The German football has seen some fantastic players wear the No.10 down the years. From Lothar Matthäus to Arjen Robben, bundesliga.com takes a look at the best to have pulled on the iconic shirt in the German top flight.
During the Bundesliga’s formative years, Netzer belonged to the division’s leading lights. One of the first German footballers to earn pop star-like status thanks to his good looks and playboy lifestyle, the Mönchengladbach native made his debut for Die Fohlen in 1963, helping them earn promotion to the top flight two years later.
Over the next eight years, both Netzer and Gladbach went from strength to strength, as 'Karajan' – so nicknamed after the famous German composer – led his side to back-to-back Bundesliga titles in 1969/70 and 1970/71, netting 16 goals in 28 matches in the second of those two successes.
His performances earned him second place in the 1972 Ballon d’Or rankings, although it is his role in the DFB Cup final a year later that has instead gone down in folklore. On the verge of a move to Real Madrid, Netzer was named as a substitute against Cologne in Düsseldorf but, with the scores level at 1-1 after normal time, the mercurial rebel had seen enough, bypassing manager Hennes Weisweiler as he introduced himself into the fray. It took him less than three minutes to net the game’s winner, which would prove to be the last goal of his Gladbach career before he moved to Madrid shortly after.
Watch: Günter Netzer - the Bundesliga's first superstar
Most will be familiar with Magath the manager yet, while he has enjoyed plenty of success in the dugout, his playing days were arguably even more memorable. The 70-year-old is undoubtedly a Hamburg legend, having spent 10 years on the club’s books between 1976 and 1986.
Bayern Munich may now be the dominant force in German football, but at the end of the 1970s and start of the 80s, HSV were the team to beat. Die Rothosen clinched three Meisterschale (in 1978/79, 1981/82 and 1982/83), with Magath featuring in all 34 matches in each of the final two triumphs.
His crowning glory, however, was the 1982/83 European Cup final, in which he scored the only goal of the game as Hamburg downed Juventus. The midfielder’s ability to quickly analyse everything ahead of him and stay one step ahead of his opponents meant he was always destined to become one of the sport’s leading coaches later in life.
As only one of four Germans to win the Ballon d’Or and a three-time FIFA World Cup finalist, Matthäus can lay a legitimate claim to the title of Germany's greatest-ever player. At club level, he was a superstar for Mönchengladbach between 1979 and 1984 before taking the much-travelled path to Bayern.
In two spells with the record champions, Der Panzer – a self-explanatory sobriquet – was often imperious and almost always influential, helping his side scale the Bundesliga summit on seven occasions and lift two DFB Cups along the way. Nineteen years, 11 months and 12 days separated his first and last top-flight goals, a league record, which is just one example of his remarkable longevity.
Although Bayern did win the UEFA Cup with Matthäus wearing the captain’s armband, Europe’s premier club competition evaded him – the 1999 defeat to Manchester United, a game in which Germany’s finest led until injury time before succumbing 2-1, was particularly painful. Still, that was not enough to damage the legacy of one of history’s most complete midfielders, who was once named by Argentina legend Diego Maradona as his toughest opponent.
Watch: Lothar Matthäus - a world football legend
Few players have enjoyed sustained success in German football without ever playing for Bayern, but Möller certainly belongs to that select group. In fact, besides the defunct DFB-Ligapokal, 'Turbo' lifted every piece of silverware possible, for club and country.
Now the head of Eintracht Frankfurt’s academy, Möller started out with Die Adler before moving to Borussia Dortmund, via Juventus, where he enjoyed his best spell, even providing two assists in the UEFA Champions League final as Die Schwarzgelben defeated their star's former Italian employers 3-1.
He certainly had a nose for the controversial, making the switch to Schalke in 2000, but his mental resilience allowed him to become a key player in Gelsenkirchen, where he clinched back-to-back DFB Cups. While Möller may not be one of the most instantly recognisable names to foreign audiences, he is one of the most gifted technicians of his generation.
Bundesliga fans of a certain age, in particular VfB Stuttgart supporters, still reminisce about the trio of Giovane Elber, Fredi Bobic and Balakov, which caused defences all sorts of problems in the middle of the 1990s.
The 'Magic Triangle', as the three were affectionately known, were especially potent during the 1996/97 campaign, scoring 48 Bundesliga goals between them and guiding the side to the top step of the DFB Cup podium. Balakov, with his 13 league strikes, was the glue that kept the attacking partnership firing on all cylinders.
While Elber and Bobic moved on to Bayern and Dortmund respectively, the Bulgarian ace remained at the Neckarstadion and continued to shine, albeit without adding to his personal trophy cabinet. Balakov did come close to more silverware, finishing as a runner-up in both the 1998 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and the 2002/03 Bundesliga, but did not pick up the medals his showings deserved.
