Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Bayern Munich's 30 Greatest Foreign Imports

Stefan BienkowskiFeatured ColumnistMarch 17, 2014

Arjen Robben, Franck Ribery and Bayern Munich's 30 Greatest Foreign Imports

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    Although Bayern Munich have been one of the largest clubs in European football since their promotion to the Bundesliga in 1965, they haven't always had the luxury of foreign players.

    The club have been blessed with a whole roster of world-class players throughout the decades and have never stopped trying to stick to their roots.

    One cannot look through the rich back catalogue of fantastic teams that have represented the club throughout the ages without finding a spine of German players dictating play and ensuring the football on show is fit for the club. 

    That's not to say, however, that Bayern haven't had players from all over the world feature in their sides. In fact there have been quite a few, and here today we have ranked the top 30 of them for your pleasure. 

    So sit back, relax and enjoy, as we go through the top 30 greatest foreign imports for Bayern Munich. 

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    30. David Alaba

    We kick off our list with a player whose remarkable start to his Bayern career may have already confirmed his position in the club's corridors of history. The left back may only be 21 years old, but he's already established himself as one of the best in the world in his position. 

    29. Luiz Gustavo

    Although Luiz Gustavo didn't spend a great deal of time at Bayern before moving on to Wolfsburg, his overall game and formidable consistency made him one of the most bitter sales in recent memory. Although now at a smaller club, the midfielder will undoubtedly be amongst the action this summer in Brazil.

    28. Daniel Van Buyten 

    Daniel Van Buyten may not strike many as the most technically gifted defender to have ever worn the red of Bayern, however, the Belgian has been a consistent squad player at the club for eight years—with a trophy cabinet that would outnumber some of the greats of the game. 

    27. Alan McInally

    Despite injury calling Alan McInally's Bayern career a little shorter than both he or the club would have liked, his first season in Bavaria was a complete success. The towering Scot may not have become a Bayern great, but he's remembered as fondly in Germany as he is in the UK. 

    26. Ivica Olic

    In a similar manner to McInally, Ivica Olic makes this list based on his achievements during his first season at the club. The Croatian striker scored 19 goals in 41 games, with a clinical seven in 10 during the club's impressive run to the Champions League final. 

    25. Hamit Altintop

    Turkish international Hamit Altintop's four years at Bayern will be remembered for his versatility in midfield and handful of spectacular goals. He was a regular starter for the side that reached the 2010 Champions League final before ultimately moving to Real Madrid in 2011. 

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    24. Conny Torstensson

    Swedish striker Conny Torstensson arrives in our list with the welcoming tale of joining the club back in 1973 off the back of an impressive display against Bayern in the European Cup. Although just a bit part player amongst the club's golden era, he started in both the 1974 and 1975 European Cup finals. 

    23. Søren Lerby

    Soren Lerby was a Danish midfielder who joined Bayern in the mid-'80s as a replacement for club legend Paul Breitner. Whether he lived up to Breitner is still up for debate, but with two Bundesliga titles and two DFB Pokal Cups in his three seasons at the club, we doubt he would be too bothered. 

    22. Luca Toni

    When it comes to Luca Toni, every Bayern fan is left wondering would have been, had he not fallen out with Louis Van Gaal. Toni scored an incredible 57 goals in just 81 games in his first two seasons at the club, picking up the Bundesliga golden boot as Bayern won a league and cup double in 2007/08. 

    21. Mario Mandzukic

    This Croatian striker may move down the pecking order this summer when Borussia Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski joins the club, but for now Mario Mandzukic is in his element and scoring goals for fun. His strong work ethic is complemented by his impeccable skill with the ball at his feet and his presence in the air. 

    20. Miroslav Klose

    Okay you caught uswe have a German in our line up. However, as we all know, Miroslav Klose was born in Poland and opted to play for his adopted nation through his parents. Alas, he still deserves a spot in our list for those two outstanding seasons between 2007 and 2009, during which he was undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the world. 

