The 2018/19 Bundesliga season will be an opportunity for some players who’ve recently had to endure some struggles to bounce back stronger than ever. Manuel Neuer, Mario Götze, Marco Reus, Renato Sanches and Alfredo Morales will be out to leave their mark!
Club: Bayern Munich
Comes back from: missing almost all of 2017/18 due to a broken foot.
One of the best goalkeepers in the history of the sport was forced to sit out all but three games last season due to a foot injury that even threatened to keep him on the sidelines for the World Cup in Russia. Sven Ulreich did a stellar job deputising for Neuer as Bayern took home their sixth straight Bundesliga title, but Neuer will have the chance to show why he was given the captain’s armband following Philipp Lahm's retirement in 2016, terrorising opposition forwards with his famous sweeper-keeper antics.
His new coach, Niko Kovac, is known for his intense personal approach quite aside from what tactics he might employ. In this sense, fearless Neuer is the perfect fit to lead the squad in the direction we’ll surely see Bayern take in the coming season. The advantages of having a keeper who can participate in build-up play with his superb passing and positioning are self-evident, but Bayern’s captain goes the extra mile with his disposition. A ball-playing 'keeper might often invite trouble, but Neuer manages to radiate calm to his teammates.
Bayern are also facing a season full of new faces with young guns like Serge Gnabry and Leon Goretzka looking to establish themselves with the German champions. Neuer’s wisdom and leadership will no doubt supplement the vitality that these players bring to the team.
Watch: Manuel Neuer’s top five saves.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Comes back from: two stop-start seasons hampered by injuries and a metabolic disorder.
Mario Götze’s return to Borussia Dortmund has been a hit-and-miss affair. He was building momentum under coach Thomas Tuchel in the early half of the 2016/17 season, giving us glimpses of the player that dazzled everyone in the Klopp days and won the World Cup for Germany, but there was always a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. It was later discovered that the midfielder suffered a rare metabolic disorder that required him to sit out basically the entire rückrunde to seek treatment.
Götze came back for the 2017/18 campaign determined to put his physical woes to bed as he learned to live with a condition that will never fully go away. Although he featured often under both Peter Bosz and Peter Stöger, he still wasn’t able to click back to his old self. Marco Reus’ return from a long-term injury in February reinvigorated the midfielder, who was more than delighted to share the pitch with a player he has publicly declared to be “like a brother.” There’s a fire burning inside him and next season is the time to let it out.
Despite their close friendship, Reus and Götze haven’t actually enjoyed that much playing time together. They were a deadly combo for Dortmund in the 2012/13 season, taking the Yellow-and-Blacks to the UEFA Champions League final, but their diverse woes have prevented any joy together on the pitch over the last two seasons. With both of them fully fit from the go, we can look forward to the definitive revival of a remarkable, classic Bundesliga partnership on the pitch.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
Comes back from: missing most of the last two seasons due to injury.
Marco Reus has had the worst of luck with injuries. He missed out on a World Cup winners’ medal in 2014 after taking a hit in a pre-tournament friendly and another untimely blow kept him from playing at Euro 2016. His recent history at club level has been equally unfortunate as various different complications have limited him to only 28 league starts out of a possible 68 over the last two seasons. However, Reus is living proof of the old football adage that form is temporary, but class is permanent.
Upon his return to action after missing over half of the 2017/18 season, the forward made a statement on the pitch with his performances, often carrying Dortmund on his proverbial shoulders. In the 11 games he managed to play towards the end of last season, Reus scored seven vital goals to help his team secure a UEFA Champions League berth despite serious challenges from teams like Bayer Leverkusen and RB Leipzig.
It’s no coincidence that Reus has been handed the captain’s armband for the coming season. The club knows that returning to a position where they can challenge for the Meisterschale once more is directly connected to their star man. Reus will be reunited with former coach Lucien Favre, the man who catapulted him to stardom at Borussia Mönchengladbach, in what could be seen as an omen for a second spring for the forward. He’s still got that magic touch, but his experience and resilience to fight through adversity could combine to give us his best version yet.
Watch: Borussia Dortmund's revitalised attack with Marco Reus.
Club: Bayern Munich
Comes back from: spending a season away from the Allianz Arena on loan in England.
When Renato Sanches signed for Bayern Munich in the summer of 2016, it seemed like the young Portuguese talent was moving on rails to become an immediate world star. Fresh off winning Euro 2016 with his country in a very prominent role, the Benfica-bred starlet was awarded the prestigious Golden Boy award, crowning him as the best U-21 player in Europe at the time. However, once the league started, his shine began to fade.
He featured in six of Bayern’s initial eight matches, seven of them as a starter, but coach Carlo Ancelotti soon opted to prioritise more experienced players like Xabi Alonso and Arturo Vidal. Sanches would only start in two further league matches in 2016/17 and play sparingly as a late substitute. Despite taking part in the club’s pre-season, the Lisbon native spent the last campaign on loan at Swansea in the English Premier League, but thigh problems limited his game time.
Despite the questions surrounding their starlet after two seasons of shooting blanks, new Bayern coach Niko Kovac made it public that he wanted the Portuguese in his squad in order to help him reach his potential at the Allianz Arena. He will face tough competition from members of the old guard like Vidal and newcomer Goretzka, but Kovac has a history of moulding young talents into seasoned pros, as seen with Ante Rebic at Eintracht Frankfurt. Having scored a fantastic free-kick goal in Bayern’s opening pre-season friendly against PSG should also boost the sturdy Portuguese midfielder’s morale for the challenges ahead.
Club: Fortuna Düsseldorf
Comes back from: playing in the second division last season with Ingolstadt.
United States international Alfredo Morales has a similar tale to that of Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler. Born and raised in Germany, he was eligible to represent the Stars-and-Stripes through his father, who was born in Peru but held American citizenship. He worked his way up from Hertha Berlin’s reserves to play in the Bundesliga in 2011, but didn’t really find his footing until moving to Ingolstadt in 2013.
After becoming a cornerstone player for the Bavarian outfit in the Bundesliga 2, he was instrumental in their historical promotion to the top flight for the 2015/16 season. He remained as one of their core players in their two Bundesliga seasons and beyond before dropping back to second division last year, where he was still an important piece. Düsseldorf called upon Morales’ experience to face the challenge of remaining in the elite of German football, which could help reignite his international career.
With the U.S. national team still in reconstruction after failing to qualify for the last World Cup, having a seasoned Bundesliga midfielder to balance the electric pace of Christian Pulisic could be more than useful in the coming qualifying cycle for Qatar 2022.