GGFN Roundtable | A look back at 2023 in German football

As we enter the early days of 2024, we at GGFN have taken a look back at the year of 2023 in German football giving our nominations for five different categories whilst also giving our predictions for 2024. 

Story of the Year 

The title race: The closest the Bundesliga title race has been for a while, to use the cliche it was like a rollercoaster. Bayern deciding to sack Julian Nagelsmann only for it nearly backfires if it wasn’t for a late Jamal Musiala strike (Bayern still do not look any better under Tuchel). Then Borussia Dortmund lived up to their name and failed to beat Mainz on the final day to throw away any chances of winning the title, it is quite obvious they have not recovered since. Jack Meenan 

Sébastien Haller scoring on World Cancer Day: The Ivorian forward was diagnosed with testicular cancer shortly after arriving at Borussia Dortmund. Haller underwent chemotherapy and there was no timeframe on his return, but he couldn’t have chosen a better moment to score his first BVB goal. Against Freiburg on February 4, Haller scored his first competitive goal for Borussia Dortmund, in front of the Yellow Wall, on World Cancer Day. Daniel Pinder

Marie-Louise Eta: It’s hard to look past Union Berlin reaching the Champions League or Leverkusen’s current run but for legacy reasons, I’m going with Marie-Louise Eta. Eta became the first female coach in Bundesliga history in November and is a trailblazer for women in the men’s game. With new Head Coach Nenad Bjelica, she is part of the staff turning Union Berlin’s fortunes around. Oscar O’Mara 

Sébastien Haller’s Return: A moment that will sit with German football fans – and all football fans, in truth – for a very long time will be Sébastien Haller’s return to action on January 22, 2023. An instance in which the entire football world came together for a moment of pure joy. After a tough battle with testicular cancer, Haller came out the other side, showing the fight of a world champion and the bravery of a soldier, to return to the Westfalenstadion. While he would not score, this moment was worth far more than a goal. An inspiration to many, Haller has continued to show his quality in Germany’s top flight, and he thoroughly deserves this award. Will Shopland

Union Berlin qualify for Champions League: The journey has been incredible for Union Berlin as just four years ago they were playing in the 2.Bundesliga. This season they have played the likes of Real Madrid in the Champions League. The manager who achieved this, Urs Fischer, made fans’ dreams come true and he will be regarded as a legend at the club dispute being dismissed in November. Matty Gritton 

Player of the Year 

Jude Bellingham: Cheating, yes, but when he was at Dortmund he was the player that was driving them forward and his injury towards the end of the season and absence in the team was noticeable. Since his departure, Dortmund have never been able to replace him in any capacity and that can be seen with their lack of drive on the pitch. It also helps that since moving to Real Madrid he has immediately integrated and cemented himself as one of the best midfielders in the world. JM

Florian Wirtz: The 20-year-old suffered a cruciate ligament tear in March 2022 and with an injury so severe, there’s no guarantee that a player will return to form. But after returning to action in early 2023, Wirtz has continued to excel and elevate his game even further. With a market value of €100m, according to Transfermarkt, Wirtz has registered 12 assists and eight goals in 23 games across all competitions for Bayer Leverkusen this season. DP

Jamal Musiala: Most eyes on the continent are gazing dreamily at Jude Bellingham but Jamal Musiala has lit up the Bundesliga in 2023 for Bayern. His 22-goal contributions (12G, 10 A) kept Bayern in contention last season and his 89th-minute winner on the final day sealed the Bundesliga title. Football is a team sport but the 20-year-old is already indispensable and has the footballing world at his feet. OOM

Serhou Guirassy: While Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane have shown the Bundesliga the very best that English football can offer, this award cannot be given to either on the basis that they only graced the Bundesliga for half a year each. Therefore, for me, this award goes to Stuttgart’s marksman, Serhou Guriassy. We all know what the 27-year-old has achieved this season, so instead, I will highlight his achievements from the backend of the previous campaign. With eight goals for a Stuttgart side battling relegation, five of which were difference-makers in earning Die Roten an extra nine points, Guriassy was undoubtedly pivotal to their survival. A striker that has blown the Bundesliga away in 2023, heres to an even more successful year for Guriassy. WS

