From finishing 15th in 2016 to ending the campaign in fourth this time around, Hoffenheim's progression under their 29-year-old coach Julian Nagelsmann has been extraordinary.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look at their stunning 2016/17 performance…
Ins and outs
After masterminding escape from relegation last season, there followed a busy summer in the transfer window for Hoffenheim. In came Benjamin Hübner, Sandro Wagner, Kevin Vogt and Kerem Demirbay – all of whom played at least 25 Bundesliga games this term – as well as Andrej Kramaric on a permanent deal from Leicester City. Each one of the new arrivals made a significant contribution to the cause, not least Demirbay (six goals, eight assists) and Kramaric (15 goals, eight assists), those impressive returns more than compensating for the departure of Germany international Kevin Volland to Bayer Leverkusen.
Most Hoffenheim fans will say Matchday 27's 1-0 win over eventual champions FC Bayern Munich, the club's first ever league victory over the Bavarians at the 18th time of asking. However, neutrals can point to a host of blockbuster matches in which Hoffenheim's free-scoring, flowing style was on show: a 3-0 win at Leverkusen, a 4-0 victory over Cologne and 5-3 triumphs over Gladbach and Bremen to name just a few.
Again, not an easy choice. Wagner netted ten in his first sixteen matches; Demirbay's goals and assists have earned him a first senior call-up to the Germany squad for the FIFA Confederations Cup; and the imperious displays of Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy convinced Bayern to bring them both to Bavaria in the summer. For his impact in the defining weeks of the campaign, however, the honour goes to Kramaric. His goals and assists (he scored 12 alone in 2017) mean he was arguably the greatest contributor to the club’s fourth-placed finish.
Secret to success: tactical innovation
Glancing at the final league table and seeing Hoffenheim in the UEFA Champions League play-off rounds is impressive in itself, but the team’s true quality this season had to be witnessed on the field. Dictated by one of the most astute tacticians in Europe, Hoffenheim's shape and style has confounded many an opponent and pundit alike. The defence regularly switches between a back four and a back three, with wing-backs supplying width to break down deep-lying defences and the likes of Demirbay, Wagner and Kramaric playing short, one-touch passes to create overloads in advanced positions.
Add to that an adeptness, but not a reliance on, playing on the counter-attack, as well as a hard-pressing style, and a clearer picture emerges of just how exciting it has been to watch Hoffenheim this season. How this young side with a precociously gifted coach fare in Europe next season will be fascinating.
Watch: Nagelsmann's tactical wizardry