Five surprise performers from the 2016/17 Bundesliga season

After an unconvincing start Bayern Munich cruised to their fifth Bundesliga title in a row, 15 points ahead of RB Leipzig in second, under new coach Carlo Ancelotti.

Leipzig themselves were the biggest surprise package in all of Europe last season, qualifying automatically for the Champions League group stages in their debut season in Germany’s top flight.

With Bayern in transition, Borussia Dortmund looked most likely to potentially pip them to the title before the season started, but they were underwhelming for large parts of the campaign, especially defensively, but still ended the season as DFB-Pokal winners.

Leipzig’s success dwarfed that of Hoffenheim who still had an excellent season, a side who narrowly avoided relegation the previous season will join Leipzig in the Champions League next season albeit through the play-off rounds first.

Borussia Monchengladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke and Wolfsburg all flattered to deceive as they all finished below eighth meaning none of them will compete in European competition next season.

Wolfsburg only survived by beating Lower Saxony rivals Eintracht Braunschweig in an end of season two-legged relegation play-off, just a year after being Champions League quarter-finalists.

After surprising many in 2015/16, Ingolstadt and Darmstadt were both relegated back the second tier.

The usual suspects, Robert Lewandowski and Pieree-Emerick Aubameyang outscored the rest with the latter beating the Polish forward to the top of the scoring charts 31 goals to 30.

But here are five players who burst onto the scene this year when not too much was expected from before the start of the campaign.

Emil Forsberg

In a season when quite a few new faces took the league by storm, not many can say they had as much of an impact as the Swedish playmaker did in his and Leipzig first Bundesliga season.

Contributing to 27 goals (8 scored, 19 assisted) and creating 91 chances he was head and shoulders above the rest in that respect.

He also played an integral part in their promotion from 2.Bundesliga, as he kept his place in the side as Leipzig spent big again, bringing in Timo Werner most notably; six of Forsberg’s 19 assists were for Werner goals.

Being the league’s most prolific provider will certainly attract interest from all the big clubs like it did when Kevin de Bruyne had his breakthrough season at Wolfsburg.

Leipzig do not exactly need the money because of their controversial financial backing from Red Bull, but don’t expect the Swede to move on cheaply if he does opt for pastures new.

Thiago Alcantara

A player who followed in Pep Guardiola’s footsteps from Barcelona to Bayern, Thiago can be described as someone who fits his philosophy perfectly and there was plenty of talk suggesting he would follow Guardiola out the door at the end of last season.

But under Carlo Ancelotti, he’s had his best season yet, cementing his place in Bayern’s midfield, he was one of, if not the best performer in the Bundesliga last season, performing to a very high standard consistently throughout the season in all competitions.

With Xabi Alonso coming to the end of his career, Philipp Lahm playing at right-back again before eventually retiring himself and Thomas Muller out of form, Thiago filled their boots brilliantly and kept European Golden Boy Renato Sanches on the bench for the entire season.

Being a flexible player who can play all over midfield, the signing of James Rodriguez is unlikely to shift Thiago to the bench.

Ousmane Dembele

A revelation with Rennes last year in Ligue 1, you would have struggled to find a top European club who didn’t have the French wide man on their scouting list.

But Dembele was wise to join Borussia Dortmund who offered him game time week in week out, something the likes of Renato Sanches and Martin Ødegaard should have considered before making their big money moves.

Six goals and 12 assists in 22 starts is incredible for a teenager in his first season at a big club.

He plays without fear, persistently using his frightening pace and flair to beat defenders.

Dembele and top scorer Aubameyang had by far the best partnership in the Bundesliga last season, with Dembele teeing up 10 of Aubameyang’s goals.

He certainly continued the brilliant form he had in France, and adjusted instantly to his new surroundings.

There has even been a few whispers that he may be the first player to be bought for a nine-figure sum, with Barcelona very keen admirers.

Andrej Kramarić

The Croatian forward is a name that may linger in the minds of some Premier League fans as he spent 12 months at Leicester City.

Only really remembered for a promising cameo in a defeat away at Arsenal, he found it nearly impossible to get in ahead of record-breaking Jamie Vardy and hard-working Shinji Okazaki in the title-winning season, so he was loaned out to Hoffenheim in January 2016 and made the move permanent in the summer.

Under Julian Nagelsmann, he replicated the sensational form he showed in Croatia for Rijeka when he still finished top scorer in his final season despite leaving in the winter transfer window.

He contributed in great quantity in both goals and assists finishing sixth in both scoring and assisting charts with 15 goals and 8 assists as he was a key figure in Hoffenheim’s top four finish.

Good news for Hoffenheim fans is he looks set to stay and not follow Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Sule out the exit door as they look forward to their massive opportunity in Europe next season.

Anthony Modeste

Another man who struggled in England but impressed in Germany was Cologne’s French striker.

His 25 goals last season earnt him the nickname Fußball God amongst the Cologne faithful as he looked a completely different man to the one who was relegated with Blackburn Rovers in 2012, playing nine, scoring none, and getting himself sent off in the process.

He was the main man as Cologne qualified for Europe for the first time since 1992, only Lewandowski and Aubameyang managed more goals.

But despite playing the best football career, he’s opted to take his big-money cheque early at the age of 29, joining Chinese club Tianjin Quanjian.

How Cologne will replace his goals will be the question but the deal is worth €35 million which in German football is a lot more valuable than in England.

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Andrew Delaney

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