Die Wölfe make history

Inspired by the most effective strike partnership of any Bundesliga campaign, Wolfsburg went from ninth at the halfway stage in the season to win the race for the championship on Saturday and secure their maiden league crown. For their part, reigning champions and perennial contenders Bayern Munich had to settle for second place as they brought the curtain down on a frustrating campaign at the Allianz Arena.

The disappointment was worse for fans of Arminia Bielefeld and Karlsruhe, though, who were both relegated on the final day. Energie Cottbus, meanwhile, face a nervy play-off tie against FC Nuremberg in a bid to secure their status in Germany's top division for another season.

FIFA.com looks back on the 2008/09 Bundesliga season, one of the most exciting in years.

Grafite and Dzeko unstoppable
Bundesliga top-scorer Grafite and his towering strike partner Edin Dzeko managed 54 goals between them this season and in doing so broke a record set way back in 1971, when German legends Gerd Muller and Uli Hoeness managed a combined total of 53 for Bayern Munich. The Wolfsburg marksmen proved the decisive factor in a thrilling title race which culminated in the most surprising winners since 1998, when newly-promoted Kaiserslautern topped the pile.

However, it was not only the red-hot forward pairing which helped the Wolves to their inaugural triumph. Midfield maestro Zvjezdan Misimovic created no less than 20 assists in an impressive season which brought the one-time Nuremberg schemer to the attention of several of Europe's top clubs. Unfortunately for Wolfsburg, their inspirational tactician Felix Magath will not be leading them into the UEFA Champions League next season after opting to take over the vacant coach's role at Schalke.

Following a turbulent season punctuated by the dismissal of Jurgen Klinsmann, the former Germany coach whose ambitious plans for the club never quite came to fruition, Bayern Munich had to make do with runners-up spot at the climax of a disappointing campaign. With five games remaining, the experienced Jupp Heynckes took over the reigns to ensure the 22-time Bundesliga champions made it into next season's Champions League directly, avoiding a potentially tricky preliminary round.

The team handed that particular task are Stuttgart, who powered their way into the top three during a superb second half to their season, all the more impressive considering they stood in tenth place at the midway point. Under the guidance of Markus Babbel, Die Schwaben chalked up 39 points from their final 17 games, with top-scorer Mario Gomez playing a major part in their success. The Germany international striker notched a commendable 24 goals and chipped in with a further eight assists to make sure the 2007 champions take their place at Europe's top table next season.

Hertha and Hamburg both in Europe
Piotr Trochowski was the hero in Hamburg as his injury-time winner secured a 3-2 away win over Eintracht Frankfurt and, more importantly, a Europa League spot for the Hanseatic club. It was just desserts for Martin Jol's troops, who were still on course for an unprecedented treble (Bundesliga, UEFA Cup and DFB Cup) just a few of weeks ago, only to stumble in the final furlong in all three competitions. 

There were mixed emotions for Hertha Berlin fans after the capital club saw first their title hopes quashed in the season's latter stages and then their Champions League aspirations extinguished at the death by the resurgent Stuttgart. Serious title contenders for much of the season, the 'Old Lady' of German football had to settle in the end for fourth place and a berth in the new UEFA Europa League next term. Though scant consolation at the moment, it was nonetheless an incredible year for the Berlin side, who very few tipped to do so well this season.

Borussia Dortmund, Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen all failed to achieve their goals in a disappointing year for the quartet. While Dortmund were ousted from a Europa League spot on the final day, Schalke, Leverkusen and Bremen were way off the pace and well short of the high standards they have set themselves in recent years. There will be some consolation for either Leverkusen or Bremen, though, as they contest the DFB Cup final next weekend for a place in the Europa League.

Promoted teams maintain Bundesliga status
The three Bundesliga new boys were all celebrating on Saturday afternoon as Hoffenheim, Cologne and Borussia Monchengladbach all secured their top flight status for next term. The most impressive newcomers were Ralf Rangnick's Hoffenheim, who won plaudits from all over the globe after an explosive start to the season saw them leading the pack at Christmas. A cruel knee injury to star striker Vedad Ibisevic, who notched an amazing 18 goals in his first 17 games, hampered their form in the home straight, but the season's surprise package still managed a highly respectable seventh place finish.

Cologne comfortably avoided relegation back to the second tier, finishing in 12th spot at the end of a successful first season back in the big time. Their progress augurs well for further improvement next term, particularly with the imminent return of Germany international Lukas Podolski, expected to strike up a lethal partnership with 16-goal marksman Milivoje Novakovic. Meanwhile, Borussia Monchengladbach maintained their place among Germany's elite with a spirited fightback which saw Hans Meyer's charges rise from bottom of the table to 15th over the course of the second half of the season.

At the bottom, Energie Cottbus gave themselves a chance of Bundesliga survival after their final day escape act against Leverkusen hauled the club into 16th place and a relegation play-off with second division hopefuls FC Nuremberg. Consigned to at least one season outside of German's premier competition, however, are Arminia Bielefeld and Karlsruhe. Bielefeld's five-year stay in the Bundesliga came to a close after a mere four wins from 34 games. It was a similar story for Karlsruhe, who despite gaining maximum points from their final two games could not force their way out of the relegation zone, although both clubs will be among the favourites to bounce straight back up next term.