There has been a historic source of major football talent south of the border, and the Austrians to have lit up Germany’s top flight include David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Toni Polster.
bundesliga.com shines a light on five of the best…
Position: Left-back/ centre-back
Bundesliga clubs: Bayern Munich (2008-2021), Hoffenheim (loan, 2011)
Bundesliga appearances: 298 (24 goals)
Who else but 10-time Bundesliga-winner David Alaba could head this list? The Vienna native moved to Munich as a 16-year-old in July 2008 and such was his talent that he made his first team debut less than two years later in the DFB Cup second round against Greuther Fürth.
However, as Diego Contento, Holger Badstuber and Philipp Lahm were ahead of him in Bayern’s full-back pecking order at the time, Alaba was sent on a six-month loan to Hoffenheim in January 2011. He played the full 90 minutes in each of the team’s 17 league matches in the second half of that season, scoring twice and establishing himself as a bona fide pro to such an extent that when he returned to Bayern for the 2011/12 campaign, he was swiftly made first-choice left-back.
Watch: David Alaba - the Bayern Munich youth product turned global star
Alaba soon struck up a close relationship with left winger Franck Ribéry, both on and off the pitch, and the pair would go on to dominate the left side of Bayern’s team for the next decade.
Cool in possession, strong in the air and deceptively quick, Alaba, who often plays in central midfield for the Austrian national team, was fielded at centre-back by Pep Guardiola and retains that position today at Real Madrid.
A serial winner, by the time Alaba left Bayern in 2021 he had amassed a huge collection of titles, including two treble-winning seasons (2013, 2020), two UEFA Champions Leagues, six DFB Cups and two FIFA Club World Cups.
Toni Polster was already a prolific marksman with bags of international experience by the time he joined Cologne in 1993 – after spells at Austria Vienna, Torino and Sevilla among others. And when he left for nearby Gladbach in 1998, he was very much a local legend already.
He became known as Toni Doppelpack - Toni Brace - by Cologne fans for his useful habit of striking twice in the same game. Indeed, he smashed seven doubles in his first Bundesliga season in 1993/94 as part of a tally of 17 goals. He would score the same the following season while forming a potent strike partnership with Bruno Labbadia.
Polster’s 21 goals in 1996/97 marked his most prolific season in Germany, and he was the second-highest Bundesliga goalscorer in that campaign. Such was his instinct for sticking the ball in the net that he reached double figures for goals in each of his six Bundesliga seasons, the last of which was for Gladbach following Cologne’s relegation in 1997/98.
The striker with the curly mullet cemented his cult status in Cologne by recording a pop song, Toni lass es Polstern, together with a local band in 1997. His 44 goals in 95 international appearances make him Austria’s greatest-ever goalscorer, although he has long argued that three goals scored in unofficial international matches should be added to that record.
Back in the 1920s, Austria was known far and wide for its technically advanced footballers – and that reputation has seen a resurgence in recent years, thanks in no small part to silky midfielder Marcel Sabitzer.
Having developed in Austrian football and shining as a creative force at Red Bull Salzburg, Sabitzer slotted straight into the RB Leipzig side that gained promotion to the Bundesliga in 2015/16.
Sabitzer’s eye for a defence-splitting pass is matched by his tendency to pop up with a clinical strike, and he found the net in Leipzig’s first ever Bundesliga tie – a late leveller in a 2-2 draw at Hoffenheim in August 2016.
Watch: Super Marcel Sabitzer skills
He was a continual source of creative spark for five seasons as the newly promoted side took the Bundesliga, and then the Champions League, by storm. An absolute thunderbolt against Hertha Berlin in February 2021 won him the honour of Bundesliga Goal of the Month.
Bayern came calling the following summer, and while he couldn’t quite showcase his talents frequently enough among the champions’ star-studded squad, rivals Dortmund were delighted to take him on in summer 2023. Sabitzer’s vital contribution to the Austrian national team in recent years was underlined by his scoring a penalty in Azerbaijan in October 2023 that secured qualification for EURO 2024 in Germany.
Position: Attacking midfielder
Bundesliga clubs: Werder Bremen (1992-1995, 1996-2001), Bayern Munich (1995-1996)
Bundesliga appearances: 236 (57 goals)
Another Austrian midfield artist who graced German football, Herzog was termed the Alpine Maradona by some, and the Mozart of Football by Otto Rehhagel, the Werder Bremen coach on his arrival in the Bundesliga.
Herzog arrived in 1992 from Rapid Vienna as a readymade playmaker, but his creative mastery stunned followers of the Bundesliga as he starred in a sensational title-winning first season for a talented Werder side. Herzog netted 10 times in that historic campaign, most vitally with a brace in a 5-0 win over Hamburg that moved Bremen ahead of Bayern on goal difference on the penultimate matchday.
The first of two DFB Cup triumphs for Herzog in Bremen followed the next season. The free-kick specialist followed Rehhagel to spend a season at Bayern in 1995/96, and it was a memorable one – with the club lifting the UEFA Cup.
By the time Herzog was winding down his playing career at LA Galaxy in 2004, he had a very proud record to look back on. He had hit over 50 goals in the Bundesliga to go along with his collection of trophies, and amassed some 103 appearances for Austria, making him the most capped man for his country in history.
Bundesliga clubs: Union Berlin (2014-)
Bundesliga appearances: 122 (three goals)
Hard-working Trimmel may not have the finesse of the other players on this list, but he is fully worth his inclusion for his integral part in Union’s fairytale rise. He turned down the chance to train at academies as a youngster as he preferred to play football with his friends and was training to be a carpenter.
Watch: This is Union Berlin
Trimmel’s sheer passion and determination for the game would destine him for a memorable career. He was, in his own words “wooden-footed” yet his bite brought him to the fore at Rapid Vienna, and after captaining the record Austrian champions, he made what many saw as an unconventional move to then Bundesliga 2 side Union in 2014.
Needless to say, Trimmel’s industrious play quickly earned him a place in the hearts of the Union faithful. By 2018/19, he was captaining Die Eisernen as they earned a historic first promotion to the Bundesliga.
Further history would be in the making, with the side from East Berlin establishing themselves as a Bundesliga force before Trimmel captained them in the Champions League at the age of 36 in the current season – his 10th at the club. What a story!
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