Bundesliga: Hoffenheim Threatening Bayern Monopoly

Chris PotterCorrespondent INovember 25, 2008

If Hull City's rise to prominence over the past decade is a fairytale for their hardened supporters, Hoffenheim's meteoric rise to the summit of the Bundesliga is nothing short of miraculous.


From the lowly Verbandsliga Nordbaden (the German equivalent of the Conference North), the Mannheim-based team have shot up the German football pyramid with four promotions in eight seasons in some style.

But they didn't stop there. Hoffenheim now lead the prestigious Bundesliga by three points from G14 powerhouses Bayern Munchen and Bayer Leverkusen.

What is even more impressive is that they are scoring goals for fun against many top European sides. With  37 in 14 league games including five against Werder Bremen, four against Borussia Dortmund and three against Hamburg.

All of this has been achieved with only relatively modest investment. 

Like Hull, nothing was expected from them at the start of the season, and, like Hull, this lack of pressure is helping them sustain their effort.

The gay abandon with which they play has been highlighted by star striker and golden boot favourite Vedad Ibisevic as a major factor in their success:

"Our aim was just to stay up in the first division. That makes it easier for us, because we can just play without any pressure. And that's what we plan to do."

The Bosnian striker has 16 goals to his name after 14 appearances.

It is this stunning form that has alerted some of Europe's premier club managers to the 24-year-old striker, who arrived in the Bundesliga with Hoffenheim via unmemorable spells in American college football and France, and a less than prolific season at unfancied Alemania Aachen.

Sir Alex Ferguson is apparently considering dumping Carlos Tevez in an attempt to fund a move for the hottest property in European football.

But while losing Ibisevic's services in January would weaken their title credentials, the club may well have enough firepower in the form of African starlets Dembe Ba and Chinedu Obasi to sustain their challenge.

The club will, however, not be forced into selling its assets and will look to re-invest any transfer fees received in its playing squad. 

Owner Dietmar Hopp (the 697th richest person in the world) is, after all, rich, ambitious and emotionally attached to a club whose youth teams he played for.

Over the last 10 years, he has overseen steady investment in all areas since his involvement, including the building of a new €40 million stadium. But his investment doesn't stop there, the entreprenuer also supports professional hand-ball and basketball in the Mannhein area.

And in Ralf Rangnick, Hopp has a perfect ally in his quest to be the best.

The wily manager has experienced many ups and downs in  a managerial career that includes promotion with Hannover and being dismissed by Stuttgart and then Schalke for flattering to deceive after initial successes.

Rangnick is determined not to let this one slip through his fingers.