UEFA Champions League finalists Liverpool boast a curiously rich history with the Bundesliga. In addition to Jürgen Klopp on the touchline, the Reds have several players in their ranks with a Bundesliga past.
It all started back in 1977 when England star Kevin Keegan signed for Hamburg. The striker was one of the great Bundesliga signings of the late '70s, winning the Ballon d’Or twice during his time with HSV. His move was the precursor for a relationship between the Merseyside club and the Bundesliga that lives on to this day.
Seven members of the current Liverpool squad have spent time in the Bundesliga. Some more than others, and most of them moving to the 2021/22 UEFA Champions League finalists because of their exploits in the German top flight: Roberto Firmino (Hoffenheim), Ibrahima Konate (RB Leipzig), Joel Matip (Schalke), Loris Karius (Mainz, Union Berlin) Naby Keita (RB Leipzig), Thiago (Bayern Munich), and Divock Origi (Wolfsburg).
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Can and Firmino paved the way
One of the first to arrive from German shores was Firmino in the 2015/16 season, just three months before Klopp's appointment as Liverpool manager. The Brazil forward scored 38 goals in 140 Bundesliga matches for Hoffenheim - a record which augured well for future success in the Premier League. Emre Can had made the move a season earlier, joining from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2014, having also spent time with Bayern.
In the following summer of 2017, an increasing number of players made the move in what was Klopp’s first full summer transfer window in charge. The arrivals of centre-back Matip from Schalke - who has been present in the Klopp defence to this day - as well as Karius (Mainz) and defender Ragnar Klavan (Augsburg) - the latter of whom is now in Italy with Cagliari - continued Liverpool's Bundesliga trend.
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The talented Keita landed from Leipzig in the summer of 2018, while striker Origi joined from Lilie – before playing on loan at Wolfsburg - and Xherdan Shaqiri, who had a successful path through Bayern in his three seasons at the Allianz Arena, made his move to Merseyside from Stoke City.
Thiago lifted a seventh successive Bundesliga title and wrapped up an unprecedented sextuple with Bayern in 2019/20, the same year Klopp's side ended their 30-year wait for an English championship. The Spaniard then joined the Anfield revolution in the summer of 2020 and Konate made the same move the following year.
Bundesliga and Liverpool, a bond of decades
But if the link between Liverpool and the Bundesliga had a high point, then it occurred mainly in the wake of the Bosman ruling which came into effect in 1995.
Without restrictions by nationality within the limits of the European Union, the biggest European teams launched themselves into a hunt for players from other leagues. With this, Liverpool signed, among others, Karl-Heinz Riedle (1997, Borussia Dortmund), Sean Dundee (1998, Karlsruhe), Erik Meijer (1999, Leverkusen) and Markus Babbel (2000, Bayern).
Arguably the most illustrious German to have played in Liverpool, though, was Dietmar Hamann. After leaving Bayern and playing for a season at Newcastle United, Hamann made it to the birthplace of The Beatles, where he would stay from 1999 to 2006. The Germany international played a total of 328 matches for the Reds, and was a key cog in their 2005 UEFA Champions League-winning campaign.
From Liverpool to Germany
Some players have also taken the opposite route to make a career in the Bundesliga having left Liverpool. After 10 seasons at Liverpool, Sami Hyypiä joined Leverkusen and played between 2009 and 2011 before becoming a coach at the BayArena.
Bayern welcomed Liverpool’s pair of Spaniards, Xabi Alonso (2004-09) and Pepe Reina (2005-13), while Argentinian left-back Emiliano Insua joined VfB Stuttgart (2007-2011) and Leipzig's Peter Gulacsi (2010-11) also played at Liverpool, the latter going on to become one of the Bundesliga's best current goalkeepers. Can also headed back to his homeland in 2020, joining up with Klopp's former club Dortmund - via Italian giants Juventus - to complete the circle.
With a host of talented names from the '70s to the present day, the Bundesliga and Liverpool have enjoyed a fruitful relationship, sharing talents both on the pitch and in the dugout. It's a relationship which is sure to continue, especially with Klopp at the Anfield helm, and the enduring affection he retains for his homeland.
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