Over 1,700 matches in the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga, an impressive 442 goals in German football’s top two tiers, and almost 700 international caps between them: with a "team" of outstanding figures from the Bundesliga’s history, the Bundesliga is taking the next steps in its journey of internationalisation. As members of the "Bundesliga Legends Network", ex-Bundesliga players will be spreading the values and unique features of the Bundesliga all over the world and sharing their experiences of German professional football.
The "Bundesliga Legends Tours" with world-famous brand ambassadors like Germany’s most-capped player Lothar Matthäus have become firmly established in key target markets in recent years, helping to raise awareness of the Bundesliga and its clubs. In future, the Bundesliga will expand its brand-ambassador activities with a group of "local heroes" who are teaming up to form the "Bundesliga Legends Network". They are all successful former players who enjoy legendary status in their homeland and are highly regarded.
To begin with, the "Bundesliga Legends Network" consists of nine ex-professionals whose popularity makes them ideal brand ambassadors for the Bundesliga in the key target markets of China (Jiayi Shao, Jörg Albertz), the USA (Steven Cherundolo), Mexico (Pavel Pardo), Ghana (Anthony Baffoe), Oceania (Wynton Rufer), South Korea (Bum-Kun Cha) and Brazil (Paulo Sergio). As faces of the Bundesliga, these ex-players will be making several appearances, for instance at fan and media events, as coaches at football camps, at CSR events or as experts in various shows of our partner broadcasters in order to boost the popularity of the Bundesliga globally, and especially in their respective homelands.
"With only a very limited number of tickets and a worldwide fan base, our task is to bring the Bundesliga to its fans through other channels," says Robert Klein, Chief Commercial Officer of Bundesliga International GmbH. "We believe that the hand-picked legends are ideally suited to being brand ambassadors, as their outstanding achievements in the Bundesliga soon attracted significant interest in the Bundesliga in their homeland, and they have great credibility as highly respected figures."
"The development of the Bundesliga in recent years is hugely impressive. I can clearly remember the early "noughties", when many experts believed that other leagues were almost out of our reach," says Lothar Matthäus, a brand ambassador for the Bundesliga since 2015. "A lot has been done in the meantime. To me, the Bundesliga is now the most complete league in the world – with constant growth, modern stadia, professional structures, a thriving fan culture and, in particular, home-grown young talent! I really enjoy communicating this to the world."
Initially, the following players are part of the "Bundesliga Legends Network":
- Germany’s most-capped player Lothar Matthäus, who scored 121 goals in 464 Bundesliga games for Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Bayern München. As well as winning seven German league titles and captaining his country to victory in the 1990 World Cup in Italy, he was the last German player to date to be named World Footballer of the Year back in 1991.
- Brazilian striker Paulo Sergio was not only famous for his breathtaking goals, but also his samba celebrations by the corner flag. He made 198 Bundesliga appearances for Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Bayern München, the club with which he claimed two German league titles, the Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup. Sergio also won the 1994 World Cup with Brazil in the USA.
- The man known simply as "Kiwi" in his playing days is the most successful Bundesliga import from Oceania: Wynton Rufer (New Zealand) wore the green and white of SV Werder Bremen 174 times, averaging a goal almost every three games (59). His trophy haul comprised a German league title, two German Cups and triumph in the 1992 European Cup Winners’ Cup, to which he contributed a goal in the final against AS Monaco.
- The former captain of Hannover 96 is also the leading American appearance-maker in the Bundesliga: Steven Cherundolo played 370 games in Germany’s top two divisions, wore the USA jersey 87 times and represented his country in three World Cup finals tournaments.
- Having played in the Bundesliga from 1978 to 1989, Bum-Kun Cha can look back on a trophy-laden career. With 98 goals in 308 Bundesliga games, two UEFA Cups and a German Cup, the South Korean striker is the most successful Asian professional in Bundesliga history.
- He made 148 international appearances and, along with Ricardo Osorio, was one of the first two Mexicans in the Bundesliga: Pavel Pardo played 71 times for VfB Stuttgart, winning a German league title with the Swabian club as "El Comandante" in midfield.
- The most successful Chinese player in Bundesliga history is Jiayi Shao, who made a combined 168 appearances in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga for TSV 1860 München, FC Energie Cottbus and MSV Duisburg, scoring 24 goals.
- Jörg Albertz played 249 times for Fortuna Düsseldorf and Hamburger SV in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, scoring 42 goals. However, "The Hammer" with the deadly left foot also enjoyed substantial personal success in China, where he was named as China’s Player of the Year in 2003 during his time at Shanghai Shenhua.
- In 1983, Anthony Baffoe became only the third-ever player of African origin to make the step up to the Bundesliga. He went on to notch up 199 matches in the top two divisions for 1. FC Köln, Rot-Weiss Oberhausen, Stuttgarter Kickers, S.C. Fortuna Köln and Fortuna Düsseldorf, scoring 19 times. Baffoe was also capped 25 times by Ghana.