Coming up this week on the Bundesliga Preview Show...
Inexorably on the up for years, be it in terms of the UEFA rankings, attendance figures, tactical innovation or simply the general international perception of its standing, the Bundesliga is now entitled to label itself the league of world champions for good measure. The core of Germany's was dominated by FC Bayern München employees while in the squad as a whole, those earning their crust at the double winners' great domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund were scarcely less numerous - not least given the absence through injury of star performers Marco Reus and Ilkay Gündogan. That fact and others, such as the relatively inexperienced Christoph Kramer's last-ditch selection against Argentina, perhaps best symbolised the huge strides taken by the Bundesliga as a whole over the past decade or so. The triumph in Brazil was built on the bedrock of a coherent nationwide system geared towards producing, in numbers, world-beating players for today, tomorrow and the day after.
FC Bayern report
FC Bayern München's signing of Xabi Alonso from Real Madrid CF was undoubtedly the highest-profile coup of the closing days of the summer transfer window. The veteran midfield superstar's class and professionalism shone through on his fast-tracked Bundesliga debut at FC Schalke 04, where he slotted into his accustomed holding role with an assurance that left his new coach and teammates duly impressed, if not particularly surprised. Next up for Bayern is a home game against VfB Stuttgart – and what better occasion could there be for Alonso to get his first taste of the Allianz Arena atmospherics than in the classic southern German derby?
Bayern's top domestic rivals Borussia Dortmund pulled their own spectacular lastgasp
transfer out of the bag with the reacquisition of Shinji Kagawa from Manchester United. Two years after taking his leave of the Ruhr district and the Bundesliga, the 25-year-old attacking midfielder is back at the club and in the environment where he flourished so prodigiously after arriving from Japan as a virtual unknown in the summer of 2010. Having helped die Schwarz-Gelben to successive league titles before heading off to England, Kagawa is already a tried-and-tested graduate of the Jürgen Klopp academy. Player, coach and Borussia's vast legion of fans are now all eagerly anticipating further additions to the trophy cabinet in the none-too-distant future. And the returning hero hopes to take a first step along the path with a taste of the action at home to SC Freiburg this Saturday.
Handed the number 10 shirt on his arrival from Hamburger SV over the closeseason,
Hakan Calhanoglu is taking to the role of Bayer 04 Leverkusen's new string-puller-in-chief with relish. Displaying an uncanny maturity in what is still only his second top-flight campaign, the 20-year-old Turkey international has already established his credentials as an integral cog in Roger Schmidt's high-intensity pressing machine. A couple of assists in the Matchday 2 win against Hertha Berlin and a trademark goal from a direct free-kick in the UEFA Champions League qualifier against FC København are concrete testimony to Calhanoglu's influence on Germany's form team of the season's opening weeks – form they will be determined to maintain at the BayArena in Friday evening's Matchday 3 opener against Werder Bremen.