Freiburg have fascinated not only their own fans down through the years but they are also the team of many a Bundesliga 'neutral,' inspired by the club's ability to consistently punch above its weight. Yet did you know the side from Germany's southwest corner have also schooled several star names known throughout the sporting world?
Our latest foray into the talent-producing academies of the Bundesliga's finest sheds plenty of light on the team from Germany's sunniest city, as we bring you our Freiburg Academy XI ...
After joining Freiburg’s youth setup in 2002, Baumann later went on to become a national champion and DFB Junior Cup winner with the team’s U19s. A senior bow followed on the last day of the 2009/10 campaign, the Breisach-born custodian debuting in a Bundesliga victory against Borussia Dortmund. Baumann also rose through the age groups with Germany, before an international highlight came with some playing time at the 2013 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in Israel. Now in his fourth season at Hoffenheim, Baumann has made 130 appearances in all competitions for the Sinsheimers.
Riether’s rise to becoming a first-team regular at Freiburg coincided with the Baden-Württemberg side’s Bundesliga promotion push in 2002/03, the season they finished as Bundesliga 2 champions. He completed four more years at the club before sealing a move to Wolfsburg, where he was a key component in the Wolves’ 2009 Bundesliga title triumph. Later in his career, the versatile defender would suffer relegation with Cologne and Fulham, yet his performances with the latter during two seasons in the English Premier League drew plenty of praise. After a brief return to Freiburg, Riether settled on Schalke, where he has been since 2015.
Now a household name in Germany, Ginter burst onto the Bundesliga scene by scoring an 88th minute winner in a 1-0 victory against Augburg just two days prior to his 18th birthday. A landmark goal, Ginter entered the Freiburg history books as the club’s youngest Bundesliga scorer. Adding another goal while amassing 70 top-flight appearances for the club, the Freiburg-native was called into the Germany 2014 FIFA World Cup winning squad and sealed a move to Dortmund soon after. Superup and DFB Cup honours followed at SIGNAL IDUNA PARK when Borussia Mönchengladbach and coach Dieter Hecking came calling, the tactician often testing the talented 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup winner in a defensive midfield role this term.
Flashback: Ginter on Freiburg's youth academy!
Mr. Dependable in defence, Toprak left Bayer Leverkusen after six seasons and 154 Bundesliga games to join Dortmund last summer. A son of Turkish immigrants, the central defender grew up in Ravensburg and signed onto Freiburg’s youth books in 2005, becoming a Junior League champion soon after. In Toprak’s first season with the Frieburg seniors, he won promotion to the Bundesliga and was a UEFA European Under-19 Champion with Germany. The centre-back suffered severe burns in a karting accident in 2009 but recovered quickly to retake his place in the Freiburg defence. Toprak is now a Turkey international with two goals and 27 caps.
Part of the famed 2009 Germany European Under-19 Championship winning squad, Aogo also achieved success with the senior international side with whom he picked up a bronze medal at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Born to a Nigerian father, Aogo is known for his versatility in being able to play both at left-back and in defensive midfield. Playing in two divisions for Freiburg – the club he joined in 2002 – he was later a hit at Hamburg, where he reached the UEFA Cup quarter-finals and the last four of the inaugural Europa League. An injury-plagued stay at Schalke ensued while Aogo has been plying his trade at Stuttgart since the summer.
Moving to Freiburg's youth academy in 1996, Günes leaped into the senior side just one year later and during his first season at the club, played 32 times while scoring four goals. Overlooked for large parts of the subsequent campaign, the midfielder made a move to Fenerbahce in 2000 and enjoyed Turkish Super Lig success on two occasions. Günes later added a Turkish Cup to his trophy haul when playing for Fenerbahce's rivals Besiktas in 2006. He returned to Freiburg and played eight times in their successful promotion push of 2009. A winner of one international cap with Germany, the 39-year-old Günes now plays in the German fifth tier with FC 08 Villingen.
The current Augsburg schemer and Strasbourg native caught the attention of Freiburg coach Christian Streich when the tactician was looking after the club’s youth team. The tactician duly convinced Schmid to join him at the club and in 2009 the winger lifted a DFB Junior Cup. Schmid soon began taking his first steps with the senior pros, and in 2012/13 he played 33 times as Freiburg finished fifth, sealing European football. Just two years later, the Frenchman’s incredible eleven assists and four goals couldn’t prevent the heartbreak of relegation. His 2016 move to Augsburg came after a season spent with Hoffenheim.
Daniel ‘Danny’ Williams
Now at English top-tier team Huddersfield Town, Williams has developed into an international defensive midfielder with the USA having once been on the books at Freiburg. Williams won a German junior championship with Freiburg and rose the club ranks to make his Bundesliga debut against Stuttgart in 2010. Born in Karlsruhe to an American military father and German mother, he later played in 45 Bundesliga games for Hoffenheim prior to his move to England and Reading. Williams debuted for the USMNT in 2011 under former coach Jürgen Klinsmann and has since managed to score twice in 23 senior internationals, even captaining the Stars & Stripes in a recent friendly against Portugal.
Now 29, Germany-born, Italian winger Caligiuri is delighting the home faithful of Schalke, for whom he has been playing since January 2017. Finishing his football schooling at Freiburg in 2007, Caligiuri celebrated his first Bundesliga goal against his future employers Wolfsburg in 2012. He would later make up for that among Wolves’ fans when helping the Wolves to 2015 DFB Cup glory, the eventual champions ousting Freiburg along the way. An expert penalty taker, Caligiuri’s older brother Marco is also a professional footballer playing with Greuther Fürth.
Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup winning coach is also Freiburg’s all-time top goalscorer, having netted 83 times for the club in three separate second-division spells between 1978 and 1989. Stints at Stuttgart, Eintracht Frankfurt and Karlsruhe helped Löw to end his playing career with seven goals in 52 Bundesliga games. Promoted to take sole charge of Stuttgart in 1996, he led the team to a DFB Cup win and a runners’ up spot at the 1998 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Löw subsequently oversaw Fenerbahce, Karlsruhe, Adanaspor, FC Tirol Innsbruck and FK Austria Vienna prior to becoming Jürgen Klinsmann’s assistant with Germany in 2004. Following Klinsmann’s departure in 2006, Löw was put in charge, finishing second at EURO 2008 and third at the World Cup in 2010 before crowning glory arrived four years later.
Berlin-born Philipp blasted onto the scene at new club Dortmund – scoring six goals in 11 Bundesliga appearances – before falling foul of a serious knee injury which is currently keeping him sidelined. His electric beginning in BVB colours came after a memorable 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship in which Philipp appeared four times for a victorious Germany. The 23-year-old progressed from Freiburg’s U19s to the second team, before making a name for himself in the senior Bundesliga promotion run of 2016. A scorer of nine top-flight goals during Freiburg’s return helped to seal the forward’s switch to the Signal Iduna Park.