Deutsche Welle (English edition)
Fast and furios Frankfurt are Champions League ready
Two Bundesliga candidates for next season's Champions League served up a football feast. Beneath the radar, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg have had impressive seasons.
Eintracht Frankfurt 4- 3 Wolfsburg, Deutsche Bank
(Kamada 8', Jovic 27', Silva 54', Durm 61' - Baku 6', Weghorst 46', Philipp 85')
Following a week in which Germany's current Champions League representatives both suffered frustrating quarterfinal first leg defeats, it was the Bundesliga's likely representatives for next season's competition who stole the show at the weekend.
Intricate midfield play, clinical finishing, lethal counterattacks, plot twists galore — and even supporters chanting outside the stadium — Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg offered it all from start to finish as they demonstrated just why they are both increasingly likely to be in the Champions League next season.
For the Eagles, who eventually tamed the Wolves by virtue of sheer firepower, it would be a first foray into Europe's elite competition since they reached the final of the old European Cup in 1960 — although the historic run to the Europa League semifinal in 2019 certainly provided a foretaste of Frankfurt's appetite for continental competition.
Despite setbacks at the start of each half, Adi Hütter's side remained a constant threat on the counterattack and the Bundesliga's third-most potent attack duly came out on top against the league's second-best defense.
Wolfsburg had only conceded three goals so far in the Rückrunde( the second half of the Bundesliga season), but four different Frankfurt goalscorers all found the net on Saturday, as the hosts showed they are ready for the Champions League.
Japanese midfielder Daichi Kamada fired home following a clever dummy, while Luka Jovic's thumping finish to make it 2-1 was even more emphatic. Andre Silva himself scored his 23rd goal of the season in the second half to restore Frankfurt's lead, before Erik Durm scored is first goal in five years.
They were goals scored and created by players who epi
tomize Frankfurt's approach to squad building, a vindication of the work done by departing sporting director Fredi Bobic and the equally coveted head coach Hütter. Frankfurt have provided a new home for good footballers who, for various reasons, haven't quite had the rub of the green elsewhere.
Jovic, of course, embodies that more than most. Having struggled to make an impact at Real Madrid,he already has four goals back at the club where he scored 36 goals in 75 appearances in his previous spell as part of Frankfurt's so-called "buffalo herd."
Filip Kostic might have finished the day without an assist, but he is a big part of Frankfurt's European push. Only Thomas Müller has more assists (16) than the pacey Serbian winger (14).
And then there's Andre Silva. German sports magazine "Kicker" called him "insatiable" earlier this year and it was something of an inevitability that the Portuguese striker would score at some point in this game.
Defense rather than attack
The same was true for Wolfsburg's Wout Weghorst, but his 18th goal of the season wasn't enough to help the Wolves win.
The Dutchman was one of the first Wolfsburg players to face the media afterwards, and he could scarcely hide his disappointment that his team had been unable to "put some distance between us and the rest."
Nevertheless, Oliver Glasner's team is on course to return to the Champions League for the first time since 2016.
Unlike Frankfurt, and despite Weghorst's goals, Wolfsburg's success has been built on a solid defense rather than a particularly spectacular attack — although Ridle Baku's opener on Saturday was certainly spectacular enough.
Like Frankfurt however, the Wolves have also got the best out of players who have slipped under the radar. Austrian midfielder Xaver Schlager has been quietly effective in midfield alongside homegrown captain Maximilian Arnold, who was disgruntled after again being overlooked by Joachim Löw last month.
Volkswagen to increase Wolfsburg backing
Wolfsburg, backed by automobile giants Volkswagen, are
one of only three exemptions to German football's 50+1 ownership rule along with Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim.
It's thanks to their links to Volkswagen that Wolfsburg have been able to ride out the financial devastation of the pandemic better than most, with the players not having to take a pay cut.
According to research by Sportbild, Volkswagen's backing would increase from €75 million to €86.25 million per year should the team qualify for the Champions League — justified in terms of Financial Fair Play by the increased visibility and value of the club.
That should enable Wolfsburg to hold on to the likes of Weghorst and Baku while building a squad capable of competing in Europe and the Bundesliga — a balancing act which most German clubs fail to get right.
After all, it's no surprise that one of the games of the season was produced by Wolfsburg and Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, two teams who aren't in the Champions League. But history suggests they might not be as fun to watch this time next year.