10 of the best Bundesliga imports in Premier League history
- The Bundesliga has been a great breeding ground for Premier League talent over the years. Here are 10 of the best.
- Roberto Firmino, Son Heung-min, and Leroy Sane have all been imported from Germany's top flight.
Germany’s Bundesliga is undoubtedly one of the best leagues in Europe – and in the entire football world. As well as producing some excellent sides, it has also been a breeding ground for some tremendous players.
However, due to the financial strength of some of Europe’s other big leagues, many of the Bundesliga’s best stars have left for pastures new. One of those greener pastures is the Premier League. Over the years, plenty of players have moved from Germany to England, and some have seen excellent results.
In no particular order, here are 10 of the Premier League’s best Bundesliga imports.
#1 Roberto Firmino
It seems hard to believe now, but eyebrows were raised when Jurgen Klopp paid £29m to bring Roberto Firmino to Liverpool in 2015. The Brazilian forward had been plying his trade at Hoffenheim, but many doubted his abilities to step up to the next level. Many online fans poked fun at the Reds for signing Firmino rather than Memphis Depay, who moved to Manchester United at the same time.
Since then though, those doubters have been proven firmly wrong. After a slightly slow start, the Brazilian has gone from strength to strength and is now considered indispensable at Anfield.
Not only is he a top-class central striker – scoring 27 goals in 2017-18 – but he’s also arguably the most important component of Liverpool’s front trio. Firmino scores goals and creates plenty for Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, but his work off the ball is exceptional too.
The Brazilian’s work rate is second-to-none. He provides a vital link between the Reds’ midfield and attack, and he’s willing to drop deep to win the ball. Since arriving at Anfield, he’s helped them rise to new heights – winning the Champions League in 2018-19 and most likely, their first Premier League title.
Simply put, Liverpool just wouldn’t be the same without him.
#2 Ilkay Gundogan
Moving from Borussia Dortmund to Manchester City in 2016, Ilkay Gundogan was Pep Guardiola’s first signing at the Etihad. Not the flashiest player in the world, the German international’s fee - £20m – didn’t raise many eyebrows either. Four years later, Gundogan has established himself as a key man for Guardiola’s side.
Capable of playing as a deep-lying playmaker, holding midfielder or an attacking option, Gundogan’s versatility has been his biggest strength. After an injury kept him out of action for most of his debut season, he’s gone onto become a mainstay for City.
The German international’s passing is absolutely exceptional. He broke two Premier League records in 2018 during a win over Chelsea – one for most passes attempted in a game (174) and one for most passes completed (167). This season alone, his passing success rate in the Premier League has been 91.5% - improving to 93.2% in European action.
Essentially, he’s the epitome of a player who is almost priceless to Guardiola. As long as the Spanish boss stays at the Etihad, Gundogan is likely to be a key part of his plans.
#3 Son Heung-min
It might’ve taken South Korean forward Son Heung-min time to settle in at Spurs, but right now there are few better players in the Premier League. Signed by Spurs in the summer of 2015 from Bayer Leverkusen, Son’s £22m fee made him the most expensive Asian player in football history.
The struggles of his first season made him consider a move away from North London, but Tottenham fans will be thankful that never happened. 2016-17 saw him score 21 goals in 40 appearances, and he’s rarely looked back since.
His quicksilver style means he’s capable of shooting past opposition defenders. But his link-up play is also excellent. 2018-19, for instance, saw him register seven assists as well as 20 goals.
And when Harry Kane went down with an injury in the back end of that campaign, it was Son who stepped up to the plate. His three goals against Manchester City sent Spurs into the Champions League semi-finals for the first time.
The current season has also seen some outstanding moments from the Korean international. He’s scored 16 goals, including winners against Norwich City and Aston Villa. And his solo goal against Burnley is likely to be named Goal of the Season.
At 27 years old, this Bundesliga import is undoubtedly one of the world’s premier attackers.
#4 Jens Lehmann
Signed by Arsenal from Borussia Dortmund to replace David Seaman, goalkeeper Jens Lehmann quickly became a Gunners legend. The German international spent five seasons in North London and is still widely recognised as one of the best keepers in Premier League history.
Lehmann’s debut season saw him act as a key part of Arsenal’s famous ‘Invincibles’ side. The German kept 15 clean sheets and conceded just 26 goals as the Gunners won the Premier League title without losing a game.
2004-05 saw him pick up another major trophy – this time the FA Cup. Faced with Manchester United in the final, the game went to a penalty shootout, with Lehmann saving the key spot-kick from Paul Scholes.
And while their run in the 2005-06 Champions League came to an end in the final against Barcelona, it was still a historic campaign for Lehmann. He kept 10 consecutive clean sheets in the competition – a record that has not been bettered since.
Lehmann’s maverick style often drew criticism and there’s no denying he made a number of horrific errors during his time at Arsenal. But his great performances definitely outweighed his bad ones and he remains one of the Premier League’s best imports from the Bundesliga.
#5 Dimitar Berbatov
Bulgaria’s Dimitar Berbatov joined Tottenham from Bayer Leverkusen in the summer of 2006 for just under £11m and quickly became a fan favourite. The striker scored his first Spurs goal in his second appearance for the club and ended the season with an impressive 23 strikes to his name.
After scoring another 23 in the 2007-08 season – including a goal in Spurs’ victorious EFL Cup final win – he found himself on the radar of Manchester United. Despite Tottenham attempting to block the move, the Bulgarian dug his heels in and eventually joined the Red Devils for a fee of £30.75m.
Berbatov had an immediate impact at Old Trafford. He scored 14 goals as United won the Premier League title in 2008-09, becoming the first Bulgarian to lift the trophy. 2010-11 meanwhile saw him lift the Premier League title again, scoring 20 goals along the way to win the Golden Boot.