Jude Bellingham: Despite moving to Real Madrid in the summer, it is hard to look past the impact that Jude Bellingham had for Borussia Dortmund in the first half of 2023. At such a young age he became a leader for Edin Terzic’s side and ended up captaining the side on several occasions. Dortmund ended up being so close to securing the title but they wouldn’t have been near to this achievement if it wasn’t for his outstanding performances in the heart of midfield. MG

Game of the Year

Bayer Leverkusen 2-1 Bayern Munich: The game that ultimately got Julian Nagelsmann sacked but it was the first time we saw what Leverkusen were truly capable of against Bayern Munich before the arrivals of Victor Boniface and Granit Xhaka. The fixture this season will play a very important role in the destination of the title in May with several key players potentially absent for Leverkusen. A close second was RB Leipzig winning 3-1 in Munich close to the end of the season to throw a spanner in the works of the title race where future Bayern player Konrad Laimer proved pivotal in the win. JM

FC Köln 3-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach: If you’re a Köln fan, there’s been very little to shout about this year. The club has been hit with a two-year transfer ban, have dismissed Steffen Baumgart, and the Billy Goats currently occupy a place in the relegation zone, and are the Bundesliga’s lowest scorers. With just two wins in 16 games this season, their first win of the campaign came against rivals Mönchengladbach. Florian Kainz scored a brace from the spot to give Köln the lead twice before Luca Waldschmidt added a third in stoppage time. DP

Union Berlin 2-3 Real Madrid: A sold-out Olympiastadion. Minnows against 35-time La Liga Champions and 14-time European Cup holders. Köpenick vs. the second highest-earning football club in the world. The story could have been told in various ways and the game lived up to the occasion. It was best summed up by Modric missing a penalty in first-half added time and Kevin Volland scoring on the counter to send Unioners into delirium. In the end, it wasn’t to be for the hosts as Ceballos found a winner for Los Blancos in the last minute of normal time but it was everything football should be: fun and unpredictable. OOM

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Mainz: A close contender alongside the Revierderby, in which Schalke stunned Borussia Dortmund with a point, my game of the year was Die Schwarzgelben’s heartbreaking 2-2 draw with Mainz on the final day of the season. A match that contained unprecedented buildup, atmosphere, and drama, it truly was a Bundesliga classic. While many people would have been cheering on BvB that day, for a Schalke fan watching their side face relegation back to the 2. Bundesliga, this result offered a glimmer of joy in a rather bleak season.

Borussia Dortmund 2-2 Mainz.
The final match of the Bundesliga season that decided the title had many fans from across Europe tuning in and stunned at what happened to Borussia Dortmund in a dramatic encounter. Many cheered on Borussia Dortmund as they looked set to stop Bayern from winning the league 11 times in a row and win it for themselves. The trophy was even initially placed in Dortmund as it was expected that they would brush aside a Mainz side that had nothing to play for. Dortmund had themselves a mountain to climb when going 2-0 down in 24 minutes and with Sebastian Haller also missing a penalty in the first half however they did pull it back to 2-2, but it wasn’t enough as Jamal Musiala won Bayern Munich the title in the 89th minute against cologne. There were heartbreaking scenes in Dortmund and the end but the match had everything to make the last day entertaining and dramatic. MG

Breakout Player of the Year 

Serhou Guirassy: At the beginning of the year he was relatively average in a struggling Stuttgart team but the introduction of Sebastian Hoeneß turned around both his and the club’s fortunes. Until his injury, he was comfortably beating Harry Kane in the goalscoring charts and his form in front of goal means he is the next transfer saga in the making. JM

Serhou Guirassy: I would have to agree with Jack on this one. The former Köln player has been a revelation since returning to the Bundesliga after a spell in France, and Guirassy is quite easily one of the most feared forwards in European football at the moment. There’s a reason why clubs are chasing his signature. DP

Finn Dahmen: The 25-year-old Augsburg goalkeeper has struggled for first-team football but is now taking his opportunity with both hands. An impervious display prevented Dortmund from winning the title and he has continued his form so far this season. His performance away to Köln deservedly grabbed headlines and he has helped Augsburg to mid-table at the halfway mark. OOM

