Bayern Munich and Germany legend Philipp Lahm has singled out Jude Bellingham and Jamal Musiala in his review of 2022 with bundesliga.com...
bundesliga.com: Who is your player of the year?
Philipp Lahm: "That's always difficult to answer. In a year like this, of course, there must be a bit of World Cup in the mix. I think, if there is one to choose, I'd have to say Jude Bellingham from Borussia Dortmund, who has developed very well so far. He is a crucial player at BVB.
"I would say those are the [standout] players because others have also struggled a bit. When I think of Bayer Leverkusen, who played a very good second half of 2021/22, but then started to struggle in the new season, the balance just didn't seem right. Leipzig also experienced a few difficult games and weeks at the beginning of the current season. Of course, it has to be said that Christopher Nkunku, in particular, had a great year but unfortunately got injured towards the end and was therefore unable to travel to the World Cup."
Watch: Bellingham and Musiala: Cool under pressure
bundesliga.com: Which young player will be the one to watch in 2023?
Lahm: "I can't offer any insider tips; my picks are Musiala and Bellingham for this as well. They became established Bundesliga players over the past year. They are still developing so there is still more for us to see from them in 2023. I'm curious to see how they continue and how they find their place on the pitch and within their teams.
"However, I would add two more players to the list. The first is Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, one of the best defenders in 2022. He just played a great World Cup for Croatia and has developed into a crucial player at Leipzig. At a very young age, he is putting in great performances as a central defender. I believe that he has really made his breakthrough this year, especially at the World Cup.
"Another young player to watch will be Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz. He was able to establish himself in the league just as quickly as Bellingham and Musiala, but was set back by injury. I can't wait to see him back, especially given that he is such an important player for Leverkusen. I hope he can continue where he left off and show his great talent."
Watch: Jamal Musiala - Bayern's gem
bundesliga.com: Who was your standout Bundesliga club in 2022?
Lahm: "I'd say Freiburg. They were able to qualify for the Europa League at the end of 2021/22 and this season has started sensationally again for them. They entered the current winter break in the Champions League spots. I think the reason for their success is that they have a clear playing philosophy - which comes from the coach. They were able to show that they had a clear vision throughout the whole year.
bundesliga.com: Were there any other clubs that surprised you?
Lahm: "Union Berlin, clearly. They played a great second half to the 2021/22 season, qualified for Europe and are now playing at the top again. You can also see a clear game idea there, how they want to play. Both clubs do not have the best teams and sets of players in the league, but they make a very good impression thanks to their style of play. That wasn't just the case over a few weeks, but really for the whole year."
Watch: Freiburg beat Union Berlin in their final game of 2022
bundesliga.com Who is your coach of the year?
Lahm: "Christian Streich is my coach of the year. Union's Urs Fischer has done a great job as well, but Streich’s continuity at Feiburg is unrivalled. He's the one who made Freiburg's development possible with his dependability. When he took over, Freiburg were a yo-yo club – regularly being relegated and promoted. Since he took over, they developed into a household name in the Bundesliga and justified aims to regularly make it to European competition. At this stage, you could not imagine the Bundesliga without Freiburg. That's why [Streich] is the obvious choice for me. He has a clear vision of how a team should play football and he is able to slightly adapt his team's playing style year after year. He's my coach of the year."
bundesliga.com: Who are you most excited about in 2023: team and player?
Lahm: "It's always tough to nail this down to clubs or names. I'm excited to see how the race for the Bundesliga title will go. I hope that it will be a tight one. At the bottom of the table, it will definitely go down to the wire. There are many open questions; those are the things that I am excited about.
"Regarding players, I've already mentioned a few. We'll have to see what happens during the transfer window. There might be a few surprises in store. Additionally, the league will be starting after a very long winter break because of the World Cup. Will the teams and players be able to find their playing rhythm after this, especially the ones who did not go to the World Cup? I'm very excited to see how they deal with this new situation.
bundesliga.com: Are there any trends you see – in terms of performances or playing style – that clubs or players are starting to adopt?
Lahm: "I think that teams were trying to focus a lot on possession of the ball and high pressing. Those are the attributes that we have seen from a lot of teams this year. Looking at Union and Freiburg - whom I have already mentioned as outstanding teams - they had a different approach. Both were trying to be very compact in defence and defend as a unit. We saw those two different approaches at the World Cup as well. I'm very curious to see how this will develop next year as we have seen over the first half of this season how important it is to be well organised in defence and be able to act and attack once in possession of the ball. I could imagine that the compactness in defence will become more important in 2023; Union Berlin and Freiburg show that this works. The World Cup always sets trends as well. Looking at the semi-finalists, we saw that they were successful because of their compact defending in addition to their quality in attack.
bundesliga.com: Any big predictions for the remainder of the season?
Lahm: "I'm hoping for surprises, especially when it comes to the teams qualifying for the Champions League. It's very well possible that we'll see teams in the top four that we did not expect before the season, and the current Bundesliga table shows how much is possible. Teams like Freiburg, who are not the usual suspects, could make it. However, I do think that Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig will make it. Leverkusen just lost too many points early in the season, so there is a chance for different teams to make it. [If] Freiburg and Union show that continuity and identification they can move a lot of things forward. I'm very excited to see who will take that fourth Champions League spot.
"Another question is how the teams will fare after this long winter break next year. This is hard to predict as it's a new situation for everyone. The clubs are approaching the long break in very different ways. Some just continued training, others have taken quite long breaks, and some had a mix of breaks and periods of training. I'm very curious to see how the teams are coming back and what will happen."
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