Bundesliga Legends Network: Meet the Players
Eighteen Bundesliga legends in their own right who are now proudly flying the flag for German football across the globe as part of the Bundesliga Legends Network.
Jörg Albertz, Anthony Baffoe, Bum-Kun Cha, Steven Cherundolo, Makoto Hasebe, Jürgen Klinsmann, Philipp Lahm, Lothar Matthäus, Jay-Jay Okocha, Yasuhiko Okudera, Pavel Pardo, Claudio Pizarro, Lukas Podolski, Wynton Rufer, Paulo Sergio, Jiayi Shao, Chen Yang and Ze Roberto - all names who left an indelible mark on the Bundesliga.
From Bundesliga Experiences and Meisterschale Trophy Tours to offering expert analysis for international broadcasters and media, the recently expanded Bundesliga Legends Network provides regular fundamental touchpoints for highly engaged supporters who - wherever they are in the world - replicate the passion and commitment that comes from the clubs' unique fan bases throughout Germany.
Find out more about the legends below…
Albertz's wicked left foot earned him the nickname 'The Hammer' during his playing days, which - despite being born in Mönchengladbach - began at nearby rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf. His cult status would follow him everywhere. He became captain at Hamburg during his first three-year spell there before five years away in Glasgow with Rangers. He returned to the Volksparkstadion in 2001 to much fanfare. His left foot and trademark free-kicks saw him score 29 times in 150 Bundesliga appearances, plus six more in 48 games with Fortuna and later Greuther Fürth in the second division.
Baffoe was born in Bonn to a Ghanaian diplomat based in the former west German capital. He came through the ranks at local giants Cologne as a forward, but eventually moved to full-back. He only made two Bundesliga appearances for the Billy Goats but became only the third African to feature in the league before stepping down to Bundesliga 2 with Rot-Weiß Oberhausen, Stuttgarter Kickers and Fortuna Cologne. During his time in Stuttgart, he helped the underdogs to the 1986/87 DFB Cup final, setting up the opening goal in a 3-1 loss against Hamburg. The 25-time Ghana international later returned to the top flight with Fortuna Düsseldorf, making a further 72 Bundesliga appearances to go with his 125 in the second division. He left his role as deputy general secretary at the Confederation of African Football in the summer of 2021, but has also served as a FIFA ambassador for SOS Children's Village and for their campaigns against racism.
Bum-Kun Cha was the first South Korean to play in the Bundesliga and is widely regarded as the Asian continent's greatest ever player. Known in Germany as 'Cha Boom' for his thunderous shots, he's the youngest international player in his country's history and their record goalscorer. Also the youngest player in the world to reach 100 caps - aged only 24 when he did so - Cha netted 98 times in 308 Bundesliga appearances for Darmstadt, Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayer Leverkusen. He lifted the 1980/81 DFB Cup and 1979/80 UEFA Cup with Eintracht, being hailed as "unstoppable" by Aberdeen manager Alex Ferguson after scoring against them on the way to that European title. He'd repeat the UEFA Cup success with Leverkusen in 1983, later being named the IFFHS Asia's Player of the Century (1990-99). The Bundesliga's top non-German goalscorer until 1999 paved the way for many more South Koreans to come, such as Heung-min Son, while his son Cha Du-Ri also played in Germany, having been born in Frankfurt.
The original Captain America in Germany, Cherundolo is his nation's record appearance maker in the Bundesliga with 302 games - all for Hannover and also a club record in the top flight. The right-back from Rockford, Illinois joined the Lower Saxony side in 1999, and would remain true to them until he hung up his boots due to a long-term knee problem in 2014. Affectionately known as 'Dolo' and even 'Mayor of Hanover' by fans, the one-club man remained with H96 after retirement to work as assistant coach for the club's reserves and first team, as well as taking charge of several youth teams. After a total of 415 competitive appearances and two decades at Hannover, he moved on in 2018 to be assistant coach at VfB Stuttgart. The 87-time US international is now the manager of the Las Vegas Lights.
