Yet another incredible football season has reached its conclusion. The beautiful game has not failed to disappoint, providing the fans with some jaw dropping – as well as heartbreaking – moments over the last nine months.
We have witnessed some brilliant one-off individual displays and a few consistent performers. We’ve had breakout players, impressing at a young age and veterans proving that age is just a number.
As part of our end-of-the-season awards for Europe’s top-five leagues, we’re honouring the Player of the Year and Breakthrough Player of the Year (stars aged 23 and under who made significant strides in 2018/19).
Here, we look at the winners from Bundesliga.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Jadon Sancho, Borussia Dortmund, 19 years old
At one point, Borussia Dortmund were comfortably on course to break Bayern Munich’s Bundesliga monopoly and claim the domestic title. There remains hope, of course, with the race seeing a final round of fixtures, yet Lucien Favre’s brilliant but bonkers side have struggled in 2019. Amid the chaos, though, Sancho has been an incandescent bright spot. It’s a big call to bestow this award on him, and there will be detractors who point to some inconsistency, but the teenager is not just Dortmund’s biggest asset, but the league’s too. The kid is box office. Even beneath the layer of skill, though, Sancho has shown impeccable maturity, responsibility – particularly when mercurial skipper Marco Reus has been absent – and composure. His 14 assists this season is only bettered by Chelsea’s Eden Hazard from Europe’s top-five leagues. It will be fascinating to see his development because he can and will only get better. Even with his high ceiling, he’s been eye-catching in 2018/19 and the league’s standout star.
Best performance: Double-assist against Bayer Leverkusen
Sancho has enjoyed better games from a statistical perspective, but a microcosm of the impact he can provide came off the bench at Bayer Leverkusen in a 4-2 win. Dortmund were handed a boost the moment he stepped on the pitch as a substitute and he guided his team to an important three points with two assists.
What next for Sancho?
Now an England international, Sancho has naturally courted the attention of the big Premier League clubs. Manchester United are massive admirers but with their entry into the Europa League, it’s obvious Dortmund remains a much more attractive spot for him. He has time on his side, the super-elite clubs will no doubt come but it makes sense of him to continue to round out his game at a team of Dortmund’s stature.
Honourable mentions: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)
BREAKTHROUGH PLAYER OF THE YEAR
Luka Jovic, Eintracht Frankfurt, 21 years old
Gifted with an eye for goal, athleticism and footballing intelligence to make the right run, Jovic has taken Bundesliga by storm this season, netting 17 goals and bagging five assists. Only Robert Lewandowski and Paco Alcacer have scored more goals this season. Football loves a front trident and Eintracht’s offering of Ante Rebic, Sebastian Haller and Jovic is one of the most intoxicating. Jovic is the spearhead of this forward line and his ability to pierce opposition backlines has been on display all season. Among many other desirable traits, Jovic’s ability to create space in the box is arguably his best quality. He can find space in a crowded elevator and spot openings with the door closed. No one has scored more goals in the Europa League than his 10 strikes and it’s really no wonder Europe’s elite are circling.
Best performance: ‘Fifer’ against Fortuna Dusseldorf
The world really began to take notice of his ability when he battered five past (un) Fortuna Dusseldorf. He became the youngest player ever to achieve the feat in Bundesliga history and the first at all for Frankfurt.
What next for Jovic?
All signs point to Real Madrid. Jovic is seen to be central to Zinedine Zidane’s rebuilding plans and it will cost the club €70 million to acquire his services if reports are to be believed. That’s a handsome sum for Eintracht considering his two-year loan deal from Benfica was made permanent for £6.3m this year. He will be tasked with competing and pushing Karim Benzema either to produce more, or just out of the team entirely.
Honourable mentions: Kai Havertz (Bayer Leverkusen), Ibrahima Konate (RB Leipzig)
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Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga title hopes were dealt a huge blow on Saturday after a red card for Marco Reus and a Daniel Caligiuri double saw them lose 4-2 to Schalke in the Ruhr derby.
Reus was the first of two Dortmund players to be sent off in five second-half minutes as Schalke came from behind to hand Bayern Munich a golden opportunity to win their seventh straight league title.
League leaders Bayern can now pull four points clear at the top with three games to go with a win at relegation-threatened Nuremberg on Sunday.
Dortmund took the lead in style on 14 minutes, Jadon Sancho setting up Mario Gotze with a splendid chip over Schalke’s back line.
However Schalke drew level just two minutes later, Daniel Caligiuri converting a contested penalty after a handball decision against Julian Weigl.
Two minutes later the visitors sent the Signal-Iduna-Park into shock as Salif Sane rose at a corner to put Schalke ahead.
Double disaster struck for Dortmund on the hour mark when captain Marco Reus was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Suat Serdar and Caligiuri curled the resulting free-kick into the top corner.
Marius Wolf then became the second Dortmund player to be sent off, once again for a reckless challenge on Serdar.
Axel Witsel pulled one back for Dortmund on with five minutes remaining, but their hopes were crushed a moment later when Breel Embolo fired in Schalke’s fourth.
Elsewhere, RB Leipzig secured Champions League qualification with a 2-1 win over Freiburg, while fourth-place Eintracht Frankfurt were held to a 0-0 draw by Hertha Berlin.
Freiburg’s Vicenzo Grifo became the first opposing player to score in Leipzig since February, cheekily converting a free-kick before goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi was ready.
Yet goals from Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg saw Leipzig to a sixth straight win.
Werder Bremen’s hopes of qualifying for Europe were dealt a blow as they lost 4-1 at Fortuna Duesseldorf.
They are five points of the Europa league places after a defeat in which Benito Raman put the hosts ahead after just 55 seconds, and Kenan Karaman doubled the lead on 23 minutes.
A Max Kruse penalty restored hope for Werder, but second half goals from Rouwen Hennings and Markus Suttner sealed the home win.
At the other end of the table, Henrik Weydandt fired bottom club Hanover to a 1-0 win over Mainz that means they still have escape relegation.
The Bundesliga club have exercised their option to buy the 21-year-old following a loan spell in Frankfurt, ahead of the second leg of the Europa League quarter-final between the two sides on Thursday.
Jovic has been in scintillating form this season, scoring 25 goals in 40 matches and reportedly attracting attention from the likes of Manchester City, Barcelona and Real Madrid.
After tying Jovic to the club until June 2023, Eintract board member Fredi Bobic told the club’s website: “Luka’s development with us has been great to see.
“For us there was never any doubt about wanting to bring him here permanently. He’s a player with extraordinary abilities. It was important for us to sign him.”