The absence of Bayern Munich at the top of the Bundesliga after seven weeks of the season may come as a surprise, but the sight of Werder Bremen sitting in a UEFA Champions League qualifying berth may raise even more eyebrows.
Not if you are summer signing Davy Klaassen, however. He knew as soon as the northern Germany club outlined their plans to him in the summer that it was a challenge he fancied, as he arrived from English Premier League club Everton.
Klaassen was a £24million transfer when he moved from Ajax to Everton in 2017, but he managed only three starts in the Premier League as his career symbolically hit the buffers. A good player does not turn bad overnight, though, and Bremen swooped to snap him up for reportedly half that figure, convinced he could help them in their mutual motivations to get back on the rails.
Watch: Davy Klaassen on why he left Everton for Bremen
The Netherlands international has missed only one minute of Bremen's campaign so far, and he has showed more than just glimpses of his finest form from Ajax days gone by. Those words used to entice him in the summer were anything but hollow promises either as Klaassen shows his class, and Bremen boost theirs in what – whisper it quietly – could be the year they return to Europe.
"We can definitely stay up there," Klaassen told reporters after firing in his second Bundesliga goal in Bremen's 2-0 win over Wolfsburg. "It might not be easy, but we want to get into Europe – that's our declared objective.
"Having plans and ambitions are important to me and Werder are a big club, while they are run like a family at the same time. For now, though, it's just nice to be up there during the international break. It's a great feeling."
Bremen last welcomed European football to the Weser Stadion in 2010, but a 3-0 win over Italian giants Inter Milan aside, it was a Champions League campaign to forget as they finished bottom of a group also including Tottenham Hotspur and FC Twente. It sparked something of a decline on the banks of the Weser, culminating in the end of an era as Thomas Schaaf – their coach for 14 largely successful years – moved on.
The highest Bremen have finished since then is eighth, but there is plenty to suggest the good times are on their way back. With 14 points from seven games, they have made their best start to a season in seven years, while they have yet to lose a game at home since Florian Kohfeldt took charge on 30 October 2017. That is a run of 16 games which, should they avoid defeat at home to Bayer Leverkusen on 28 October, will become a full year of invincibility in front of their own fans.
Watch: How Kohfeldt has turned Werder into European contenders
Before then, they travel to a resurgent Schalke and, Klaassen's assessment aside, nobody is wanting to get carried away with the way things are going. "Being ahead of Bayern doesn't mean anything to us, and it doesn't say anything about where we are now either," cautioned Kohfeldt. "So we're not going to cut out and pin up the league table."
Sporting director Frank Baumann added in the BILD newspaper: "Let's not exaggerate – it's certainly a nice place to be, but we're not looking at Bayern. But the lads can celebrate – they've earned it."
Those celebrations coincide with the 40th birthday of Claudio Pizarro, who laid the ball on a plate for the delighted Klaassen to score on Friday night. A cake is heading back on that very same plate to the Peruvian, who – with Baumann – is a remnant of Bremen's glory years.
WATCH: Kohfeldt on 'special' Pizarro
Who knows if the veteran goalscorer might yet get to hear the Champions League anthem he last earned Werder with his play-off winner against Sampdoria back in 2010, and challenge Francesco Totti's record as the oldest scorer in the competition before his 41st birthday next year.
That, as Klaassen says, is the aim as he looks to wake a sleeping giant on the Weser.