While Marcelinho’s career may have spanned just shy of three decades, his longest stay at one club was the five years he spent at Hertha Berlin. That, though, was more than enough to become a bona fide club legend during a time when Die Alte Dame were one of the most consistent teams in the country.
Despite being deployed in midfield, the Brazilian was the club’s top goalscorer in each of his five seasons at the Olympiastadion, and was twice named in Kicker’s Bundesliga Team of the Season. A set-piece specialist, he blossomed into Hertha’s creative heartbeat, providing at least 10 assists in three different league seasons.
Ultimately, Marcelinho contributed to half of all Hertha’s major triumphs as the outfit from the capital won the DFB-Ligapokal in 2001 and 2002. After a short stint in Turkey, he returned to Germany in 2007, once again impressing at Wolfsburg as he scored 14 goals and created plenty more in 18 months.
As Marcelinho departed Germany in 2006, Diego arrived, rocking up at Werder Bremen having struggled to nail down at starting spot at Porto. In his first match, he helped Die Werderaner beat Bayern to clinch the DFB-Ligapokal, and followed that up with a goal and two assists on his Bundesliga debut as he and his teammates defeated Hannover 4-2.
Those early displays were a sign of things to come. The Brazil international quickly developed into the league’s leading creative force, topping the assists chart in both 2006/07 and 2007/08. Goals were relatively easy to come by, as well, as Diego netted 54 times in 132 matches in all competitions for the club.
In his first two seasons, Bremen finished third and second respectively and, while they dropped down to 10th in his final campaign, he ended his stay in the north by creating the winning goal in the DFB Cup final as Werder defeated Bayer Leverkusen 1-0. A big money move to Juventus didn’t meet expectations, but one-and-a-half seasons with Wolfsburg provided more reminders, if less frequent, of his undeniable talent.
Unstoppable attacking duo Grafite and Edin Dzeko may have grabbed the headlines as Wolfsburg won their first, and only, Bundesliga title in 2008/09, but Die Wölfe would unlikely have scaled those same heights without Misimovic.
The Bosnia international had already impressed for Bochum and Nuremberg before Magath added him to a squad already packed with talent in the summer of 2008, and his game subsequently reached a new level. While his most obvious talent was putting the ball on a proverbial sixpence from set pieces, his vision was clearly second to none as he racked up 20 assists - a Bundesliga record until it was later broken by Thomas Müller (21).
Wolfsburg were unable to defend their title in 2009/10, but that didn’t stop Misimovic from finding the back of the net 10 times and assisting 15 others. A switch to Galatasaray in 2010 ended a short but sweet stint in Lower Saxony, although he will forever be held in high regard at the Volkswagen Arena.
After failing to live up to the hype at Real Madrid, Robben arrived at the Allianz Arena in the summer of 2009 with a point to prove. It is fair to say that 10 years, eight Bundesliga titles, 99 goals and a winning goal in a Champions League final later, he had done just that – and then some.
The 23 strikes he netted in 37 games during his first season proved to be his highest return, but he was a constant danger throughout his decade-long Bavarian adventure. Of course, Robben cannot be mentioned without a nod to Franck Ribery - their understanding and double threat were so lethal, they became known as “Robbery”.
Often the man for the big occasion, the Dutchman found the back of the net for the final time in 2019, as Bayern hammered Frankfurt 5-1 on the final day of the campaign on the way to another league title. Ribery also scored in what proved to be the last match for both players in the famous red shirt, a farewell befitting of both the Frenchman and Robben’s contribution down the years.
Watch: Arjen Robben - the inimitable Flying Dutchman
Admittedly, Forsberg does not have much competition in the greatest Leipzig number 10 debate considering the club’s comparatively short history, but it will still take someone special to surpass the Swede in the future.
Only Yussuf Poulsen has made more appearances for the club than the Sundsvall-born ace’s 301, while his 67 strikes puts him fifth on Die Roten Bullen’s all-time list. As Leipzig immediately set about upsetting the established elite in 2016/17, their maiden top-flight campaign, Forsberg ended up with 19 assists, a league-lead, to add to his eight goals.
Leipzig finished second that term, even sitting top of the pile for several matchdays, and they have since developed into one of the country’s most formidable outfits. Plenty of major talents have moved on to pastures new after honing their talents at the Red Bull Arena, but Forsberg has been one of the few constants throughout and has two DFB Cup winners’ medals to his name. While he is the wrong side of 30, you wouldn’t bet against him further enhancing his reputation in the coming years