"After the Game Is Before the Game": The Bundesliga's Rising Stars

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After saving VfL Wolfsburg from relegation, can Mario Mandzukic become the next Edin Dzeko

The results are all in regarding the 2010/2011 German playing season, with legendary Borussia Mönchengladbach and their miracle working head coach, Lucien Favre, fending off the spirited attack by VfL Bochum in the relegation playoffs to retain their place in the next Bundesliga.  Only Hertha BSC Berlin and newcomer FC Augsburg will join the first division next season, taking the places of FC St. Pauli and Eintracht Frankfurt—with the latter coming as a bit of a shock after Eintracht's inexplicable meltdown in the second half of the season.

This, despite the appointment of saviour Christoph Daum—who is usually associated with success thanks to his exceptional motivational skills. Alas, not even his trademark positivist reprogramming could save the helplessly falling "Eagles" from relegation.      

With the trainer carousel turning at full speed, there was no lack of drama and sometimes even outright hype surrounding last season's action on the field.

Yet tremendous performances by the players were certainly not missing either—much to the delight of the almost 13 million spectators who flocked to the games at the 18 Bundesliga stadiums.

Happily, in a season of surprises, not only established stars stood out.

Of course, Arjen Robben, Franck Ribéry, Arturo Vidal, Lucas Barrios, Jefferson Farfán, Thomas Müller and Mario Gomez all dazzled and proved their exceptional value, letting fans in Germany forget the departure of Mesut Özil, Edin Dzeko and Sami Khedira for other leagues.

Unheralded players like Shinji Kagawa and José Manuel Jurado stepped into the limelight, joining newly signed but already established stars like Raúl Gonzalez Blanco or Simon Kjaer, again showcasing the growing quality of play this breathtakingly competitive European football league has attained.  

So, while we're still warm with excitement from the past season, let's have a look at a few other breakout athletes—still little known internationally, but especially promising—who intend to make an impact for their teams when play resumes after the summer break.


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