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    Michael Probst/Associated Press

    19. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk

    Despite becoming somewhat of a cult figure since leaving Bayern last year, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk's four years at the club were anything but alternative or irregular. Whether in central midfield or at centre-back, the Ukrainian international showed an intelligence off the ball that made him invaluable to the club and his team mates around him. 

    18. Dante

    Dante comes in to this list as something of an oddity. Despite only playing for the club for a few years, the Brazilian defender has worked his way into the first team and demanded the respect of the football world. He was key to their Champions League win last year and is well on his way to being remembered as one of the club's greatest centre-backs. 

    17. Roque Santa Cruz

    Although Roque Santa Cruz doesn't hold the allure of some of the other strikers at Bayern during the early-'00s, the Paraguayan still had great success during his five years at the club. With five Bundesliga championships and four DFB Pokal Cups, Santa Cruz was a striker who knew how to win. 

    16. Roy Makaay

    Roy Makaay is one of those strikers from the early-'00s who outshines Santa Cruz. Makaay played for the club between 2003 and 2007, scoring an impressive 102 goals in 178 matches for the Bavarian giants. 

    15. Jean-Marie Pfaff

    This Belgian goalkeeper was a first-team regular for Bayern during the late-'80s, amassing 156 appearances over the course of his six seasons at the club. During his time, Pfaff won three Bundesliga titles and two DFB Pokal Cups and was named by Pele as one of the 125 greatest living footballers. 

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    Frank Augstein/Associated Press

    14. Martín Demichelis

    Although Martin Demichelis may be better known for his recent howlers at Manchester City, once upon a time he was a genuinely good player for Bayern. Under Felix Magath—insert second Premier League joke—the Argentinian was a vital member of the famous two-in-a-row side that swept aside all before them, yet once Magath left and Van Gaal arrived it was only a matter of time before the defensive-midfielder-turned-defender had to leave the club. 

    13. Johnny Hansen

    Another somewhat-forgotten hero from Bayern's golden era is Danish fullback Johnny Hansen, who played for the club throughout the seventies. Hansen won three Bundesligas and three European Cups and famously scored the first ever goal in the famous Olympic Stadium in Munich. 

    12. Claudio Pizarro

    As Claudio Pizarro still currently resides in this Bayern side at the prime age of 35, one would be tempted to say his longevity was his greatest asset. Yet in his prime, Pizarro was an outstanding forward who scored so many goals that he earned the nickname Anden-Bomber—a reference to his home town in Peru and Der Bomber, Bayern legend Gerd Muller. 

    11. Samuel Kuffour

    The first African player on our list, Samuel Kuffour won countless trophies during his 11 seasons at Bayern. The Ghanaian defender played a vital role in Bayern's Champions League success in 2001, receiving a Ballon d'Or nomination for his efforts.

    10. Hasan Salihamidzic

    Hasan Salihamidzic was an ever-present in Bayern's teams of the late-'90's and early-00's. During his nine years at the club, the Bosnian picked up no less than six Bundesliga medals, four DFB Pokal Cup trophies and a Champions League.

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    Bundesliga.com

    9. Lucio

    Throughout the modern history of Bayern, a number of prominent players crop up from memory, but none quite like the towering presence of Brazilian defender Lucio. Following a successful stint at Bayer Leverkusen, Lucio quickly established himself as Bayern's vice-captain and went on to win three Bundesliga titles. 

    8. Owen Hargreaves

    Owen Hargreaves is undoubtedly one of the most popular players on this list when we consider his natural affiliation with the UK and the England national team, yet despite joining the club in 1997 he didn't become a first-team regular until 2001. From then on, he established himself as a continental star and one of the most versatile players in Europe. 

    7. Willy Sagnol

    Before Philipp Lahm there was Willy Sagnol. As hard as that may be to imagine, the now-undisputed German right-back had to wait until this French star retired before he was able to take up his favoured role. Sagnol played for Bayern for nine years, winning 13 trophies. 