The striker would later depart United for Fulham – where he scored an impressive 15 goals in his debut season at Craven Cottage.
Renowned for his laidback, classy style, Berbatov was undoubtedly one of the best Premier League forwards of the late 2000s. While at Manchester United, the Bulgarian even received comparisons to the great Eric Cantona – perhaps the highest praise possible.
#6 Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
When Arsenal signed striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang for £56m in January 2018, they expected big things. The Gabonese international had scored bucketloads of goals for Borussia Dortmund during his time there – 98 in the Bundesliga over f and a half seasons. And thankfully for Gunners fans, that form has largely continued.
Aubameyang scored 10 goals in his first 14 games in North London, immediately establishing himself as the club’s key man. And in his first full season at the Emirates, he won the Premier League’s Golden Boot with 22 goals in 36 games.
The Gabonese striker is still waiting for his first trophy with the Gunners – and rumours have linked him with a move away from the Emirates in the near future. But the current season has seen him continue to score plenty of goals. At the time of the campaign’s suspension, he’d scored 17 in 26 league games.
With his ridiculous pace and phenomenal finishing skills, Aubameyang is undoubtedly one of the world’s best forwards. He might’ve cost a lot of money – a club record for Arsenal – but it’s hard to dispute that he hasn’t been worth it. And it’s even harder to dispute his place as one of the best Bundesliga imports to the Premier League.
#7 Kevin De Bruyne
Belgian international Kevin De Bruyne has undoubtedly taken the hard road to the top of the Premier League. Signed by Chelsea from boyhood club Genk in 2012, he was never given a fair chance at Stamford Bridge.
After a successful loan spell in the Bundesliga with Werder Bremen in 2012-13, he was still largely ignored by the Blues. De Bruyne headed back to Germany with Wolfsburg in January 2014. It was there that he proved himself as a genuinely great player. 2014-15 saw him register 21 assists – a Bundesliga record – and after another great season, he was signed by Manchester City for £55m.
Since then, his performances have been absolutely phenomenal. He’s helped City to seven major trophies, including two Premier League titles, and he’s been voted their Player of the Year twice.
The Belgian’s greatest gift is undoubtedly his eye for a pass; since joining City, he’s registered a ridiculous 52 assists, making him the Premier League’s best creative player. But he’s equally adept at scoring goals – with his long-range hits against Arsenal and Newcastle being among the best goals of 2019-20.
Right now, there are few better midfielders on the planet than De Bruyne. Not bad for a player rejected by Chelsea!
#8 Michael Ballack
Michael Ballack was already established as one of the world’s best midfielders when he moved to the Premier League. In 2006 at the age of 30, after winning the Bundesliga on three occasions with Bayern Munich, he made his way to Chelsea on a free transfer.
Despite seemingly being in the twilight of his career, the German international was fantastic during his time at Stamford Bridge. He was a key man during his four seasons in London despite suffering some injury setbacks and quickly became a fan favourite.
The 2007-08 season saw him help the Blues to the Champions League final. However, he came up short in his second attempt at winning the trophy as Chelsea lost to Manchester United. But the following season saw them win the FA Cup. 2009-10 – his final season at Chelsea – saw him help them to a Premier League title and another FA Cup.
The end of that season saw him depart London for his old stomping ground of Bayer Leverkusen. There can be no doubting the impact he made during his short tenure with Chelsea, though. The midfielder’s exceptional work rate and leadership remained just as high as it’d been in his prime. This meant that he was a bargain signing and one of the Premier League’s best Bundesliga imports.
#9 Leroy Sane
Signed by Manchester City at the age of 20, Leroy Sane had exploded onto the Bundesliga scene with Schalke 04. The 2015-16 campaign saw him score nine goals for the German side as they made their mark in the Champions League. And it came as no shock when Pep Guardiola brought him to the Etihad for £37m.
Since arriving in England, Sane’s pace and power have marked him out as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous wide-men. His debut season saw him impress with some key performances and nine goals, but he’d go on to better that greatly in 2017-18.
That campaign saw him appear in 49 games for City as they romped to the Premier League title. Along the way the German international scored 14 goals – but more importantly, he registered an incredible 15 assists. The end of the campaign saw him deservedly named as the PFA Young Player of the Year.
Sane was equally excellent in the 2018-19 season, scoring another 14 goals and registering 14 assists as City won another league title. Since then he’s been largely on the shelf, rehabbing a torn ACL suffered in August 2019.
Despite being linked with a move back to the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich, it seems likely that Sane will remain a key player for City for years to come.
#10 Vincent Kompany
One of the best defenders in Premier League history, perhaps no other player saw as much change at Manchester City as Vincent Kompany. The Belgian joined City from Hamburg in 2008 and was the final player signed prior to the club being purchased by the Abu Dhabi Group later in that summer.
Unlike other big signings of the time, Kompany was at the Etihad for the long haul. He spent a decade with the club – becoming their captain in 2011 – and won a total of 10 major trophies during his time there.
A natural leader, the Belgian’s defensive skills were second-to-none. Despite being hampered by injuries in his later years, Kompany was still phenomenal in the air. He was also tricky for opponents to beat and had a tremendous range of passing.
While City’s attacking talents tended to win them many plaudits, it was Kompany’s strength at the back that really provided them with a platform to build victory upon. During his time as captain, he led the side to four Premier League titles – including in their record-breaking 2017-18 campaign.
Since he departed the Etihad in 2019, the club have largely been unable to replace him. It’s hardly a surprise – the Belgian defender was one of a kind.