Japan's Hasebe is the only member of the Legends Network still playing as he goes into his eighth season with Eintracht Frankfurt, but has also turned out for Nuremberg and Wolfsburg. The latter brought him to Germany in 2008, and he'd go on to win the Bundesliga with the Wolves in 2008/09. With a total of 342 appearances in Germany's top flight as of Matchday 2 in 2021/22, he holds the record for appearances by an Asian player in a European league. A defensive midfielder who also excels in a back three, the 114-time international has also lifted the DFB Cup with Frankfurt in 2018. He is currently the oldest player in the Bundesliga, having turned 37 on 18 January 2021.
Klinsmann was one of the most prolific strikers in Bundesliga history, scoring 110 times in 221 games. He was the league's top scorer in 1987/88 with VfB Stuttgart, before lifting the Meisterschale in 1996/97 with Bayern Munich. He also had goal-filled spells in England, France and Italy. His record for Germany was equally impressive, scoring 47 times in 108 caps, including 16 goals at major tournaments as he won the 1990 FIFA World Cup and 1996 UEFA Euros. After retiring, he moved into management and led Germany to the semi-finals of their home World Cup in 2006. A one-year spell in charge of Bayern was followed by five years at the helm of the USA, which included taking the Stars and Stripes to the 2014 World Cup. His most recent coaching job was at Hertha Berlin in 2019/20.
A 2014 World Cup-winning captain with Germany, Munich-born Lahm spent his entire career with hometown club Bayern Munich - bar a loan to VfB Stuttgart as a youngster - and went on to win the Bundesliga eight times. Six of those were part of a domestic double with the DFB Cup, while he also lifted the UEFA Champions League trophy as captain in 2012/13 as Bayern claimed a historic treble. A legend of the modern game, he retired in 2017 after over 500 appearances for the record champions and a total of 385 games in the Bundesliga.
Matthäus is one of the finest players Germany has ever produced. He was a box-to-box midfielder, deep-lying playmaker and intelligent sweeper rolled into one, playing well over 450 times in the Bundesliga for Borussia Mönchengladbach and then Bayern Munich - where he won seven league titles - during the 1980s and 90s. The late Diego Maradona described Matthäus as "the best rival I’ve ever had". He was the first person to be named FIFA World Player of the Year, the most recent German to win the Ballon d'Or, captained Germany to 1990 World Cup success, won the 1980 Euros and much, much more.
Okocha was an unknown quantity when he moved to Germany in 1990 but the Nigerian's magical tricks soon stunned both fans and opponents alike. He started out at Borussia Neunkirchen before joining Eintracht Frankfurt in 1992, scoring one of the best goals in Bundesliga history while with the Eagles. Up against Karlsruhe in August 1993, the attacking midfielder received the ball on a breakaway and proceeded to toy with none other than legendary goalkeeper Oliver Kahn. The Nigerian maestro turned the current Bayern CEO inside and out and back again, using a series of feints that bamboozled a couple of defenders too. That breathtaking effort was voted Germany's goal of the year for 1993, and it was one of 18 Okocha got - as well as 13 assists - in 90 appearances for Eintracht. The former Bolton and Paris Saint-Germain player, who left Frankfurt for Fenerbahce in 1996, won both the Africa Cup of Nations and Olympic gold during his career.
Hasebe and previously Shinji Kagawa might be the Bundesliga benchmark for Japanese players now, but it was Okudera who paved the way back in the 1970s. Legendary coach Hennes Weisweiler brought him to Cologne from Furukawa Electric, where he also worked. The left-back's Bundesliga debut at Duisburg in October 1977 made him the first Japanese player to feature in a top European league. And it only got better as he won the domestic double in his first season with the Billy Goats, even scoring in each of the final three Bundesliga games. After three years in Cologne, the 42-time international spent a year with Hertha Berlin in Bundesliga 2 before returning to the top flight with Werder Bremen. He finished as runner-up on three occasions in five seasons there. Over 30 Japanese players have now made an appearance in the Bundesliga, but it all started with Okudera and his 234 appearances.
A legend in his native Mexico with 146 caps, winning two CONCACAF Gold Cups and the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, Pardo and Ricardo Osorio would become pioneers for the Mexican game in Europe and Germany. The gritty but stylish midfielder joined VfB Stuttgart in 2006 and had yet more silverware in his hands within 12 months as VfB won their third and most recent Bundesliga title. Pardo played in every match that season and made a total of 72 Bundesliga appearances - one fewer than former Stuttgart teammate and Mexican record holder Osorio. He returned back across the Atlantic to former side Club America in January 2009.
