The last decade in German football has more or less been about the reigning champions, Bayern Munich strutting their stuff on the hallowed turfs. Sitting at the helm of German football hierarchy, Der FCB are easily the most successful German club of all time. Clinching eight of the last ten league titles, the Bavarians have shrouded the successes of the other relatively less known clubs from the nation.
However, the scenario hasn’t always been the same. 394 miles to the north-west of the Bayern’s Allianz Arena lies Borussia-Park, the home of Borussia Monchengladbach. Propelled by their atavistic instincts, fans still unfurl green, white and black banners with the quote: “Gänsehaut gibt’s gratis,” which translates to “Goosebumps come for free” – a throwback to their golden years. For Die Fohlen (the Foals), the decadal glory lasting from 1969/70 season right up to the 1978/79 season is worth remembrance, when they got themselves etched into the history books. During this period, their team boasted the likes of Gunter Netzer, Berti Vogts, Hans-Günter Bruns, Allan Simonsen and their hometown jewel, Jupp Heynckes. Under the tutelage of the pragmatic Hennes Weisweiler, the Monchengladbach kingdom flourished. Weisweiler, with his vision and tactical genius, took the Foals to the apex of German football.
After Monchengladbach gained promotion to the 1st league in the 1964/65 season, Weisweiler joined them. Initially, he had a slow start to life west of the Rhine, but he never gave up. In 1970, Borussia Monchengladbach were crowned the champions of Germany for the first time in the club’s history, pipping Bayern by four points. They also retained the league title the following season. Over the course of the next four years, they won one league title, one German cup and of course the UEFA Cup Winners Cup of 1975. After the end of the 1974/75 season, Weisweiler left them and was replaced by Udo Lattek. However, the successes didn’t stop flowing in. Under Lattek, they went on to win two league titles as well as the UEFA Cup Winners Cup again in 1979. Those, arguably, were the golden years of Borussia Monchengladbach and the fans of the club who occupied the Bökelsbergstadion (former home of the Foals) during that period were the luckiest of all.
After the dawn of the golden era, however, they are yet to win silverware in Germany’s top flight. In the last two seasons of the Bundesliga, they’ve finished ninth – this can well be attributed to their abysmal displays. Owing to their poor run in the league, veteran manager Marco Rose took over the reins from compatriot, Dieter Hecking (Gladbach manager from 2016-19) earlier this year. Bayern have won seven league titles on the trott, steamrolling each of their opponents in the way. However, this season the Goddess of Fortune has cheated on Bayern and is making love with Gladbach. With 8 wins, 2 losses and a draw, they’ve amassed a staggering 25 out of a possible 33 points and find themselves at the top of the Bundesliga table. Second to them are RB Leipzig with 21 points, while Bayern, with 21 as well, are placed third on goal difference. The upsurge of the Foals has buoyed up the spirits of the fans. This has, in turn, boosted the morale of the players and presents an excellent opportunity for them to capitalize and maintain that five point lead. While many feel it’s only luck which is on Gladbach’s side, the real answer lies elsewhere.
Marco Rose, who was formerly in charge of RB Salzburg, was immensely successful in Austria where he won the league title twice while also winning one Austrian cup in his two year stint (2017-19). After Gladbach robed him in July, he has seemed to have provided the quintessential impetus to carry the club forward. Under him, attacking football has returned to Borussia-Park and supporters are overwhelmed. This thundering surge in the club’s fortunes has caught the sights of football fans not just in Germany but around the world. But the pathway to glory was strewn with difficulties. Bit by bit, Rose laid the foundation of a team which is very well capable of winning the Meisterschale.
When he first arrived at Gladbach, he had an uphill task ahead of him. He had to replace the club’s star player Thorgan Hazard (younger brother of Eden Hazard), who joined Borussia Dortmund for €25.5 million in summer. Being a sagacious coach, he exhibited exemplary adroitness when he sealed the signing of Marcus Thuram from French Ligue 2 side Guingamp. Gladbach’s sporting director, Max Eberl said “We’re very happy that we were able to sign Marcus. He’s a fast, robust and a dangerous forward who fits very well in our squad and we’re sure he will make his way in the Bundesliga.” Bearing one of the most famous surnames in French football history, Marcus is, indeed, the son of 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Lilian Thuram. However, unlike his dad, who was a champion defender, Marcus loves to play wide out front. After shining for French outfit Guingamp, where he managed to get nine goals and an assist in 32 appearances, Marcus joined the Foals. Ever since joining, he has proved to be the Bundesliga’s revelation of the season and has bagged back to back Gladbach Player of the Month awards. The 22 year old’s arrival has bolstered the club’s attack significantly. With 5 goals and 5 assists in 13 Bundesliga appearances this season, he has wowed fans across the country. One of his best performances this season came when his second-half brace in the Rhine derby sank Fortuna Dusseldorf. His crazy goal celebrations with the corner flags are also a treat to watch. As he looks on to carry on the legacy of the Thurams by following in the footsteps of his father, he is expected to play a big role for silverware to return to Borussia Park.
Besides Thuram, Rose also brought in Austrian fullback, Stefan Lainer from his former club RB Salzburg. Having a perfect concoction of brains and talent, Lainer has also been up to the mark for the Foals. With his ability to glide past opponents and put in accurate crosses, he is just what a modern fullback needs to be. Now a crucial part of the squad (Lainer has started 11 league games, scoring once while setting up goals on two occasions), it has shown Marco Rose is quite the visionary. On the other flank is 34 year old veteran Swiss left back, Oscar Wendt who joined the Foals in the 2011/12 season. Wendt has been a reliable member of the defence as well as becoming an extra man in their attack, scoring twice. He may be in the final stage of his career but that isn’t a matter of concern as Rose has brought in the heir to his throne – Ramy Bensebeini. Although he has started just three times in the Bundesliga this season, Bensebaini has managed to find the goal once and has also impressed with his ability to win aerial duels and intercept as well. Up front, Thuram’s partners in-crime Alassane Plea and Patrick Herrmann have also been in top notch form in the Bundesliga. While Plea has 4 goals and 4 assists, Herrmann has the same number of goals and a couple of assists less.
In midfield, Florian Neuhaus and Lazlo Benes have been impressive. Matthias Ginter, who had a decent season last year, is their main man in defense. But the unsung hero of the team is arguably the man between the sticks, Yann Sommer. With sharp reflexes, he’s one of the best shot-stoppers in the league. Others have also been decent enough. While they’ve scripted success in the Bundesliga, they’re yet to replicate it in the Europa League. But one thing’s certain: Marco Rose’s men have the potential to challenge for the most coveted asset in German top flight football. Rose has been heaped praises upon by Liverpool manager, Jurgen Klopp who referred to him as the “most-hyped manager” when talking to Sky Austria. “I trust Marco in everything,” Klopp said in a video message. “Marco can have any job and could do any job too.” Marco is a genius and has proven it in his previous stints with other clubs, but can he awaken Borussia Monchengladbach to glory again? Only time will tell.
Written by Sujal Swain. Follow him now on Twitter and Facebook.