Bundesliga End-of-the-Season Awards: Reus and Pep Stand Tall
Another Bundesliga season has come and gone. Unsurprisingly, it was Bayern Munich who finished on top in the end again.
Germany's record champions won the league quicker than any team in history and broke several records along the way.
Although Bayern dominated throughout much of the campaign, there were plenty of thrills and standout performances from the rest of the league.
In the spirit of awards season, let us look at some of the best Germany's top flight had to offer this season.
Using consistency and impact of performance as the primary criteria, here are this season's highlights.
Although Philipp Lahm can lay claim to this award too, it is Marco Reus whose impact and performances towards the end of the season give him the edge.
Lahm's tactical transformation into a midfielder under Pep Guardiola made him an even better player, and he became the heartbeat at Bayern.
In any other season, Lahm would have walked away with this award, but Reus elevated his game to another level this season.
The Dortmund attacker had a combined 30 goals and assists this season and was the focal point and primary playmaker of BVB's attack.
In Dortmund's last nine games, Reus was directly involved in 13 goals, ensuring that they seal an automatic Champions League spot and finish with a better league record than last season.
What makes Reus' contribution especially outstanding was Dortmund's injury crisis. Key player after key player missed out throughout the season, yet Reus remained reliable and effective throughout.
It is hard to imagine Dortmund finishing in second or reaching the Cup final without Reus' presence. Reus was the league's best player in the 2011-12 season and can add yet another claim to that title this year.
Jurgen Klopp, Thomas Tuchel and Markus Weinzierl have all done an outstanding job this season, but it is Pep Guardiola who was this season's best coach.
The former Barcelona man came into a new league, culture and team and delivered the second-best season in league history.
He started with the best record of a first-year coach in club history and led his team to a record-breaking campaign.
Guardiola's impact went beyond just results and points too. He transformed Lahm into the league's best midfielder and improved Bayern's possession game.
Although the dip in form towards the end of the season stains the club's otherwise perfect run, Guardiola laid the foundation of a new Bayern side that will only evolve and improve as time progresses under his stewardship.
There were many good transfers in the league this season, including Sokratis' move from Werder Bremen to Dortmund, Max Kruse's move to Borussia Monchengladbach from Freiburg or Mainz's pickup of Johannes Geis from Greuther Furth.
All had great impacts and they were all certainly cheaper, but it's Thiago's €25 million move from Barcelona to Bayern that really stood out this season.
The crafty midfielder adjusted to Bayern seamlessly and became an instant difference-maker in Guardiola's side.
His absence was particularly notable in the second half of the season during his injury, and Bayern's best performances always came when he was in the line-up.
Thiago gives Bayern an edge in Guardiola's system that players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger and Javi Martinez can't.
His vision and creativity, along with his defensive work rate and ability to hold on to the ball, make him invaluable to Bayern, and he will certainly play a big part in the team's evolution in the coming years.
There is no contest in this category. Josip Drmic was this season's breakthrough player.
Even though Nurnberg could not avoid relegation at the end, Drmic was outstanding throughout the season.
Only Mario Mandzukic and Robert Lewandowski scored more goals than Drmic this campaign, and without the Swiss international, Nurnberg would not have had a fighting chance to stay up.
His impact despite a lackluster supporting cast made his performances especially impressive, and no shortage of clubs have taken an interest in the 21-year-old, per German newspaper Bild.
Drmic has excelled playing out wide and on top this season, scoring 17 times in 33 league matches. His ability to shoot with both feet, clever movement and clinical finishing make him one of the best prospects in the league.
Nurnberg will be playing in the 2. Bundesliga next season, but you can bet that Drmic won't.
Best Young Player
There is never a shortage of impressive young players in the Bundesliga, but none was better than Schalke's Max Meyer this season.
Meyer became a fixture in Jens Keller's team this season despite having turned just 18 last September.
His presence in the team coincided with Schalke's best-ever second half of a Bundesliga campaign.
The attacking midfielder also became the youngest player in Bundesliga history to reach six goals in a season.
Suffice to say, Meyer has an extremely bright future ahead of him and will only get better as time progresses.
Halil Altintop deserves a mention in this category after his return from Turkey and impact with Augsburg.
But it is Bayern's Brazilian right-back, Rafinha, who gets the nod here. Last season, Rafinha started just six league games for the club and was merely a back-up to Philipp Lahm.
Many believed Rafinha would be on his way out last summer, but fast-forward a year, and he has played one of the best seasons of his career.
Rafinha became Bayern's first-choice right-back with Lahm in midfield and excelled under Guardiola. Free to attack and having Arjen Robben in front of him, Rafinha finished with seven assists and was involved in many of Bayern's goals.
He was unfortunate to miss out on Felipe Scolari's World Cup squad because, based on his form this season, he deserved to be included.
The run into the box, the technique, the timing—Thiago's goal against Stuttgart on Matchday 17 had it all.
The score was 1-1 with seconds to go when Rafinha chipped a hopeful ball into the box.
Thiago, having made a run into the box, read the pass, leaned back and scissor-kicked the ball past Sven Ulreich.
Aaron Hunt's backheel through ball against Hamburg on Matchday 23 takes the cake here.
Santiago Garcia headed the ball forward but with no clear intention. It was up to Hunt to make something happen. And he did.
Knowing that his teammates were running behind Hamburg's back line, he backheeled the ball with his back to the goal, catching everyone off guard and setting up the winning strike.
Best Individual Performance
While his performances across the season may not have hit the heights of last season, Franck Ribery had another stellar campaign.
In no other game were his qualities more on display than the historic 7-0 win against Werder Bremen in December.
Ribery scored two goals and set up another two in Bremen's biggest home defeat in history. It was also the fifth time the French winger had been directly involved in four goals in a league game.
He scored his ninth and 10th goals against Bremen in his 12th game and was simply unplayable for 90 minutes.
While Hamburg's near relegation was one of the biggest shocks of the season, no team surprised more than Augsburg.
Having narrowly escaped relegation in the last two seasons Augsburg turned into a European contender this year.
Under the guidance of Markus Weinzierl, the team with the least top-flight experience finished just a point off a European spot.
All the while, it played a brand of football that combined fast and deadly counter-attacks with stern and organized defending.
Augsburg allowed the fewest big chances in the league this season and—in Daniel Baier, Andre Hahn and Tobias Werner—had three of the best individual players of any team.
They can also famously lay claim to ending Bayern's record unbeaten run in April.
This season will be a tough act to follow next year, but they have a great foundation in place and a squad that will only get better after this experience.