Der Hammer’s title winner
vs Energie Cottbus, Bundesliga, 2007
Stuttgart won the 2006-07 Bundesliga after victories in their final eight games, but they needed a pearler from Thomas Hitzlsperger to help seal the title on the last day.
Needing to secure at least a draw to stave off second-placed Schalke and clinch a first league crown in 15 years, Die Roten fell behind to an early Sergiu Radu goal at home to Energie Cottbus. Then Hitzlsperger made his mark.
The midfielder hung back outside the box for Pavel Pardo’s right-wing corner, before firing a ridiculous volley past goalkeeper Tomislav Piplica from 25 yards.
“We practised it in training,” Hitzlsperger reveals to FFT. “Most of the players would be in the box, and I’d hide further back and pretend not to be part of it. Then, at the last second, I’d go closer towards the box.
“It was a great corner – it didn’t have a lot of pace on it to be perfectly honest, so there was enough time for someone to close it down, but they didn’t. I smashed it almost in the top corner. It was good enough for the keeper not to save it – sometimes they come off, sometimes they don’t.” Nicknamed ‘Der Hammer’, Hitzlsperger became famous for his long-range wallops in a career that also saw him star at Aston Villa and for Germany. He’s in no doubt about the reason for that. “Practice!” he chuckles. “Obviously you start with a natural talent, and I always had a strong left foot. Even when I was little I could hit the ball really hard. You keep doing it because it is a strength you have. People talk about it, so you try to show it off as often as you can to separate you from all of the other players.” That day in Stuttgart, it helped to write his name in the club’s history books, as Sami Khedira headed home the winner and the Bundesliga title was theirs.