With the German top flight's 2011-12 campaign having come to an end last weekend, Goal.com picks out the best performers
The goalkeeping standard in the Bundesliga is arguably the highest in Europe, and it is a cruel thing that only one shot-stopper can be honoured. Manuel Neuer had a remarkable run with Bayern as he came close to Bundesliga records for minutes without conceding and fewest goals allowed during a season. Bernd Leno was a surprise package, and had a busier season than the Germany No. 1, saving Leverkusen's blushes time and time again. But the winner is Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who commanded Monchengladbach's defence in their surprising run to a fourth-place finish. He only recently turned 20 years of age, but the youngster showed the composure of a far more experienced player.
Due to the high volume of outstanding attackers in the Bundesliga, the rearguard consists of three players. Mats Hummels was a regular feature in Goal.com's Team of the Week, and for good reason: none of the Bundesliga's elite strikers - Mario Gomez, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Lukas Podolski, Raul, Claudio Pizarro, Marco Reus - managed to score against Dortmund. Alongside the BVB man is Holger Badstuber, who had his ups and downs but on the whole enjoyed an impressive season. Bayern's near defensive record is no fluke, and the 23-year-old was the best player from his team's back line, an ever-present source of stability in defence.
The third and final centre-back is Dante, who despite having a mediocre finale deserves the spot. Gladbach's defence was the best in Europe for most of the season, thanks to the Brazilian and Ter Stegen, and their contribution was made all the more impressive when considering that their support in midfield was not exactly world class.
Defensive midfield is a difficult area to select from, given that many of the Bundesliga's top players in that position suffered long spells on the sidelines. Earlier in the campaign, Bastian Schweinsteiger appeared to be a shoe-in to make the Team of the Season. However, a pair of nasty knocks kept him out of 12 games. Instead, his team-mate, Toni Kroos gets the nod. The youngster was at his best in the Champions League, but domestically he still was the strongest regular performer, albeit in a variety of positions. Kroos made enormous strides in his career this season, and made his team-mates much better: his combination play with Franck Ribery, for instance, was scintillating.
The Team of the Season contain six players in attacking positions, and even that many are not enough to honour those who were deserving of mention. Marco Reus was arguably the best and most influential player in the Bundesliga, leading Monchengladbach to a fourth-place finish a year after the club narrowly avoided relegation. Alongside him is Ribery, who had the best season of his career and showed just what he is capable of when fit for a full campaign. The Frenchman was always a threat, not only in the Bundesliga, but also in the Champions League.
The final attacking midfield position goes to Lukasz Piszczek, formally known as a right-back at Dortmund, but one who has played in an advanced role during his career and is essentially used as both an offensive and defensive player at BVB. The Poland international was not only effective overall, but also in critical moments when he was needed. He truly is the most under-rated full-back in Europe.
There were four centre-forwards deserving of recognition, but unfortunately, room was available only for three. Mario Gomez had a brilliant season on the whole, but his contributions in the Champions League cannot count towards a Team of the Bundesliga Season nomination, and that cost him. He finished runner-up in the scoring charts, but his failure to produce against Dortmund was a decisive factor. Instead, top scorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar makes the grade: at a strike rate of nearly one goal per game, he had his best season since he left Ajax in 2009.
Supporting the attack is Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski, who was by far the most industrious striker in the league, and whose value goes far beyond his 22 goals and 10 assists. He scored in all the critical moments, and held up the ball exceptionally well to relieve his defenders.
Finally, Lukas Podolski makes the cut as the third striker. He was unable to keep Koln out of the relegation zone, but what the Germany international did individually was sublime, especially given that he had almost no help whatsoever from his team-mates. Despite missing several games with an ankle injury, Podolski scored or assisted nearly 70 per cent of Koln's goals in the season.
| Clean sheets: 15
|Appearances: 33||Appearances: 33||Appearances: 33|
| Appearances: 32
||Appearances: 32||Appearances: 32|
|Goals/Assists: 4/8||Goals/Assists: 18/11||Goals/Assists: 12/20|
| Appearances: 34
||Appearances: 32||Appearances: 29|
|Goals/Assists: 22/10||Goals/Assists: 29/13||Goals/Assists: 18/9|