Before joining the league for a brief winter recess, this week's edition looks back on the teams, and players, who have been making the biggest headlines so far in this, the Bundesliga's 50th season.
There's not much argument about the team of the season at this stage. FC Bayern Munich have swept (almost) all before them, opening up a nine-point lead over closest pursuers Bayer Leverkusen at the midway stage. After two years without a Bundesliga title, the club from the Bavarian capital are patently itching to get back to the top of the domestic pile and the arrival above all of a trio of high-class grafters in Dante, Javier Martinez and Mario Mandzukic has evidently had the desired effect of sharpening their competitive edge. The 1-1 home draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach in their final league outing of the year may have prevented them levelling their own 44-point record for a first season-half, but other best-marks are securely in the bag. Quite aside from all their dominant attacking play, for example, Bayern have only conceded a single goal away from home so far this season.
Still only 20, his fame long precedes him. is widely viewed as the pick of an outstanding generation of up-and-coming German talents, and is already well on the way to becoming a true star of the world game. It has not all been one big bed of roses for the Borussia Dortmund number 10 however and never less so than in the second half of 2011/12, when a wearisome groin problem kept him sidelined for virtually the entire campaign run-in, as BVB defended their Bundesliga title in spectacular fashion before going on to thump FC Bayern in the DFB Cup final for good measure. Now though, Götze is back in the thick of it for the Yellow-Blacks and back to his dazzling best as well. And if the second title defence is perhaps not going quite to plan, the country's brightest prospect and his teammates have certainly been causing a stir centre-stage in Europe.
So which particular names stick out from the seasonal crowd as the Bundesliga goes into winter recess? , for one, has made more of an impact at FC Bayern than perhaps even he would have imagined, seamlessly shifting from being Borussia Mönchengladbach's defensive coordinator to the same role in Munich. Bayer Leverkusen are likewise possibly exceeding their own expectations with their current second place in the standings – and twelve goals from frontman leave him out on his own at the top of the year-end scorers chart. The part Rene Adler has played in Hamburg's recent revival has meanwhile served as a pertinent reminder as to why only injury prevented him travelling to South Africa as Germany's number 1 for the 2010 World Cup finals. Vedad Ibisevic is rediscovering the scoring form for VfB Stuttgart that saw him burst into the public consciousness with Hoffenheim in their debut Bundesliga season, while Hungarian midfielder Szabolcs Huszti has been demonstrating just why coach Mirko Slomka was so keen to reacquire his services from Zenit St. Petersburg over the summer. And then there is , the man with the deadly left foot – already a living legend in his native Venezuela and, it seems, just getting better with age.