Welcome back to the Bundesliga, Fortuna Düsseldorf! The team from the capital of North Rhine-Westphalia secured promotion on Matchday 32 with a dramatic 2-1 victory against Dynamo Dresden, returning to the top flight for the first time since the 2012/13 season.
Allow bundesliga.com to introduce an old friend ...
Who are Düsseldorf?
As the name indicates, Düsseldorfer Turn- und Sportverein Fortuna 1895 e.V. are one of Germany's oldest clubs: indeed, next season, only Hertha Berlin (1892), Stuttgart (1893) and – if they stay up - Hamburg (1887) will have been founded before Fortuna. To the uninitiated, the name might indicate that Lady Luck has is smiling once again on the club, named as they presumably were after the Roman Goddess of Fortune. That assumption would be wrong: F95, as they are known locally, were called Fortuna because that was the name of a bakery in the working-class district of Flingen (explaining the club's nickname: Die Flingeraner), which caught the hungry founding fathers' eyes when they were establishing the club. That settles that, then.
Speaking of the city, it's high time Düsseldorf boasted a top-flight club again. The capital of Germany's most populous region, Düsseldorf is an advertising and fashion hub – home to the country's modelling industry – and is also famous for its Altbier, a locally brewed dark beer. It's also a cultural hub: the world-famous band Kraftwerk – whose song The Model references the thriving fashion industry – hail from Düsseldorf, while Heinrich Heine, one of Germany's most famous poets, was born there in 1797.
Three hundred years on and history hasn't been as kind to the football club as it has to Heine, who – much like the club – was a specialist in exile. Fortuna have yo-yoed between the first and fourth tiers this millennium, with the fourth tier, where Düsseldorf languished between 1999 and 2008, particularly galling for a club that won the German title in 1933. The zenith – to date – was the 1970s, a decade during which F95 won the first of two DFB Cups and reached the European Cup Winners' Cup final in Basel in 1979, only to lose to Barcelona after extra time.
How they did it
In a strange, ultra-competitive Bundesliga 2 season – simplistic as it may be to say it – Düsseldorf have simply won more games (18) than the competition. They have neither scored the most goals nor conceded the fewest (those honours belong to Kiel and Sandhausen respectively), while Fortuna also haven't been particularly hard to beat, having lost nine times.
Home form has been impressive, while what also stands out is that once they're in a winning position, they tend to capitalise – seven of those 18 wins have come by two goals or more, and those goals have been shared around. While Rouwen Hennings leads the scoring charts (12 goals), Benito Raman (nine), Takashi Usami (seven), Florian Neuhaus (six) and Marcel Sobottka (four) have all contributed. At the other end, a settled defence in front of former Werder Bremen custodian Raphael Wolf has also helped.
This honour has to go to Hennings, the former Burnley forward who has hit the net 13 times in 31 appearances this term (including the last-minute winner that secured promotion in Dresden). It's not just his goalscoring that makes him so valuable to this Fortuna unit, though: Hennings' relentless running up top creates plenty of space for the creative players behind him. Only having spent one season in the top flight – despite coming through the ranks at Hamburg – the 30-year-old fully deserves another shot at the big time.
Honourable mentions must go to some of those creative players behind Hennings: Neuhaus, who will return to Borussia Mönchengladbach this summer after an excellent loan spell, and Sobottka have been outstanding in midfield, while Usami and Genki Haraguchi maintain the club's longstanding Japanese tradition (Düsseldorf boasts Germany's largest Japanese diaspora).
Watch: Hennings plans to drink Düsseldorf dry to celebrate!
Who else would you bring in if you want to go up to the Bundesliga but Funkel? The 64-year-old has achieved a record sixth promotion to the top flight, and deserves plenty of credit for stabilising a faltering club after his arrival in March 2016. This latest promotion is testament to two years of hard, unheralded work. It's also worth remembering that he lost his assistant, Peter Hermann, when Bayern came calling in October; Düsseldorf were savvy enough to re-invest the compensation received in the squad.
Funkel has cultivated a real team spirit and used his experience to the benefit of his youngsters: when three defeats threatened to derail the club's promotion charge, he organised an hour-long meeting in the team hotel.
Watch: Check out Funkel's celebrations when the final whistle blew in Dresden!
Düsseldorf's Esprit Arena will be a fine addition to the Bundesliga's selection of top-class stadiums. Although it did not host group games at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the 54,600-seater arena will be a venue at UEFA EURO 2024, should Germany beat Turkey to host the competition. Previously known as the LTU Arena, it has also hosted several Wladimir Klitschko fights, countless music concerts and the 2010 Race of Champions, which included Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel.