Munich - Seven Bundesliga stars have made the 23-man shortlist for this year's FIFA Ballon d'Or, no fewer than six of them from German and European champions FC Bayern München alone.
Back with a bang
Among their number is Bastian Schweinsteiger, and the 29-year-old midfielder's nomination for the prestigious award bears testimony to a remarkable return to peak form over the past year.
After missing a penalty that opened the door to Chelsea FC's UEFA Champions League shoot-out victory at the Allianz Arena, and looking a shadow of his normal self for Germany at the subsequent EURO 2012 finals, Schweinsteiger was put on his own special R&R programme by Bayern's head coach at the time, Jupp Heynckes.
Schweinsteiger returned all the stronger for it, the deep-lying linchpin of a team who swept all before them on the way to a record-breaking Bundesliga title success, capping off the campaign with a redemptive Champions League triumph and a DFB Cup victory that secured an historic treble for good measure.
More than a holding midfielder
Consistently the player seeing most of the ball in a Bayern side striding from one league best-mark to the next, Schweinsteiger chipped in with seven goals and four assists as well - a very respectable return for a nominal holding midfielder. In truth, of course, he is much more than that, as evidenced not least by the more overtly attacking role he has taken up so far under new coach Pep Guardiola.
For the 100-time Germany international, it could well be the start of another new phase in an already distinguished career, fusing his qualities as part of the shield in front of the defence with his earlier experience as a wide attacking midfielder, the position in which he first made his name.
"Best midfielder in the world"
Currently sidelined in the wake of surgery for an ongoing ankle problem, Schweinsteiger should be back fully fit in time for the season restart in January. Having by his own admission played through the opening weeks of the campaign in considerable discomfort, his return in peak condition is a happy prospect indeed for fans of the record champions.
For Heynckes - himself in the running for the World Coach of the Year award - the local hero with the No31 shirt is simply the “best midfielder in the world.” If the FIFA judging panel takes the same view, the Ballon d'Or will be Schweinsteiger's.
The Bundesliga's other men in contention for the Ballon d'Or 2013: