It has been a long summer without the weekly thrill of the Bundesliga to fill our lives, but the wait is nearly over as the German top flight returns on Friday, 16 August for what promises to be one of the most exciting seasons in recent memory.
bundesliga.com puts forward five reasons why the 2019/20 campaign could be one of the best yet…
1) Title race on again
One thing the 13 weeks of Bundesliga-less boredom has done is allow us the time to catch our breath from last season’s dramatic title race. Bayern Munich pipped Borussia Dortmund by two points on the final day for a seventh consecutive Meisterschale, but that doesn’t even tell half the story over 34 Matchdays.
Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer both scored in the first Klassiker at the Signal Iduna Park in November to set Dortmund on their way to a nine-point lead over the reigning champions, but a Rückrunde revival from Niko Kovac’s men, including a Robert Lewandowski masterclass in the return fixture at the Allianz Arena, saw Bayern reel in their challengers and eventually overtake Lucien Favre’s charges.
Watch: Bayern's 2019/20 season preview
The only two teams to win the Bundesliga in the last decade have already renewed their rivalry in 2019/20 with the season-opening Supercup, in which BVB landed an early punch with a Jadon Sancho-inspired 2-0 victory. However, these traditional giants of German football are not alone in the ring.
RB Leipzig are still the relatively new kids on the block, having spent three seasons in the top flight, learning the ropes and steadily improving. Despite last season being seen as a transitional year with Ralf Rangnick keeping the dugout warm for Julian Nagelsmann, Die Roten Bullen still finished a comfortable third in the Bundesliga and reached the DFB Cup final for the first time.
Now the youngest permanent head coach in Bundesliga history has finally taken his seat at the Red Bull Arena and there is a quiet confidence about Leipzig as they enter this new era. During three and a half years with Hoffenheim, Nagelsmann turned the club from relegation candidates to European contenders through technological and tactical innovations.
Combining him with a Leipzig squad that has matured over three seasons, it would not come as that great a surprise if a new name was carved into the Meisterschale come May 2020.
2) New coaches, new approaches
Seven Bundesliga clubs are beginning the 2019/20 season with a new head coach, which is the most since the 2009/10 campaign.
Of those, Ante Covic (Hertha Berlin), Alfred Schreuder (Hoffenheim), Marco Rose (Borussia Mönchengladbach), David Wagner (Schalke) and Oliver Glasner (Wolfsburg) have never taken permanent charge of a senior team in Germany before, while Paderborn’s Steffen Baumgart, Union Berlin’s Urs Fischer and Cologne's Achim Beierlorzer are also making their Bundesliga bows as head coaches.
They have all spent pre-season getting settled into their new surroundings, forming their squads and instilling their style of play onto the team. They almost all have preferences for different formations, providing both a fresh tactical impulse but also a sense of the unknown for the league.
What’s also noticeable is the generational change these coaches represent. The seven newcomers have an average age of just 43.5, compared to the league average of 48. Eleven of the Bundesliga’s 18 head coaches will be under the age of 50 at the start of the season.
Amongst all these new faces in the Bundesliga dugouts, however, a special mention should go to Freiburg’s Christian Streich. He has led the club for over seven and a half years and is currently the third-longest-serving coach in Europe’s top five leagues.
3) A big summer of transfers
There may have been no competitive club football to watch over the summer but it doesn’t mean that those behind the scenes have been on the beach topping up their tans. Sporting directors have in fact been hard at work putting squads together, with a number of big moves within the Bundesliga, as well as new faces from abroad.
Gone are the days when Dortmund lost their best players to title rivals; now the Black-and-Yellows are on the front foot. Michael Zorc has certainly been busy on the phone, bringing in top-quality reinforcements from around the Bundesliga in Mats Hummels (Bayern), Thorgan Hazard (Gladbach), Nico Schulz (Hoffenheim) and Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen).
Watch: Dortmund's 2019/20 season preview
The latter’s former club have been just as active as they build a squad ready for UEFA Champions League football, and perhaps even a tilt at the title. Peter Bosz’s side have welcomed in young but experienced midfielders Kerem Demirbay and Nadiem Amiri from Hoffenheim, as well as left-sided players Moussa Diaby from Paris Saint-Germain and Daley Sinkgraven from Ajax. The average age of those signings is just over 22.
