Germany coach Joachim Löw doesn’t spend half his time attending Freiburg matches purely out of loyalty to his former club - he does so because it’s the unlikely home of some of the country’s best strikers.
Löw was himself born roughly 134 miles as the crow flies from Germany’s greenest city, in the Black Forest town of Schönau. Before transforming the fortunes of Die Mannschaft and winning the 2014 FIFA World Cup as a coach, he enjoyed a somewhat less glittering playing career between 1978 and 1995, representing the Germany U21s, VfB Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt, Karlsruher, various Swiss clubs and - most notably - Freiburg.
Jogi's stellar eighties moustache wasn’t quite as recognisable as the mop-haired Rudi Völler’s and he didn’t score as many goals, but he still managed to leave a lasting legacy at his adopted hometown club. His 83-strike tally spread over 283 first-team appearances for Die Breisgauer - spanning eight Bundesliga 2 seasons and six DFB campaigns - is an all-time best-mark that has stood for over 30 years.
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Georgia’s Alexander Iashvili went as close as anyone got to breaking the record during a 10-year stint in which he produced 63 goals in 281 outings (1997-2007), before Bayern Munich cast-off Nils Petersen stepped into the breach following a hot-and-cold loan spell with Werder Bremen in 2015. The former Carl Zeiss Jena and Energie Cottbus frontman had struck 22 times in 87 outings for Bayern and Bremen; he has scored 82 goals in 156 games and counting as a Freiburg player.
"I’m sure Jogi will be able to live with it," joked Freiburg coach Christian Streich after Petersen moved to within one goal of tying Löw’s long-standing gold standard with his fifth effort in three games, sixth of the 2019/20 Bundesliga season and 82nd for the club in the Matchday 11 win over Frankfurt. "What he’s done since coming to Freiburg is really quite exemplary."
Petersen has often carried the tag of 'super sub', a billing that received more focus when - with Freiburg's goal in their 4-1 defeat in Munich on Matchday 34 of 2016/17 - he equalled Alexander Zickler's record of 18 Joker goals from the bench. He claimed it outright early the following campaign in a 1-1 draw with Hannover, and currently shares the lead at the top of the Bundesliga’s all-time substitute scoring charts with Claudio Pizarro on 22.
Curiously enough, Pizarro was part of the reason Petersen left Bayern for Bremen. The Peruvian returned to Bavaria from the banks of the Weser in summer 2012 to act as back-up for new signing Mario Mandzukic and Mario Gomez, the latter having restricted Petersen to four goals in 15 appearances in 2011/12. Although Petersen simultaneously put pen to paper on a new improved deal with his parent club, he did not play for Germany’s record champions again.
With Pizarro and Gomez sharing Petersen’s place on the Bayern bench, the 2010/11 Bundesliga 2 top goal-getter took on the 'Piza' mantle at Bremen. He hit 11 goals in 34 Bundesliga matches to keep Green-White heads just above water in 2012/13, and returned seven in 28 over the course of the ensuing campaign.
Nevertheless, having been pushed to the Werder fringes by Franco Di Santo, it took a January 2015 loan move to Freiburg to shed the 'nearly man' label once and for all. A hat-trick - after coming off the bench - on his debut against Frankfurt was the prelude to nine goals in 12 Rückrunde matches that, while not enough to keep Freiburg up, suggested Petersen was here to stay.
Outdone only by Simon Terodde – then of Bochum – Petersen hit 21 goals as Freiburg bounced straight back up as Bundesliga 2 champions. They have been mixing it at Germany’s top table ever since, fuelled by three successive single-season double-digit hauls – including a league-high 15 for a German striker in 2017/18 – from the boots or head of the Black Forest club’s unsung No.18. A team-leading six in 2019/20 even has Christian Streich’s men in the dizzy heights of fourth place after 11 rounds of fixtures.
Watch: Nils Petersen's sixth Bundesliga goal of the season sank Frankfurt on Matchday 11!
Petersen's form earned him a call-up to the Germany squad in June 2018, making his debut against Austria on the eve of the 2018 World Cup. He missed the cut for the finals and has only featured once since, but now Freiburg strike partner Luca Waldschmidt is following in his footsteps.
Waldschmidt shot to fame with a Petersen-esque goal from the bench on the final day of 2016/17 that spared former employers Hamburg the ignominy of contesting a third successive relegation play-off. The strike earned him hero status among the Dino faithful, but still wasn’t enough to merit regular minutes in 2017/18. Waldschmidt netted once in five starts and 16 substitute appearances as HSV slipped through the trap door - as the lowest scorers in the Bundesliga at that.
Drawing on the Petersen blueprint, Freiburg made no such mistakes after snapping up the Frankfurt youth product in the close season. Waldschmidt registered nine goals in 30 Bundesliga outings (16 starts) in 2018/19. Finishing a respectable 13th in the final standings, Die Breisgauer suffered just one defeat in the nine games where he found the back of the net. Only Petersen - some seven years Waldschmidt’s senior - scored more.
A further seven goals in four games for Germany at the 2019 UEFA European U21 Championship underlined Waldschmidt's potential. Four in 10 – including six starts – at the start of the new Bundesliga campaign earned him a pair of senior international caps against Argentina and Estonia.
If Löw doesn’t feel the need to carry a big red buzzer when he frequents the humble Schwarzwald-Stadion, it’s because Freiburg has got some serious talent: one of whom has his club record in sight, the other who looks ready to go further than he ever did as a national team player.