5 Leading Contenders for Bundesliga Player of the Season
There are three games to go in what has been one of the most exciting Bundesliga seasons in years. Well, not if you're Bayern Munich, of course. However, if you take their record-breaking title-winning run out of the equation, the excitement has been nonstop.
The relegation race is coming to a boil, and several teams are still vying to find out their European fate next season. All the while, several players have been making a strong case for being the league's standout player.
Let us look, in no particular order, at five of the leading candidates in the race to be crowned the Bundesliga's best player of the 2013-14 season.
The first inclusion may surprise many, but without Fahrmann, it is hard to imagine Schalke being where they are now after a disappointing first half of the season.
Schalke sat in seventh going into the winter break. They now sit in third and will secure Champions League group-stage participation in the final three games.
In the second half of the season, Schalke won nine of their 14 games. Jens Keller's team have stabilized their defense, and thanks to Fahrmann, they have kept 10 clean sheets to completely turn their season around.
Fahrmann has made 63 saves and saved almost 80 percent of shots on target. Most impressive is that his best performances for Schalke have all come in their biggest games, whether it was against rivals Borussia Dortmund or Real Madrid in the Champions League.
It would not be far-fetched to realistically consider Fahrmann an option for Joachim Low's World Cup squad. That's how good he has been.
The next player on the list is a very familiar face. Robben has outperformed last year's best player, Franck Ribery, and he has been Bayern's best attacking player this season.
The Dutch winger is currently ranked the best player in the league by German publication kicker and has been directly involved in 16 goals in the league for his club.
While Ribery was great in the first half of the season, he slowed down in the second, albeit due to injuries. Robben, meanwhile, has been consistently performing for Bayern and always seems to save his best performances for the biggest games.
Years ago, Robben was tainted with a reputation for diving and not tracking back enough, but now he is the epitome of a professional and few players work harder for their team than he does.
A list like this just is not complete without Robert Lewandowski. The Dortmund striker scored his 100th goal for the club last week, and this weekend he helped Dortmund secure Champions League football next season.
The Polish striker currently leads the scoring charts in the Bundesliga and is also atop the overall scorers charts, combining goals and assists with 29 on the season.
Dortmund are a different side without Lewandowski, and his influence and importance to the team has been even more stark this season, knowing that he will join rivals Bayern Munich in the summer.
Yet Lewandowski has still been stellar, despite knowing he will move on at season's end. He is the perfect modern striker, and Dortmund's game and success has been heavily influenced by his level of performance over the years.
Right-back, left-back, central midfield. Philipp Lahm can do it all, and if it is even possible, this season Lahm has elevated his game to an even greater level.
A beneficiary of Pep Guardiola's creative tactical tinkering, Lahm has been re-imagined as a holding midfielder in Bayern's sleek high-pressing and quick-passing system this season. He excelled from the off.
There was always a feeling that Lahm's work-rate, intelligence and sheer consistency could be used in a different way, and fortunately for Bayern, Guardiola immediately recognized this and made the adjustment.
Lahm is now the center and arguably most important player at Bayern under Pep and makes the team tick from midfield. So significant has been his influence that Germany coach Joachim Low may even alter his tactics to replicate Guardiola's system ahead of the World Cup.
No one can question that as far as the last month is concerned, no player in the Bundesliga can hold a candle to Marco Reus. He has been directly involved in 14 goals in the last nine games for his club.
Reus is behind only Robert Lewandowski in total goals and assists in the league this season and surpassed his career record of club goals in a single season with four games to spare in all competitions.
The 24-year-old has evolved his game and become a multifaceted versatile attacker who can play out wide and come in to act as a de facto striker. Only Lewandowski has taken more shots than Reus this season.
He is not only a prolific goalscoring midfielder, he has also been the key playmaker in Jurgen Klopp's side this season. Only Borussia Monchengladbach's Max Kruse has created more scoring chances in the league this season than Reus.
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