in Europe leaves a great legacy and will surely continue to have an impact on the league in the future.
Speaking of South American legends, there is another player world football is sad to see ending his career.
Even though he left the Bundesliga more than 10 years ago, football enthusiasts still remember Lucio’s unique style of play and mazy dribbles across the field that made him a true cult figure as a defender in the Bundesliga. Lúcio joined Bayer Leverkusen in 2001 and moved on to FC Bayern in 2004.
He is a three-time Bundesliga champion and ended his career in January in his hometown in Brazil.
In May, Lúcio celebrated his 42nd birthday, which was taken as an opportunity by his teammates at Bayern München to once again look back at the eventful five years he spent there.
Like many, his former coach Felix Magath especially remembers Lúcio’s thrilling attacking forays: “All of us knew he had it in him to be unpredictable”. In the end, Bayern could always count on him as a defensive leader.
In a similar fashion, Mario Gómez also returned to his roots to end his career. He made his debut in the Bundesliga for VfB Stuttgart in 2004 and made a massive contribution to the club’s biggest success in recent history when they won the Bundesliga title in 2007.
That season Gómez scored 14 goals in 25 league appearances and was named German Footballer of the Year. Fast forward to 2009, Gómez joined FC Bayern München, becoming the most expensive Bundesliga player at the time and went on to help the club win 7 trophies including the treble in 2013.
Eventually, in 2017, following spells in Italy, Turkey, and back in the Bundesliga with VfL Wolfsburg, Gómez returned to Stuttgart. He immediately
became their top scorer but could not stop VfB’s relegation to Bundesliga 2 following a loss against Union Berlin in the Bundesliga playoffs. However, Gómez was not one to quit following such a setback.
Stuttgart secured their return to the top flight after just one season and, in a fitting end to an illustrious career, Mario Goméz scored in the final game to secure the team’s promotion.
The three players named so far are prime examples of the best the Bundesliga has to offer. These are players collecting titles and making moves to the very best clubs in the league in search of the next challenge.
There are, however, other players who ended their careers this year that were not always in the spotlight but became legends and heroes at their clubs through their loyalty and enduring impact.
Michael Parensen, for example, joined Union Berlin in 2009 when they were still playing in the third division (3. Liga). Ten years later, Parensen celebrated the biggest success in the club’s history, when Berlin were finally promoted to the Bundesliga.
Parensen celebrated his debut in the top flight of German football as a 33-year-old. He will continue to accompany Union’s journey by taking over a role in the club’s administration.
The next two examples truly demonstrate the special relationships between Bundesliga clubs and their players, going well beyond football. Whilst Michael Parensen celebrated two promotions with Union Berlin, 1. FC Köln’s goalkeeper Thomas Kessler has been on a roller-coaster ride, experiencing
relegation and promotion several times during his 20 years at the club.
Even though he was not always the first choice in goal, 1. FC Köln could count on him whenever he was needed. Kessler will now start a traineeship at the club to continue his career off the pitch. Then there is Eintracht Frankfurt, a club that demonstrated what it means to stand together in crisis when Marco Russ was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2016.
The club and its fans supported the defender throughout his treatment and
in 2017 he successfully returned to the pitch. As is well known, after beating cancer he went on to win the German Cup with Eintracht in 2018 and will forever have a place in the club’s history.
It does not come as a surprise that he will stay part of the Eintracht family, working for the Eagles as an analyst.
These are just some examples of the sporting biographies written in the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is shaped by its fans, its unique clubs, and the personal stories which evolve on and off the pitch.
Looking back at these career highlights, it’s easy to see what the Bundesliga’s mantra “Football As It’s Meant To Be” is all about. It’s about world-class football on display and the incredible footballers that create long-lasting memories for fans around the world.
Although we are sad to see them go, it’s great to have so many Bundesliga legends take on new roles with their clubs, so they can help foster the next generation of club heroes.