Eintracht Frankfurt’s UEFA Europa League success has triggered days of celebrations across the city in honour of the club’s first European trophy in 42 years, and left us pondering where Kevin Trapp, Rafael Borre and Co. might fit in the club’s all-time best XI.
The 31-year-old Germany international cemented his place among the club’s greats with a Man of the Match display in the final against Glasgow Rangers. His jaw-dropping save from Ryan Kent in extra time was special enough, before he produced the decisive stop in the shootout that ultimately led to the Eagles’ triumph. A subsequent place in the official UEFA Europa League Team of the Season was just reward, making him the only candidate for goalkeeper in this side.
Not only a bonafide Frankfurt legend but a Bundesliga icon too: Karl-Heinz ‘Charly’ Körbel holds the record for most top-flight appearances with 602, all of them coming in Eintracht colours. As reliable a centre-back as they come, Körbel was part of the second Frankfurt team to taste continental glory, playing the full 90 minutes in each leg of their 1980 UEFA Cup final triumph over Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Hinteregger may have missed the final in Seville due to injury, but he has been a cornerstone of the current Frankfurt side for several years now. The Austrian marshalled the Eintracht rearguard on their run to the semi-finals in 2018/19 and his no-nonsense approach was crucial in helping Oliver Glasner’s side go through the competition unbeaten. A charismatic character who plays the accordion and is a licensed helicopter pilot, ‘Hinti’ partied with fans for days after the Seville triumph, reason enough for him to deservedly take a place in the official Team of the Season.
Eight years Körbel’s senior, Neuberger held the record for most Bundesliga appearances (502), the bulk of which were for Frankfurt (276), before his teammate eventually took the crown. A jack-of-all trades whose versatility led to him operating in a number of outfield positions throughout his career, Neuberger was at his best as a marauding full-back, which is where he played for that iconic Eintracht side from 1980.
There are legends and then there are Legends with a capital ‘L’. Bernd Hölzenbein is definitely in the latter category. Frankfurt’s all-time top scorer with 160 goals, he also held the club’s single-season record of 26 set in 1976/77 until Andre Silva broke it in 2020/21. A 1974 World Cup winner with Germany, the attacking midfielder was also captain of Frankfurt’s 1980 side
A World Cup winner with Germany in 1954, Pfaff retired two years before the Bundesliga was established in 1963, but he still played over 300 competitive games for the club. Part of the team that crushed Rangers in the 1960 UEFA Cup semi-finals, he also played in the 7-3 final defeat against Real Madrid that year. Nevertheless, the free-kick specialist, who ran a pub after hanging up his boots, remained a beloved figure at Frankfurt, so much so that there’s even a street named after him near the first-team training ground.
The nimble Japanese attacker was undroppable for Glasner this past season, featuring in all 13 of Frankfurt’s Europa League assignments. He finished as the team’s top scorer with five goals, including the crucial winner in the semi-final first leg at West Ham. Another to be named in the official Team of the Season, Kamada often had opposition defences so worried that he was singled out for man-marking, opening up spaces elsewhere for his teammates.
While some left-footed players are often described as having a ‘wand’ for a boot and others a ‘hammer’, Kostic is a unique species in possessing both. Famed for his pace, directness and precision crosses, the Serbian showed nerves of steel to lash in two unerring goals away to Barcelona in the quarter-finals. He ended the season with more assists (six) than any other player in the Europa League, including his delivery for Borre to equalise in the final. No wonder he was named as the competition’s Player of the Season and included in the Team of the Season too.
Watch: Filip Kostic is key to the success of the current Frankfurt team
Cometh the hour, cometh Borre. The Colombian proved to be the ultimate big-game player in his debut season at Eintracht, scoring three of his four Europa League goals from the quarter-finals onwards. His stunning strike against Barcelona helped instill the Eagles with belief that victory was possible, while he also provided a crucial assist for Ansgar Knauff in the semi-final first leg at West Ham. As if that were not enough, he rose to the occasion once more in the final, equalising against Rangers and scoring the decisive penalty in the shootout. Another player richly deserving of his place in the Europa League Team of the Season.
A key part of Frankfurt’s swashbuckling 2018/19 side, Haller helped rekindle the club’s love affair with European football as they progressed to the Europa League semi-finals with five goal in 10 outings. His telepathic partnership with Luka Jovic (see below) and Ante Rebic earned the trio the nickname ‘The Three Buffalos’ in Germany; they were unstoppable once they got going. Powerful, skillful and good in the air, Haller may only have had two seasons at Frankfurt, but he certainly made a lasting impact.
Jovic was the breakout star of European football in 2018/19, registering 17 Bundesliga goals – including five in a single game – and a further 10 in 14 appearances in the Europa League. “He’s a goal machine, no question,” said head coach Adi Hütter at the time. The Serbian struck in both semi-final legs against Chelsea and was so consistently good that Real Madrid came calling at the end of the season, taking him to the Bernabeu.
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