Teams at the bottom of the Bundesliga table rarely grab the headlines, but dissect the performances of the top-flight strugglers, and there are men still shining in the darkness. bundesliga.com turns the spotlight on five men who have made winning contributions to a losing cause this season.
The Cologne midfielder has baby-faced features that make you think he should still be in school, but the Frenchman — he's actually 22! — has shown he can more than handle the rough and tumble in the big boys' playground of the Bundesliga. To be fair, he had already done that in Ligue 1 in 84 top-flight appearances for Nice before his January move to Germany, but his impact on the pitch for the Billy Goats has been far weightier than his wiry 5'5" frame suggested.
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His unerring 94 percent pass completion rate is the best in the league, while he covers 7.7 miles a game, more than any other Cologne player. "My role decides itself on the pitch," explained Koziello. "It all depends on what people expect of me." Having set the bar so high, Vincent, the answer now is simply, 'A lot'.
When asked last season how he needed to improve, Kostic replied simply: "Become more consistent." That is never easy in a struggling side, but the Serbia international has struck upon the right formula this season. Five goals, including one in the 3-2 thriller with Schalke on Matchday 29, have fattened up the slim hopes HSV have of retaining their proud top-flight status.
His stats are all the more impressive given he has managed to perform wherever he has played this season, turning out on either side of midfield (12 left, three right) and even being used as an outright forward (eight appearances).
"He's not for sale," Freiburg's sporting director, Jochen Saier, recently felt compelled to say. "It doesn't matter how much money's involved, he's not going anywhere." The Turkish centre-back may be staying put for the time being, but his career is very definitely going places. It can be a thankless task to be a defender in a team in the league's lower reaches, but at least it gives you many opportunities a game to showcase your talents.
When Mainz added 12 months to the five-year contract Gbamin had signed when he moved to Germany from Lens in summer 2016, they knew what they were doing. "It's quite simple: we extended his contract to make him even more expensive," the 05ers' sporting director, Rouven Schröder, explained unashamedly. "We have to protect ourselves."
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The improved terms of the deal also reflected the heightened importance of the Ivory Coast international to Sandro Schwarz's side, whether at centre-back or central midfield. And for those who write him off as simply a destroyer: remember that 60-yard attempted lob off the Freiburg crossbar on Matchday 13? Yes, thought you might.
You do not get a call-up for Spain, especially in midfield, without being a quality player. Having flown under the radar in his native country with Atletico Madrid and Malaga, Camacho is giving German fans a glimpse of what Vicente del Bosque saw when La Roja's World Cup and double-EURO-winning boss replaced Sergio Busquets with the Wolfsburg man in a friendly with Germany in 2014.