The unpredictable 2010-2011 Bundesliga season is racing towards its finish, and though Borussia Dortmund has already secured the Championship and Bayer 04 Leverkusen has a sure hold on second place, plenty of suspense is still on the menu.
The last two games will see Bayern Munich and Hannover 96 battle it out for the last remaining Champions League qualification slot.
Germany's record title holder is at a slight advantage heading into this weekend's matchup with St. Pauli, as the unlikely contender from Lower Saxony faces a reinvigorated VfB Stuttgart on the road.
If current momentum is of any significance in determining the outcome, "Robery and Co." can be expected to steamroll Hamburg's "junior" team, already practically assured of being relegated to the Second Division, after just one year's presence in Germany's highest league.
Hannover's task is much more daunting as they take on former powerhouse Stuttgart, which could save their disappointing season by avoiding demotion with a home victory, before they travel to Allianz Arena to close out their season against Bayern, next week.
Watch Bruno Labbadia throw everything at his disposal at Hannover, so Stuttgart can prematurely and decisively rid itself of the "ghost of relegation" that has been breathing down its back all season, thus enabling management to finally start concentrating on how to rebuild the team for next year's campaign.
This is what the more fortunate clubs with a clearer vision of their future have already been at for some weeks.
Yesterday's announcement, according to ESPN, that Dortmund had signed Nuremberg's industrious midfielder, Ilkay Gündoğan, is probably the most sensational news in this respect, aside from Manuel Neuer's imminent move to Bayern.
Not so much because of the lauded talent the offensively oriented player of Turkish descent brings to the black and yellow side, but because it can now be assumed that with some certitude, he is being brought in to replace Dortmund's current team leader, Nuri Sahin, without a doubt this year's uncontested league MVP, who, by himself, was largely responsible for Borussia's incredible Championship run.
His excellent ball-winning capabilities and immediately executed, game-opening passes became the whole team's visible trademark, as Germany's youngest side ran all over the traditional giants of the Bundesliga.
Virtually unknown outside of Luedenscheid only two years ago, Sahin has now aroused the appetite of all European top clubs eager to add a new "sixer" to their midfield, who can not only intercept and deny the opponent's attacks, but whose precision passes of over 50-60 meters can tear apart the other side's defence before they can regroup.
Sports Illustrated is reporting that Sahin will most likely join Real Madrid, who already surprisingly snatched up Germany's "World Cup wonder boys," Khedira and Oezil. This move would fit Jose Mourinho's solid defensive tactics and add playmaking ability, which was desperately missing in Madrid's helpless loss to Barcelona last week. This transfer could also be the steal of the year, considering that Sahin's transfer fee is estimated to be just over eight million Euros, according to The Daily Mail. That is obviously great value for anybody's money.
Leaving the team that nurtured him, quitting his buddies from the youth teams and saying farewell to his coach and mentor, Juergen Klopp, will all certainly not be emotionally easy for Nuri Sahin, who already had to make a painful choice on where he would pursue his international career.
Obedient to his Turkish father's wishes, the boy from the "Ruhrgebiet" preferred the red moon and star to the German eagle and has said to never have regretted his decision.
But many football fans in Germanic regions soon will, as the Bundesliga, which is hugely popular and financially the most successful league in Europe, again loses one of its best to Spain. They will not even be appeased by at least being able to see him bring his art to the "Mannschaft," where he would deserve to play.
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