The German Bundesliga would appear to be in robust health on the eve of the 2010/11 season. Borussia Dortmund alone have set a new record for season ticket sales, the 1997 UEFA Champions League winners receiving a phenomenal 51,200 orders ahead of the coming season.
Dortmund’s arch-rivals Schalke are also enjoying plenty of support, with 42,000 fans signing up for every home match, while reigning champions Bayern Munich have shifted an impressive 37,600. In total, the 18 top tier clubs have sold over 460,000 season tickets, a reflection of the Bundesliga's growing popularity.
One of the principle factors in the 'Bundesliga boom' has been the presence of star names such as Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Lucas Barrios, Sami Hyypia and Edin Dzeko, all of whom wowed the crowds with some world-class performances last term.
Various other big names have joined Bundesliga ranks for the 2010/11 season, clearly demonstrating the new-found pulling power of Europe's best-supported league. Schalke made arguably the biggest coup of the close season by bringing in former Spain international Raul. The highest scorer in the history of the Champions League followed his former Real Madrid colleague Christoph Metzelder to the industrial city of Gelsenkirchen, where the passionate Königsblauen fans have welcomed him with open arms.
"It’s good for us to have a player like Raul in our squad,” Croatian international and Schalke playmaker Ivan Rakitic told FIFA.com. "He'll help us both on and off the field. He’s a massive personality and he’s integrated into the team without any of the pretences his star billing might suggest. He tries to talk to all the players and I think we’ve landed a fantastic player."
Bayer Leverkusen also pulled off one of the surprise deals of the summer by persuading Germany captain Michael Ballack to return to the club where he first made his name. The 98-time international enjoyed a successful three-year spell with Die Werkself between 1999 and 2002, before moving on to Bayern and subsequently Premier League side Chelsea.
“I’ve gone full circle by moving back to Bayer Leverkusen,” said the 2002 FIFA World Cup™ finalist. "I had a great time here and I always look back on those memories fondly. That helped in the decision-making process."
German players in high demand
However, as well as those high-profile newcomers, two major German talents were tempted away by the glamour of Spanish heavyweights Real Madrid. Werder Bremen were resigned to losing midfield schemer Mesut Ozil, while Stuttgart will do well to replace the versatile Sami Khedira. Each signed long-term deals with the nine-time European Champions.
Kevin Kuranyi also left his adopted homeland for a new challenge in Russia. The powerful striker made his debut for new club Dinamo Moscow a few weeks ago, recently netting his first goal against league leaders Zenit St. Petersburg. Meanwhile defender Jerome Boateng, who impressed as a full-back as Germany reached the semi-finals of South Africa 2010, will now be donning the jersey of big-spending Manchester City having signed from Hamburg.
Even so, it is clear that the Bundesliga is attracting more and more of the world’s top players. “We’ve got a league full of stars,” said League President Dr. Reinhard Rauball. Many observers are already predicting another strong showing from Germany’s top sides on the continent this season.