    6. Mark van Bommel

    One player who perhaps overtakes Lucio in the nostalgia charts is Dutch defensive midfielder Mark Van Bommel, who became the first non-German to captain the club. Van Bommel won two Bundesligas and two DFB Pokals during his five years at Bayern.

5. Arjen Robben

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    We kick off our final five with one of the most controversial and opinion-splitting players to have ever played for Bayern Munich. 

    Arjen Robben arrived at the Munich side in 2009 following two years at Real Madrid in which he was unable to regain the form that had made him a global superstar at English Premier League side Chelsea

    What would become of this Dutch winger over the course of the next five years would surpass even those magical three years at Stamford Bridge. 

    Robben offers sheer pace and skill on the wing. Every defender in Europe knows just how much he loves to cut back and swing inside from the right hand flank, yet we've still to find one who can actually stop him. 

     

4. Bixente Lizarazu

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    For eight-and-a-half glorious seasons, Bayern enjoyed the wonder of French international Bixente Lizarazu as their first choice left-back.

    Before the likes of David Alaba were running up and down the left flank, Lizarazu's marauding runs in a side that dreamed of being the best in Europe for the best part of a decade make him one of the most revered players on the list.

    As if the welcomed memories don't offer enough to convince you, let us take a look at the defender's trophy cabinet whilst at Bayern, which consists of no fewer than 18 trophies.

    The most impressive of these will of course be the Bundesliga and Champions League double from 2001, which—partnered with France's successes—meant that Lizarazu became the first ever player to be a European and World champion at both club and international football.

3. Ze Roberto

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    Ze Roberto comes into our list at number three having played for the Bavarian giants twice throughout his career. 

    His first spell at the club came when Leverkusen allowed him to leave along with Michael Ballack, with whom he formed a formidable midfield partnership. In his first four years at Bayern, the Brazilian box-to-box player won three domestic doubles. 

    Following an altercation with coach at the time Felix Magath, Ze Roberto chose to return to Brazil for a brief spell at Santos in 2006 before jumping on a plane back to Munich the following season. Upon his return, he slotted straight back into the side and formed a partnership with club captain Van Bommel. 

    Despite his shaky relationship with the club, Ze Roberto will always be remembered for his undoubted talent on the pitch. Whether he was making crunching challenges and breaking up play or bursting through the opponent's half and creating goals, the Brazilian star was an integral part of the team during his six seasons in Munich. 

2. Giovane Elber

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    Number two in our list is none other than Elber de Souza. Or, as he was known in Germany and throughout the world, Giovane Elber. 

    Elber was an AC Milan reject who travelled to Switzerland and Portugal before ending up in Stuttgart, Germany. After a modest first season in Germany, Elber scored 36 goals in his next 71 games before Bayern came calling in the summer of 1997. 

    For many, Elber will of course bring back welcomed memories of the '90s and an enthralling striker who wore flamboyantly stylish boots. Of course, they were no more than white shoessomething we've grown to take for granted in the modern gamebut it added to his allure. He was a star striker who led Bayern to greatness. 

    In a little more than six seasons at Bayern, the Brazilian striker scored an incredible 138 goals and picked up four Bundesliga titles, three DFB Pokal Cups and the Champions League in 2001. Elber was a world-class forward who completed a truly great side.

1. Franck Ribery

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    We always knew it was going to be him, didn't we? In what may well become one of the greatest football sides of all time, Bayern have a star that flickers slightly more than the rest.

    Franck Ribery is one of the best players in the world at the moment, he is one of the best players to have ever featured in the game and he is quiet simply the best foreign player to have ever played for Bayern Munich. 

    From the left-hand wing, he has won it all. The German Bundesliga, the DFB Pokal Cup, the Champions League and even the Club World Cup. When the Frenchman is on his game, there are few in the sport who can stop him. 

    In last season's historic treble-winning team, Ribery contributed 30 assists and scored 16 goals during his 55 appearances, via stats from transfermarkt. This amounts to an astonishing goal either scored or created every 0.83 games.

    He is undoubtedly the best player at Bayern right now and a key reason for their complete dominance of the sport at present.