Bayern was in a dogfight for a while, but down the stretch mercilessly chopped down the points, while the opposition laid eggs. The result was the 19th Championship with a clear margin. New coach Felix Magath finally gets the ttle he's coveted. The usual suspects contributed tp the title. Veteran goalkeeper Olli Kahn still committed some brainfarts in European play, but was generally solid in the Bundesliga. Captain Michael Ballack is Germany's best player when he wants to be. Dutch hitman Roy Makaay got off to a slow start and was hobbled by injuries, but was deadly down the stretch, finishing with 22 goals. Brazilian defender Lucio came on board in the offseason for 12 million euros from Leverkusen, and turned out to be worth it, as he was arguably the best player on the team.
FC Schalke 04 (2nd 20 3 11 56:46 +10 63)
Schalke actually challenged for the title for most of the year, and a late victory of Bayern seemed to raise hopes that this was to be their year. However, they soon fell apart, and were lucky to even make the Champions League. Schalke was basically able to scratch out points with a minimalist fervor. The big off season signings were a mixed bag. Ailton was largely ineffective up front. Bordon strengthened the squad at the back, and contributed at the front. Gerald Asamoah was his usual inconsistent self. Ebbe Sand did nothig but scare children with his face mask due to a broken nose. The main positive was the development of Brazilian midfielder Lincoln as a clever playmaker and goal scorer. His swerving freekicks became a major weapon in the Schalke attack.
Werder Bremen (3rd 18 5 11 68:37 +31 59)
The defending champions lacked the will and team spirit from their amazing previous campaign. The offseason meant transfers out that could not be replaced. Neverthless, a late run was rewarded with a Champions League spot, so overall they need to be happy. It was obvious that replacing Ailton's career year was going to be impossible, but Miroslav Klose was reasonably effective. Strike partner Ivan Klasnic missed too many sitters. After a slow start, Werder was never really a threat to defend their title. Things hit rock bottom when they crashed out of the Champions League when they got embarassed by Olympique Lyon. But a late season rush allowed them to salvage their season.
Hertha BSC Berlin (4th 15 13 6 59:31 +28 58)
A good season for the Berliners, although the choke in the final match cost them the Champions League. The main story with Hertha is that they can only go as far as Marcelinho can carry them. The Brazilian midfielder was not only the team leader and top scorer, but also arguably the best player in the Bundesliga.
VfB Stuttgart (5th 17 7 10 54:40 +14 58)
Stuttgart was respectable, starting out well with their usual tough defense. But then their flaws were exposed and they began to struggle at times. Manager Matthias Sammer was shockingly fired at season's end, as his players apparently lost confidence in him. Of course, it turned out that the players were actually not interested in playing for VfB, as many of them then left in the off-season.
Bayer Leverkusen (6th 16 9 9 65:44 +21 57
Losing players like Bastürk, Lucio and Neuville would have indicated that the Aspirins would stutter, but they managed to replace most of what they lost. With international Paul Freier coming from Bochum, Dimitar Berbatov blossemed into a deadly striker, with 20 goals. A pleasant surprise was the goal scoring of Andrei Voronin, who netted 15. Newcomer Jacek Krzynowek was also a welcome addition.
Bor. Dortmund (7th 15 10 9 47:44 +3 55)
A veritable tale of two seasons. Borussia was in total chaos, as mounting debts threatened to crush the once high-flying club. In fact, by December, there seemed to be a good chance that Borussia would collapse into bankruptcy. The chaos in the boardroom was reflected by crap performances on the field. But then agreements were made with creditors, and the financial sanity was restored. The players seemed to be rejuvenated as well, and Dortmund eventually finished strongest of all clubs, climbing from relegation to the verge of a UEFA spot. Key players were once again the Czech duo, Tomas Rosicky and towering giant Jan Koller, although Koller's production was down - Brazilian Ewerthon contributed most of the scoring punch. Keeper Roman Weidenfeller was inconsistent, but seemed to have settled down, and his brilliant performance late season at Schalke led to Borussia's first derby win in 12 attempts.
Hamburger SV (8th 16 3 15 55:50 +5 51)
HSV was infuriatingly inconsistent for their fans. Just when you thought they'd finally got their act together, they'd crap all over themselves.