There has also been a rebuilding project underway in Munich. As well as the transfer of Hummels to Dortmund, the record champions have also had to deal with the loss of Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Rafinha, taking a total of 24 Bundesliga titles with them. Bayern have reacted by rejuvenating their squad, adding young German striker Fiete Arp from Hamburg, as well as 23-year-old French FIFA World Cup-winning defenders Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid) and Benjamin Pavard (VfB Stuttgart).
There has been shrewd business elsewhere in the league, too. As well as moves within the Bundesliga, German clubs have shown their financial nous to poach the best of neighbouring leagues.
Leipzig, Gladbach and Mainz turned their eye to the west to bring in Christopher Nkunku, Marcus Thuram and Ronael Pierre-Gabriel respectively from France. Fortuna Düsseldorf made the short hop across the Belgian border for winger Nana Ampomah from Waasland-Beveren; Hoffenheim brought Robert Skov down south from Denmark. Xaver Schlager and Joao Victor have joined Wolfsburg from Austria, as has Kevin Mbabu from Switzerland.
In the metropolis of Frankfurt, they have signed four key loan players from their remarkable 2018/19 campaign – Martin Hinteregger, Sebastian Rode, Kevin Trapp and Filip Kostic – on permanent deals. Eintracht have also moved quickly to replace the goals of Real Madrid-bound top scorer Luka Jovic, bringing in fellow Serbian youngster Dejan Joveljic.
4) Brits and Americans abroad
Domestic transfers and moves to neighbouring countries are nothing new, but since when did young Brits enjoy coming to Europe except on a stag do? That is the new trend in the Bundesliga, though. Prior to this season, only 28 British players had crossed the Channel to feature in the Bundesliga over its 56-year history, but that figure in 2019/20 alone stands at nine Brits, plus two in Bundesliga 2.
Led by English starlet Sancho, they are seemingly the Tagesgericht – or dish of the day – in the German top flight with seven clubs securing the services of a prized Brit. This summer has seen the arrivals of Ademola Lookman and Ethan Ampadu at Leipzig, Lewis Baker is on loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf, Reece Oxford has signed permanently for Augsburg and Jonjoe Kenny has joined Wales international Rabbi Matondo at Schalke.
Watch: Sancho takes the 2019 DFL Supercup by storm
These Britons appear to be copying the example set by their American counterparts, who have a proud history in the Bundesliga. Former USMNT captain and Bundesliga legend Steve Cherundolo spent his entire senior career at Hannover, current USA boss Gregg Berhalter enjoyed successful spells with Energie Cottbus and 1860 Munich, while Christian Pulisic broke record after record at Dortmund.
Such history has paved the way for plenty more Americans to follow across the Atlantic, and there are 11 flying the Stars and Stripes in the first-team squads of Bundesliga clubs in 2019/20. Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Zack Steffen and Josh Sargent, the present and future of the USMNT, are all over in the Bundesliga honing their skills in a league known for its promotion of youth.
5) Arrival of Union Berlin
Every season of Bundesliga football is unique, but the 57th edition will never be forgotten in the German capital. Union Berlin’s play-off triumph over VfB Stuttgart secured their first-ever promotion to the top flight, making them the 56th club to feature in the league.
Their Stadion An der Alten Försterei home may be the second-smallest in the league but Union are a massive addition to the Bundesliga. How many other clubs can say their fans have literally given blood to help their team, or spent unpaid hours building the stadium?
Their presence in the top flight is also historic for the city of Berlin. Union are the fifth club from the German capital to reach the Bundesliga but, crucially, they are the first from what was East Berlin. There have only been four previous editions of a capital derby, when Hertha faced Tennis Borussia Berlin in 1974/75 and 1976/77.
This, though, is the first cross-city encounter in a nationwide top flight and comes almost 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. As a derby it is very much different from the fierce Revierderby rivalry seen between Dortmund and Schalke, for example. Modern Berlin sees itself as a united city where locals often support the city over individual teams. It will be two derbies to remember and very much saviour, in another mouthwatering Bundesliga season.