No South American has had a greater impact on the Bundesliga than Pizarro. The Peruvian played across four different decades for Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Cologne, holding the league record for the most appearances by a non-German (490), the oldest goalscorer (40 years, 7 months, 15 days), as well as being the second highest scorer in the 21st century. Pizarro is Bremen's all-time top scorer (153 goals), sixth in the Bundesliga's all-time list (197), ninth in Bayern's historic scoring chart (125), among the top 10 for South Americans scoring in Europe, a Champions League winner as part of Bayern’s 2013 treble and a six-time Bundesliga champion. Adored in Bremen and Munich alike - having signed for the two clubs on seven separate occasions - the former striker is an icon to many.
Podolski made his debut in Germany's top flight in 2003 for 1. FC Köln. The striker played a total of 240 matches (94 goals) in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 for his hometown club Köln and for FC Bayern München. In 2008, he won the double of the Bundesliga and the DFB Cup with Bayern. After spells in England, Italy, Turkey and Japan, Podolski now plays for Polish first division team Gornik Zabrze – in the neighbouring town of his birthplace Gliwice. Podolski made a total of 130 international appearances (49 goals) for the Germany national team between 2004 and 2017.
Rufer is arguably the greatest football player New Zealand has ever produced, and would later be named Oceania Footballer of the Century to further back up that claim. After impressing in the Swiss league, the Wellington native joined Werder Bremen in 1989 and was instrumental in one of their golden periods. He won the 1991 DFB Cup, scored in the 1992 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup final triumph over Monaco, and would plunder 17 goals in their 1992/93 Bundesliga title-winning team. Another DFB Cup followed in 1994 before he left Werder for Japan with an impressive record of 59 goals in 174 Bundesliga games. Rufer returned to Germany for six months in 1997 with Kaiserslautern, scoring four times in 14 games as the club won the Bundesliga 2 title.
Sergio was a pioneer for Brazilians making their way to Germany, and in particular laying foundations for Bayer Leverkusen's strong link with the South American country. The forward joined Die Werkself in 1993 - a year before he won the World Cup in the USA - and would score 47 times in 121 Bundesliga appearances over four seasons as he became a club hero. After a brief spell in Italy, he returned to the Bundesliga in 1999 with Bayern Munich, where he'd get 21 goals in 77 league games, lift the Meisterschale twice (in 1999/2000 and 2000/01), the DFB Cup in 2000, and the Champions League in 2001.
Following in Yang’s pioneering footsteps, Shao went on to become the most successful Chinese player in German football to date, having played 168 times across the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 with 1860 Munich, Energie Cottbus and Duisburg. The midfielder also scored 24 times across the top two divisions in Germany, having made the move to Munich following the 2002 World Cup - China's only appearance at the tournament. The 40-time international is now an executive committee member of CFA / team manager and assistant coach of China's U18 national team, as well as working to promote the Bundesliga at home.
From a country of over one billion people, Yang was the trailblazer when he became the first Chinese player to play and subsequently score in the Bundesliga. He first netted for Eintracht Frankfurt against Borussia Mönchengladbach in September 1998, and the Beijing-born striker would go on to get 16 goals in 65 Bundesliga games over three seasons at Eintracht. The Chinese Footballer of the Year in 2000 then spent a further two years in Bundesliga 2 with St. Pauli.
Ze Roberto's first taste of Europe came in Spain, but it was in the Bundesliga where the Brazilian and two-time Copa America winner really made his name. He finished a Bundesliga runner-up three times in four years with Bayer Leverkusen, also reaching the finals of the DFB Cup and Champions League in 2001/02. Capable of playing on the left of defence or in midfield, he would later join Bayern Munich and win four Bundesliga and DFB Cup doubles over two spells. The 84-time international would return to the Bundesliga for a final time in 2009 for a two-year stint at Hamburg. The Sao Paulo native made a total of 336 appearances in Germany's top flight.
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