Bayern at the double
2007-08 was very much Bayern Munich's season. The record Bundesliga title-winners dominated the domestic scene in Germany and won their seventh league and cup double. It was their star-studded new recruits who propelled them to this success, with Hamit Altintop, Miroslav Klose, Franck Ribery and Luca Toni living up to their record-breaking price tags.
The last two in that list also returned some of the sparkle that had disappeared from Bayern's game the previous season. Luca Toni took the Bundesliga by storm, racking up 24 goals to finish five ahead of German international Mario Gomez at the top of the league's scoring charts.
While the Italian FIFA World Cup™-winner was making the back of the net bulge, the mercurial Frenchman was busy setting the rest of the pitch alight. Ribery managed 11 goals and eight assists, but it was the 24-year-old's all-round play week-in and week-out that was the most impressive aspect. Both on and off the pitch, the former Marseille star's creativity was on permanently display, making him a constant thorn in the side of opposition defences, not to mention team-mates. Oliver Kahn, for one, can testify to that after receiving a cold shower from the roof of one of the club buildings thanks to the Gallic practical joker.
The 38-year-old goalkeeper, who set a record last season by conceding a mere 21 goals, played his 557th and final Bundesliga match on Saturday, while coach Ottmar Hitzfeld also bid the German league farewell after 17 years as he prepares to take over the Swiss national team after UEFA EURO 2008.
Bremen, Schalke in the Champions League
After a season full of ups and downs, Werder Bremen nevertheless managed to qualify directly for the UEFA Champions League. After such a problematic season, coach Thomas Schaaf described Bremen's sixth runners-up spot as "almost as good as a title".
The team from the north once again impressed up front, scoring 75 goals in 34 matches - more than any other club - with internationals Diego from Brazil (13 goals, 11 assists) and Markus Rosenberg from Sweden (14 goals, 9 assists) the stand-out performers.
Schalke, meanwhile, finished third, good enough for the qualifying rounds of the Champions League. Die Königsblauen (The Royal Blues) were the only one of the top teams to change coaches during the season, Mirko Slomka paying the price for the club's mid-season slump that at one stage looked set to deny them European football next term.
Wolfsburg cause a stir
The surprise package this season was Wolfsburg, who ended up in a lofty fifth position. Coach Felix Magath, who also operates as director of football, managed to take a group of individuals and mould them into a successful team.
Joining Wolfsburg in next season's UEFA Cup will be Hamburg (fourth) and Hertha Berlin, who qualified via UEFA's fair play ranking. The Wolves only managed the meagre tally of 20 points in the first half of the season and found themselves down in 11th position. However, they improved considerably after the winter break to become the third-best team in the return round of matches after Munich and Schalke and finished on 54 points.
Wolfsburg's joy was Stuttgart and Bayer Leverkusen's pain. The defending Bundesliga champions came up short at the end of the season and will have to make do with the UEFA Intertoto Cup after finishing sixth. Things were even worse for Leverkusen, whose 1-0 defeat to runners-up Bremen on the final day typified the second half of their season in which they managed a mere 21 points and slipped to seventh.
Good and bad surprises
The best of the three promoted teams were Karlsruhe, who were flying high in sixth place at the half-way point after a great start to the season. However, they ran out of steam after the winter break and managed only 15 points from the next 17 matches, a run which saw them fall to 11th.
The previous season's cup winners had a much worse time of it, though. Nurnberg changed coaches with Thomas von Heesen taking over from Hans Meyer, but they could not avoid a record seventh relegation. Duisburg and Hansa Rostock are also destined for Bundesliga 2 after being promoted the season before.
Promotion for great and small alike
Two traditionally powerful clubs, Borussia Monchengladbach and FC Cologne, are back where they belong in the Bundesliga. Gladbach won the second division with 66 points and return to the top flight after a one-year hiatus. Cologne, meanwhile, finished third which was also good enough for promotion.
In between the two, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim were the surprise package of the season. After winning promotion from the Regional league the year before, they went one better and shot straight up into the Bundesliga. They have also set the record for the team from the smallest area ever to make it into Germany's first division. Hoffenheim became a suburb of Sinsheim in 1972 and has a mere 3,200 inhabitants.