Every new season brings with it the promise of freshly-signed stars - some with an established international reputation already, others less so - adding further lustre to the Bundesliga and 2013/14 is certainly no exception. The newcomer making the biggest waves over the summer has been Thiago Alcantara, Spain's title-winning player of the tournament at the recent European U-21 Championships in Israel and Pep Guardiola's signing of choice at FC Bayern. That coup even shifted the spotlight away from the treble-winners' marquee intra-league signing, Mario Götze, while his former club Borussia Dortmund have themselves splashed out on a couple of exceptional attacking talents in Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang. Just up the road in Gelsenkirchen, FC Schalke 04 meanwhile have high hopes of former Mainz spearhead Adam Szalai as they seek to strengthen their own forward department. GOAL! has the overview on the top summer moves.
Top Game I
The date - Friday 9 August; the venue - the Allianz Arena; the teams - FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Mönchengladbach; the occasion - Matchday 1, game one of the Bundesliga's 51st season. It's a fitting start without a doubt, pitting together the two sides who between them dominated a previous golden era of German football in the 1970s. For much of the intervening period, while Bayern have continued to assiduously squirrel away titles, the Foals have struggled not only in the shadow of their former glory but also, and more than once without success, to even retain their place in the top flight. The renaissance under head coach Lucien Favre over the past couple of years however makes this a genuinely intriguing encounter, not least in light of the fact that Gladbach drew here last season against the treble-winners elect - and beat them year the before.
3 Minutes with...
...Heung Min Son. The South Korean shooting star is one major string now extracted from the Hamburg bow, having made the switch to Bayer Leverkusen after the Werkself sold Andre Schürrle to Chelsea. In the five years since he headed west as a precocious 16-year-old, Son has made remarkable progress, not least last season when he finished joint top scorer at HSV with twelve goals. Now, he has teamed up with the league's leading marksman of 2012/13, Stefan Kießling, and is set to add a shot at the Champions League to his increasingly impressive c.v.
Pep Guardiola has already enjoyed a warm welcome, and a taste of what perhaps lies in store, at the home of the team Bayern replaced as domestic top dogs last season, Borussia Dortmund. The Yellow-Blacks, it need hardly be added, also pushed their Bavarian rivals all the way before succumbing to Arjen Robben's late winner in the first all-German Champions League final at the end of last season. A bitter blow for the losers, naturally, but charismatic head coach Jürgen Klopp is leading by example in the bounce-back stakes, meticulously planning the next assault on the home and international fronts, recharged, revitalised and bubbling with enthusiasm about how his new signings are slotting into the team he has shaped into one of Europe's best - a hard-earned status they are looking to cement over the upcoming campaign.