Munich - Ever more top names are flocking to the Bundesliga from abroad these days, but the German top flight has been enriched from the off by the presence of foreign talents. Some stayed only briefly, others for a major part of their career. A delve into the data bank reveals which of them enjoyed the greatest success.
One of the first, back in the 1960s, was Petar Radenkovic. The Yugoslav goalkeeper earned cult status over the course of eight years at TSV 1860 Munich, for whom he turned out 245 times in the league. Renowned in equal measure for his ability between the sticks and his penchant for rushing out well beyond the confines of the box, Radenkovic helped the Munich Lions to the Bundesliga title in 1966. A popular recording artist for good measure, he was one of just five non-German players in the first-ever Bundesliga season.
Willi Lippens was a fans' favourite at Rot-Weiss Essen and Borussia Dortmund from the mid-60s through to the end of the 70s. The one-time Dutch international played almost his entire career in Germany with the aforementioned duo and even though he never won a major title, the striker nicknamed the "duck" on account of his slightly waddling gait carved out his own niche as one of the Bundesliga's great characters.
Köln lead the way on the transfer market
By the mid-seventies, the likes of Denmark's Allan Simonsen at Mönchengladbach, Hamburger SV's English star Kevin Keegan and Johnny Hansen, another Dane, at Bayern, were making the headlines - and picking up the silverware. In 1976, 1. FC Köln became the first club to spend a million D-marks on a foreign player - Belgium's Roger van Gool. Three years later, the Billy Goats more than doubled that outlay, handing over 2.5 million D-mark to Nottingham Forest for Tony Woodcock. Köln also gave the Bundesliga both its first Brazilian, Zeze, and the first Japanese, Yasuhiko Okudera. The duo enjoyed spectacularly contrasting fortunes however. Zeze made all of five appearances in the Bundesliga, while Okudera went on to rack up 234.
For durability among the more than 5,300 foreign players to have graced the Bundesliga thus far however, Georgian international Levan Kobiashvili (Freiburg, Schalke, Hertha) and Brazilian midfielder Ze Roberto (Leverkusen, Bayern, Hamburg) are the current frontrunners, each on 336 appearances. Hot on their heels though is Claudio Pizarro, who has played 333 times for Bremen and Bayern. And with his second stint in Munich coming up, the Peruvian striker looks set to break that record in the none-too-distant future.
Pizarro on course for another record
Eight other foreign players have cracked the 300-appearance mark down the years in the Bundesliga: Sergej Babarez (330 games for Rostock, Dortmund, Hamburg and Leverkusen), Ole Björnmose (323 for HSV), Dede (322 for Dortmund), Hasan Salihamidzic (321 for HSV, Bayern and Wolfsburg), David Jarolim (318 for Bayern, Nuremberg and HSV), Bum-Kun Cha (308 for Darmstadt, Frankfurt and Leverkusen) and last but not least Zvonimir Soldo (301 games for Stuttgart).
So four games are all Claudio Pizarro needs to move to the top of the list - a position he already occupies among non-native Bundesliga goalscorers. The 33-year-old frontman's running total of 160 leaves him eleventh on the top-flight's all-time chart. Three other foreign players have racked up more than a century to date - Giovane Elber (133 goals for Stuttgart and Bayern), Stephane Chapuisat (106 for Uerdingen and Dortmund) and Ailton (106 for Bremen, Schalke, HSV and Duisburg).
Silverware aplenty at Bayern
Not surprisingly, the foreigners with the most Bundesliga titles to their name all earned them playing for Bayern Munich. Samuel Kuffour, Bixente Lizarazu and Hasan Salihamidzic won six apiece, while Paraguayan forward Roque Santa Cruz is just behind them on five. On a less salubrious note, David Jarolim is out on his own when it comes to bookings, the Czech defensive midfielder having picked up 96 in total. Sergej Barbarez (86), Jiri Nemec (78), Tomasz Hajto (75) and Josip Simunic (69) are his closest challengers on the card front.
Brazil can claim the largest foreign contingent in the Bundesliga over the decades, 122 players making the move from the home of the five-time World Cup-winners. Other countries with a high Bundesliga presence are Denmark (105), Croatia (90), Poland (89), the former Yugoslavia (81), the Netherlands (81), Austria (75), the Czech Republic and former Czechoslovakia (62), Turkey (58) and Sweden (57).