Zickler enjoying Austrian rebirth
The name 'Alexander"'is derived from the Greek
alexo, loosely translated as defender or protector.
Alexander Zickler, first-choice centre-forward at Austrian top
flight club Red Bull Salzburg, is clearly the exception that proves
the rule. Since switching to Salzburg from Bayern Munich in summer
2005, the player has been a constant source of menace and attacking
Zickler struck 51 goals in 214 appearances spread across 12 seasons with Germany's most successful club, but never truly achieved regular status in Bavaria. Plagued by a string of serious injuries, the 33-year-old often seemed to lack the courage of his own conviction. And his record of three goals in 18 matches for Dynamo Dresden, the club he left to join Bayern, hardly rates as prolific.
Renaissance in Austria
Since his arrival in Salzburg, Zickler appears to have cast off his inhibitions once and for all, netting an impressive 37 goals in 70 Bundesliga outings for his Austrian employers. He contributed nine goals as the Bulls charged to the runners-up spot in his first season at the club, although Salzburg then agonisingly failed to survive a UEFA Champions League qualifying decider against Valencia. In November 2006, the striker became only the sixth foreigner to be named Player of the Year in an annual poll of all Austrian Bundesliga head coaches.
The 2006/7 campaign was to prove even more fruitful for the German hitman and his club. The man sporting the squad number seven fired 22 goals to finish as the league's top scorer, playing a crucial role in the Bulls' imperious march to the league title. In the circumstances, there was a sense of inevitability when the Salzburg goal-getter picked up a second Player of the Year crown in September 2007. "Obviously it's a great honour, especially because it's based on the votes of my fellow professionals," Zickler told FIFA.com.
However, the Austrian champions were dealt a blow in qualifying for the 2007/8 UEFA Champions League when they again missed out on a place among Europe's elite. "We've come within a whisker of qualifying for the Champions League twice now, against Valencia last year, and now against Shakhtar Donetsk. We were underdogs on both occasions, but we've come incredibly close two years in a row. Now we want to make it into the UEFA Cup group phase and defend the Austrian title, before having a third shot at qualifying for the Champions League," said the Bad Salzungen-born marksman.
Running with the Bulls
The Austrian champions currently lie second in the domestic standings, level on points with leaders FK Austria Magna. Zickler has successfully picked up where he left off last term, topping the scoring charts with six goals in ten games. "I'm feeling fit, I've basically had no problems in pre-season, and I feel very good about being in Salzburg. What's more, my family have settled well here and feel very much at home," the 33-year-old said, perhaps revealing the underlying reasons for his late flowering.
Salzburg supremo Giovanni Trapattoni is a long-time admirer of his striker, as he told FIFA.com: "Alex is a phenomenon, he's always positive and still keen to learn, with a real nose for goal too. Even as a youngster at Bayern, he was one of my favourites."
In the close season, Zickler penned a three-year contract extension keeping him in the Alpine republic until 2010. The deal offers powerful evidence of the mutual devotion which has developed over the last two seasons. "Why shouldn't I see out my playing days in Salzburg? There's a big club emerging over time here, I'm convinced of that - and I'm sure there'll be a job for me at RB Salzburg after I finish playing," said the man capped twelve times by Germany. He has not entirely given up hope of a comeback for the national team now coached by Joachim Low: "It's not something I think about. I'd be delighted if it happened, but I'm also a realist."