VfL Wolfsburg (9th 15 3 16 49:51 -2 48)
The Volkswagens started off brightly and even led the league early, but then had a disastrous 2nd half. Part of the problem was a feud with the director Thomas Strunz and head coach Eric Gerets. Gerets threw in the towel and resigned at season end. Hannover 96 (10th 13 6 15 34:36 -2 45)
Crunching defense was the name of the game as Hannover tenaciously held opponents to survive their promotion year. Keeper Robert Enke was one of the league's best.
FSV Mainz 05 (11th 12 7 15 50:55 -5 43)
A minor sensation and pleasant surprise. Mainz was picked by virtually everybody to be the first team down, but coach Jürgen Klopp's infectious enthusiasm not only picked up the fans, but players as well. As a result, the squad overachieved, playing an attractive open game - they took a few lumps, but caused a few surprises as well.
1. FC Kaiserslautern (12th 12 6 16 43:52 -9 42)
As become a recent pattern, 'Lautern was in chaos before they finally righted the ship and avoided relegation. The financial collapse of the club is bound to have dire consequences for some seasons to come.
Arminia Bielefeld (13th 11 7 16 37:49 -12 40)
Arminia was surprisingly effective for much of the season, benefitting from the great form of defender Patrick Owomoyela and forward Delron Buckley. Of course, they are leaving the club, so expect a desperate relegation battle next season.
1. FC Nürnberg (14th 10 8 16 55:63 -8 38)
Der Club can thank the revelation of the year, the "Phantom scorer", for their survival. Slovak midfielder Marek Mintal was the scoring sensation of the year, as his 24 goals led the league. And they needed the goals, as Nürnberg's defense was like a sieve. Two other Slovak players, Vittek and the appropriately named Slovak, contributed.
Bor. M'gladbach (15th 8 12 14 35:51 -16 36)
Gladbach was happy to start off the season in their spanking brand new stadium, but things went downhill from there. The team was basically crap, but since you can't fire the players, the coach had to go. Hoger Fach was the first to get dumped, and Dutch legend Dick Advocaat took over. After more lame results, he threw in the towel. So it was left to ex-star player Horst Köppel to pick up the pieces, and he managed to squeeze enough performance out of the squad to save the day.
VfL Bochum (16th 9 8 17 47:68 -21 35)
Peter Neururer's squad was coming off a fine season that saw them qualify for UEFA, but the warning clouds were on the horizon. The offseason transfer out of Vahid Hashemian, Paul Freier and Delron Buckley the leading strikeforce, should have been an ominous warning. Bochum quickly fell apart, and despite a strong effort down the stretch, the go for another elevator ride.
Hansa Rostock (17th 7 9 18 31:65 -34 30)
Juri Schlünd's squad basicaly sucked and dug them into hole that they could never recover from. Rather than fire the players, the coach was dumped. Rostock turned to escape artist Jörg Berger to save the team, and they did make a mini-run in late season. However it was too little, too late. Swedish striker Michael Allbäck was brought in to jump start the scoring, but he was crap. Midseason Hansa pulled a mini-coup in the signing of Finnish veteran Jari Litmanen, but time and injury has taken it's toll on this great player. Hansa's relegation means that for the first time since reunification in 1990, there are no former ex-GDR teams in the Bundesliga. Rostock seems to have a decent fan base, but it's unclear whether they've got what it takes to bounce back immediately from the 2.Liga.
SC Freiburg (18th 3 9 22 30:75 -45 18)
Volker Finke's reputation as a coaching legend suffers a bit this season. The magic of the longest serving coach was simply not in evidence this year. This squad was one of the worst (or should we say "Wurst"?) in Bundesliga history. Certainly they were the most crap this year, worst offense combined with worst defense. Freiburg's policy of signing cheap foreign nobodies certainly backfired. It is somewhat hard to blame the players for being crap though, as they simply weren't Bundesliga material. (But serioiusly, how many "-vili"s do you need on a team.) The only player to really standout was goalkeeper Richard Golz, who you had to feel a bit sorry for. Apparently he suffered a back injury from having to bend down and pick up the ball from the back of the net too often. Nevertheless, expect Finke to reload and don't be surprised if Freiburg isn't challenging in the 2.Liga in a short time. The fans continued to support the team, and with some additions, they should be knocking on the door of the Bundesliga once again.