All-Time German Best XI Who Have Played in the Premier League
Lewis Holtby's transfer from Schalke to Tottenham Hotspur in January was just the latest in a growing tide of German players moving to the English Premier League.
The attacking midfielder followed recent Arsenal signings Lukas Podolski and Per Mertesacker, as well as Marko Marin, Sascha Riether, Gerhard Tremmel and more in making moves to England in the last few years.
But before there were Holtby, Podolski and Mertesacker, there were Jens Lehmann, Michael Ballack and Dietmar Hamann. And before them there were Jurgen Klinsmann and Karl-Heinz Riedle. The list goes on and on.
Distilling the many Germans to play in the Premier League into one 11-man lineup is a challenge that will invariably spark debate. Click "Begin Slideshow" for this author's take.
Goalkeeper: Jens Lehmann
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For the position of goalkeeper in this XI, there was no reasonable alternative to the notoriously hot-headed Jens Lehmann.
The Essen native played on both sides of the Ruhr derby and for Milan before joining Arsenal in 2003. In London, the shot-stopper spent five seasons before returning to Stuttgart for the final phase of his career. And although he retired in 2010, the next spring he was brought back to injury crisis-stricken Arsenal for a brief spell.
Lehmann may have been sent off more than any goalkeeper in Bundesliga history (he was also red carded in the 2006 Champions League final), but he was a magnificent player in his prime.
Right-Back: Markus Babbel
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Markus Babbel makes the grade at right-back, having been on the books for Liverpool from 2000 to 2004. In his final season on his contract at Merseyside, he played on loan in England for Blackburn.
The 40-year-old, who could play in defensive roles both central and to the right, was unfortunate not to win the Champions League with Bayern. He didn't however, claim the trophy at Euro 1996 with Germany, and the UEFA Cup twice (with Bayern in 1996 and with Liverpool in 2001).
Babbel has not yet found his feet as a coach, having had unsuccessful spells with Stuttgart, Hertha BSC and Hoffenheim in recent years. But during his playing career, he was a champion on many levels.
Center Back: Per Mertesacker
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After spending his entire career previously at Hannover and Werder Bremen, Per Mertesacker joined Arsenal in 2011. The 28-year-old has since been a regular fixture in Arsene Wenger's defense, with only a nasty ankle injury keeping off the pitch for an extended period of time.
Mertesacker's talent was spotted at a young age: He earned his first cap for the senior German national team in 2004, just days after his 20th birthday. Nearly nine years later, the towering center-back has made 86 appearances for his country.
Still in contention for a starting spot in a German team that includes strong central defenders in Mats Hummels, Holger Badstuber, Benedikt Howedes and Jerome Boateng, Arsenal man Mertesacker is impossible to ignore in this XI.
Sweeper: Thomas Helmer
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It is often forgotten that although Thomas Helmer enjoyed an illustrious career in Germany, he spent a brief spell in the Premier League at Sunderland.
Following stints at Bielefeld, Dortmund and Bayern, the sweeper moved to the the recently promoted Premier League side at the age of 34. He made just two appearances before being loaned to Hertha BSC, and at the end of his spell in Berlin he retired.
Helmer's retirement, caused by his no longer having the fitness to play at a high level, was not in the least bit ceremonious. However, the defender enjoyed an illustrious career prior to his transfer to Sunderland, winning the 1996 European Championship, UEFA Cup, the Bundesliga three times and the DFB-Pokal twice.
Center-Back: Robert Huth
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Watching Robert Huth play, one might easily mistake him for an English center-back. The 28-year-old has plied his trade in the Premier League since he joined Chelsea from Union Berlin in 2001, and he has established himself well in the EPL.
Perhaps in part due to his isolation from the German game and development within Premier League culture, Huth hasn't been any part of Joachim Low's DFB team since 2009.
Still, Huth has proven his credentials with over 200 appearances in the EPL. He is perhaps one of the most underrated defenders in the league.
Left-Back: Christian Ziege
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Before he was head coach of the German U19 and U18 national teams, Christian Ziege was a professional footballer who played as a left-back and left winger.
The Berlin native spent much of his career at Bayern and then Milan before moving to England. In 1999 he signed for Middlesbrough; a season later, he transferred to Liverpool. In 2001 he played for Tottenham, where he stayed until 2004.
Ziege was more successful in Germany and Italy (he won both domestic leagues) and on the international level (he was part of the squad that won Euro 1996) than in England, but still managed to amass 92 appearances in his Premier League career.
Central Midfielder: Dietmar Hamann
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Like Huth, Dietmar Hamann left Germany for England at a relatively young age. The midfielder joined Newcastle as a 25-year-old in 1998, and enjoyed stints at Liverpool and Manchester City before retiring in 2009. It should also be noted that he made a brief comeback as a player-manager with Milton Keynes Dons in late 2010.
Although he never won a major international trophy with Germany, Hamann earned 59 caps for his country and 268 appearances in the Premier League. He won the Uefa Cup with both Liverpool and Bayern, and his quality and experience make him a natural inclusion in this XI.
Central Midfielder: Michael Ballack
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Arguably the best German footballer to ever play in the Premier League is Michael Ballack. And if he was not the best, it's debatable that among all Germans to ever play in England, Ballack spent his best years on the island.
After enjoying an illustrious career with Kaiserslautern, Leverkusen and Bayern, Ballack moved to Chelsea in 2006. The midfielder won three FA Cups, the FA Community Shield, the League Cup and the Premier League during his time in England, and he was an absolutely vital part of the club's midfield.
His career may not have ended in a blaze of glory, but the 36-year-old did make 98 caps for Germany and deserves considerable respect for being one of the best players to never win a major international trophy for club or country.
Right Forward: Jurgen Klinsmann
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Jurgen Klinsmann was such a gifted and well-traveled striker, that he could be in the all-time best XI of Germans playing in Italy, France and the United States, as well as England.
During an illustrious playing career, the Goppingen native plied his trade at the likes of Inter, Monaco, Bayern and more. And for two stints in the 1990s, he played for Tottenham.
Although brief, Klinsmann's first stay in London was memorable. The striker scored 30 goals in 50 appearances in 1994-95, before moving on to Bayern. He returned for a brief stay in 1998, in which he netted nine times in 15 appearances.
Klinsmann was most successful on the international stage, where he won the 1990 World Cup and Euro 1996. He was highly decorated during his career, and although his time with Spurs was limited, he made his impression felt.
Center Forward: Karl-Heinz Riedle
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Ex-Liverpool and Fulham man Karl-Heinz Riedle is the central striker in the all-time best German XI to play in the Premier League.
The 47-year-old won the 1990 World Cup with Germany and the 1997 Champions League with Dortmund before moving on to England for the twilight of his career.
Although he only scored 17 goals in his four seasons in England, Riedle's achievements before moving to the island speak for themselves. He was great during his prime and has the trophies to back it up.
Left Forward: Lukas Podolski
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After years of being linked with a transfer to Arsenal, Lukas Podolski finally made his move to the London outfit last summer.
The 27-year-old left his hometown club of Koln, and has since scored 13 goals and given 11 assists in 34 appearances for Arsenal.
Having amassed 107 appearances for country, he is the fourth-most capped Germany international in history. Only five players have exceeded his tally of 44 goals for the DFB team, making him one of his country's best forwards of all time. He certainly is one of the top three German forwards to play in England.