Janis Blaswich: The Bundesliga is well known for developing young players and offering them a chance to make a name for themselves on the big stage. However, it has also been a place for unknown names to come to the forefront. This has been the case for RB Leipzig goalkeeper Janis Blaswich. An injury to long-term number one Péter Gulácsi appeared to threaten Leipzig’s 2022–23 campaign. That was until Blaswich was given his chance to shine in goal for Die Roten Bullen. Having to wait until the age of 31 to make his Bundesliga debut. He did not disappoint, and after a remarkable tenure in Gulácsi’s absence, the now-32-year-old is Leipzig’s established number one. A maiden call-up to the German National Team only highlights what an amazing breakthrough year it was for Blaswich. WS

Serhou Guirassy: Last season Guirassy had a decent enough campaign to earn himself a permanent move to Stuttgart after scoring 11 league goals which kept his side in the division. Since then he has burst onto the scene and caught everyone’s attention by scoring a sensational total of 19 goals in all competitions already this season and it is no surprise that the top clubs in Europe are looking to gain his signature. MG

Coach of the Year 

Xabi Alonso: Urs Fischer would have been an option if things didn’t go downhill in the second half of the year, but Alonso has consistently improved Bayer Leverkusen from the beginning of the year to the end. JM

Xabi Alonso: Again, Jack has this spot on. Xabi Alonso has brought a refreshing brand of football to the Bundesliga, and it’s no surprise to see his side topping the table. Whether they can push Bayern Munich all the way for the Meisterschale remains to be seen, but there’s a lot to be excited about if you’re a Leverkusen fan. DP

Xabi Alonso: Leverkusen, like the man, oozes class and confidence at the moment. OOM

Xabi Alonso: A headline that almost writes itself. Since taking over at Bayer Leverkusen, Xabi Alonso has transformed Die Werkself from relegation contenders to Bundesliga title-front runners. A team that could be on course to win a historic treble – something that slipped through their fingers 22 years ago – even just one title would feel unbelievable to the Werkself faithful. With links to Real Madrid and Liverpool, Alonso may not have much more time in charge at the BayArena, but he is certainly making it count. WS

Xabi Alonso: Alonso has simply been the best thing that has happened to Bayer Leverkusen for a long time. The Spaniard turned things around in such a short time as he took the job in October last season and has now turned them into title favourites after being relegation candidates. MG

Breakout player 2024 

Rocco Reitz: Although he has had a breakout second half of the year, I expect Reitz to kick on in 2024 and get even better and become an even more crucial part of Borussia Mönchengladbach going forward, especially with the future of Manu Koné in doubt and Christoph Kramer playing a reduced role in the squad. JM

Mathys Tel: Although playing time has been hard to find with the arrival of Harry Kane, Mathys Tel has continued to impress. In 553 minutes across all competitions for Bayern this season, the Frenchman has six goals and three assists in 20 games. DP

Ermedin Demirovic: Since returning to Germany, the Bosnian has struggled for goals but seems to be in the form of his career at the moment. With 8 goals and 5 assists in 16 games but only averaging around 2 shots per game, Demirovic is showing off how clinical he can be. He isn’t Harry Kane, obviously, but he is making a good impression. OOM

Aleksandar Pavlović: When Bayern hosted Stuttgart on matchday 15, there was great concern regarding Thomas Tuchel’s midfield. With no Joshua Kimmich or Leon Goretzka, there was a first start for 19-year-old Aleksandar Pavlović. With little expectation heading into the game, Pavlović certainly left those thinking of him afterwards. A stellar performance saw the teenager control the Bayern midfield as he set about making a name for himself. As well as this, he also offered an insight into how dangerous he can be for Der Rekordmeister from set pieces, earning an assist in the process. With Tuchel adamant that he wants a number six, he may not need to look much further. For Pavlović, 2024 could be a significant year in his career. WS

Aleksandar Pavlović: Pavlović earned himself a surprise start when Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich were missing from the Bayern Munich squad against Stuttgart on 17th December. He slotted into the holding midfielder position and produced an impressive and mature performance. We should expect to see a lot more of him in 2024. MG

Prediction 2024 


Bayer Leverkusen to win their first Bundesliga title. DP

Leverkusen win the Bundesliga and the Europa League. They are that good. OOM

Schalke will have a renaissance and be fighting for promotion this season or next. WS

Bayer Leverkusen to win the DFB Pokal and reach the Europa League final. MG


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