Podolski, Reus & the nominees for Goal.com's Bundesliga Player of the Season

The saviour of Monchengladbach & Koln's hometown hero are among those in the running to claim the honour of the best footballer in the German top flight this year
As of last Saturday, the Bundesliga's 2011-12 season is finally over: all that remains is the relegation play-off between Hertha Berlin and Fortuna Dusseldorf. The old and new champions, Dortmund, set a record for points earned in a single campaign, while holding off an impressive Bayern side who juggled Champions League and DFB-Pokal commitments throughout the season alongside their domestic duties.

Far less successful were Kaiserslautern and Koln, who will both play in the second division next season. Hertha may join the pair in the 2. Bundesliga as well, depending on the outcome of their play-off.

There were many individuals who stood out, but who was the Player of the Season? Goal.com editors have carefully considered the possibilities and nominated four candidates - next week we will announce our winner.

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Bundesliga 32 29 13 6

The Dutchman seemed to score almost at will this season, finding the net 29 times in 32 games, and claiming the Bundesliga's top-scorer award ahead of Mario Gomez. It comes as little surprise then that the 28-year-old is among the nominees. While last season he had teething problems and scored just eight goals, Huntelaar found his form this term, and had a decisive role in ensuring Schalke's automatic qualification for the Champions League group stage next season.
Hassan Talib Haji

Huntelaar is a machine: 48 games, 48 goals in all competitions - this is a record that speaks for itself. He often is quiet, but then out of nowhere scores a goal or two. His value for Schalke cannot be measured in money. Even though he sometimes seems absent, he is always focused and ruthlessly punishes mistakes, making him indispensable in Schalke's attack.

It was only in the second matchday of the season where Huntelaar created a stir as he netted a hat-trick against Koln, leading the way in a 5-1 win. Many more goals came later, although he was in a head-to-head with Gomez until the very end. In his final three games, however, Huntelaar found the net five times, edging out the Bayern man to become the top marksman.

The combination of Huntelaar and strike partner Raul was unsurprisingly the most dangerous pairing in the league: together they scored 44 goals, and also gave more assists (19) than any attacking pair. Not previously known for his passing abilities, Huntelaar played the final pass before 13 goals, and finished levelled with Thomas Muller for the Bundesliga's second-highest tally of assists.

After his brilliant season, it is no wonder that Schalke want to tie down Huntelaar in the long term. With the striker's current contract set to expire in 2013, sporting director Horst Heldt has offered €8 million in annual wages for the Netherlands star to sign a two-year extension until 2015. A decision may even be made before the European Championship.

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Bundesliga 34 22 10 8

In the summer of 2010, Dortmund forked out €4.75m for Robert Lewandowski. In his first season since leaving Lech Poznan, the Poland international struggled: he only started in 15 games, and when he did, he played out of position in attacking midfield as a replacement for the injured Shinji Kagawa. Lucas Barrios was BVB's lone striker, without question. However, the Argentina-born attacker suffered a cruel twist of fate in the summer as he sustained a hamstring injury, opening the door for Lewandowski. And the 23-year-old took his chance brilliantly.
Daniel Buse

Over the course of the season, Lewandowski went from a second-string striker to an indispensable figure of the BVB side. Even though he is not quite a true "killer" like Huntelaar, he has shown his class and versatility this term, and is a perfect fit at BVB.

With 22 goals, "Lewa" finished the season as Dortmund's third-highest scorer in the Bundesliga. And while he was bettered by two others, the Dortmund man led his team to the Meisterschaft: his winner against Bayern in April was not only the crowning achievement on his season individually, it also put the title race to rest.

While he was indeed prolific, Lewandowski stood out for far more than his goals. He also provided 10 assists, and tirelessly worked to hold up the ball when needed. In fact, such was his impact that he might have been Man of the Match in the April clash with Bayern even before he scored. After a season on the bench, Barrios was so discouraged that he stopped fighting for his starting berth and accepted an offer to move to China.

Now, along with club and international colleagues Jakub Blaszczykowski and Lukasz Piszczek, Lewandowski will have the utmost confidence heading into Euro 2012 in their homeland of Poland.

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Bundesliga 29 18 9 6

Koln's prodigal son returned in the summer of 2009 after a disappointing spell at Bayern Munich, and never really lived up to his expectations after joining his former club once more. Until this season, that is. Lukas Podolski had a brilliant 2011-12 campaign individually, even if he could not prevent his side from being relegated.
Clark Whitney

He achieved no success with Koln this season, but Podolski was absolutely magnificent when fit. What he might have accomplished had he avoided injuries and had a better supporting cast borders on the unbelievable.

Nevertheless, the 26-year-old was one of the Bundesliga's most outstanding players this term. His exploits are even more remarkable considering how poorly many of his team-mates performed. The striker scored nearly half of all the goals Koln registered, and 13 more than the club's second-most prolific attackers, Milivoje Novakovic and Christian Clemens. Koln will play in the 2. Bundesliga next season, but not for lack of effort from "Poldi."

In the first half of the campaign, in particular, the Germany international was unstoppable, scoring 14 goals in 16 games. An ankle injury held him back in the second half, and he ended the season with 18 strikes and nine assists in total.

Podolski will bid farewell and move on from his current club. Next season, the Koln hero will play with international colleague Per Mertesacker at Arsenal. Of course, the Poland-born attacker would have liked to have left with his team still a first division side, but that is a burden his team-mates will have to bear - now Podolski will hope for better times with the Gunners.

MARCO REUS | Striker
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Bundesliga 32 18 12 12

In 2009, Rot-Weiss Ahlen sold Marco Reus to Monchengladbach for what now seems a ridiculous transfer fee of €1m. Gladbach did not know it at the time, but they had signed a player who would become an absolute shooting star of their team in 2011-12. This season, Reus led his club on an incredible run as they finished fourth in the Bundesliga and secured a spot in the Champions League play-offs next season. Just 12 months before, they barely avoided relegation.
Gregor Becker

Reus was the fulcrum in Gladbach's surprise team. After a string of injuries and illnesses, he finally debuted for Joachim Low's Germany side, and has even become an irreplaceable part of the national team.

The role Reus played in his team's remarkable streak is evident in the numbers alone. In 32 games, the 22-year-old scored 18 goals and supplied 12 assists: he either played the final ball or took the shot himself in more than 60 per cent of his team's goals. And of the other 40%, he played a part in many of those.

Reus was the glue that held Gladbach together: his interaction not only with strike partner Mike Hanke, but with wingers Patrick Herrmann and Juan Arango was brilliant. Without question, it was a feast for the eyes to watch Reus and his colleagues carve apart their opponents' defences.

But now, and much to Gladbach's dismay, Reus will leave Lucien Favre's side for his former youth club Dortmund. With the champions, the Germany international will have a new set of partners to harmonise with. But with an attack including Reus, Lewandowski, Mario Gotze, and possibly more, what could go wrong?