Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Stefan Kießling has football in his blood. "My grandfather founded a football club, my dad is still an active goalkeeper and I score the goals. It's viewed as a family business," the forward explains on his official website.
Indeed it was with his granddad's team, TSV Eintracht Bamberg, that the rangy striker first took to the pitch. At 15 he had to make the choice beween training as a chef or taking his chances with football as a career. And although "cooking is still a lot of fun," it was football that ultimately prevailed.
It has proved to be a wise move. Bundesliga scouts began showing an interest in the young forward and in 2001, 1. FC Nürnberg snapped Kießling up, tying him to a six-year contract the following year and handing him his Bundesliga debut in 2003. He tasted both relegation and promotion with the Franconian outfit in the period that followed, before moving on to Bayer 04 Leverkusen in 2006.
Since then Kießling has settled down to enjoy his best years: "Here I met my wife, got married, welcomed my son into the world, built a house and I've got my fans. Leverkusen makes me very happy." The target man has been a first-team regular under a variety of coaches at Bayer 04 and his work ethic and eye for goal earned him a call-up to the national team from Joachim Löw, and a squad role for Germany at the 2010 World Cup.
Overlooked internationally, flourishing domestically
Thereafter however, international recognition was harder to come by for the Bavarian-born target man, in the face of impressive performances by German strikers both in the Bundesliga and across Europe. Kießling was hardly lacking motivation, though: in his international hiatus he hit 25 Bundesliga goals and became the Bundesliga top scorer in 2012/13, his contribution vital in steering Leverkusen back into the Champions League.