Neuer, Boateng and Hummels top kicker’s defensive rankings

The highly expected kicker Sportmagazin semi-annual rankings are out, with the first part looking at the goalkeepers and central defenders. 156 players received at least a mention, 17 more than last winter.

Similarly to the first half of the 2015-16 season, the outcome for the second half sees seven players making it into the “World Class” category. As usual, this “stock exchange” evaluation will generate among you dear readers differing opinions and several discussions.

As a reminder, a player is evaluated not based on his potential or his career achievement but on the performances from January 1 until July 10 (Euro final), receiving a minimum of nine grades for games played in the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal, Europe or internationals. The evaluation is also based on the position he held the most during that same period.


You have three guesses as to who is World Class in this category: Manuel Neuer! The FC Bayern keeper finds himself in this ranking for the 17th time running, 19th overall since making his first appearance 10 years ago.

All local and international experts agree: Neuer is the gold standard in the goalkeeping business. Some may say he failed to strongly punch away Pogba’s cross leading to the 0:2 against France. One should not forget that until then, he had not conceded a goal from open play, seeing the back of the net only on two penalty shots. His cool attitude was instrumental in the quarter-final qualification against Italy, saving the spot kicks of Leonardo Bonucci and Matteo Darmian.

He may often not have a lot to do during a game, but he provides confidence to his team, takes necessary risk when needed, and prevents many 100% goalscoring chances from opponents. He is also a game decider, as seen in the Pokal final against Dortmund, parrying crucially Sven Bender’s shot during the penalty shootouts.

There are 17 keepers that made the ranking this time, with VfB Stuttgart the only club not represented, as Przemysław Tytoń could not provide security behind the worse defense of the league, losing his place to sub keeper Mitchell Langerak.

Seven of them do not represent Germany, but the Bundesliga continues to produce the best keepers in the world, as Loris Karius and Ron-Robert Zieler will follow in the footsteps of Marc-André ter Stegen and Kevin Trapp playing abroad next season.

World Class

  1. Manuel Neuer – FC Bayern

International Class

  1. Bernd Leno – Bayer Leverkusen
  2. Loris Karius – 1. FSV Mainz 05
  3. Oliver Baumann – Hoffenheim
  4. René Adler – Hamburger SV
  5. Yann Sommer – Borussia Mönchengladbach
  6. Ralf Fährmann – Schalke 04
  7. Marwin Hitz – FC Augsburg
  8. Ron-Robert Zieler – Hannover

Further consideration

  1. Lukas Hradecky – Eintracht Frankfurt
  2. Timo Horn – 1. FC Köln
  3. Roman Bürki – Borussia Dortmund
  4. Ramazan Özcan – FC Ingolstadt

Mention: Koen Casteels – VfL Wolfsburg; Rune Jarstein – Hertha BSC; Christian Mathenia – Darmstadt; Felix Wiedwald – Werder Bremen.

Bernd Leno’s commanding performances in his club’s frantic end of season earned him a spot in the Mannschaft’s Euro squad.

Karius now enjoys a great reputation that earned him a transfer to Liverpool; this is thanks to improving his buildup from the back, and more precision in punting the ball, contributing to the third best defense since winter and his club qualifying to Europe. Baumann played the best half-of-season of his career, earning Hoffenheim precious wins and points against relegation.

Adler was the stronghold at the back for Hamburg. Sommer may not have surprised nor disappointed in the Bundesliga, but his highlights were at the Euro with Switzerland: Holding onto the 1:0 win versus Albania and keeping France at bay 0:0, crashing out only on penalties.

Central defenders

It is the very first time two players make it into World Class – and surely you recognize who they are: Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels. The press room at kicker was unanimous about the decision for what has been Joachim Löw’s fortress since 2014. They now get united as well at FC Bayern for next season.

Boateng commands an incredible presence in the back; he is hardly beatable in the air and on the ground, in addition to his accurately delivered diagonal passes. He showed that he had kept all his class after returning from injury, particularly during the Euro.

Hummels comes closely behind, erasing the doubts and little slip-ups seen earlier in the season. He impressed with his constant performances, with his valuable strong passes and playing buildup.

To see as many as 27 players listed in this category has only partially to do with the improvement in the quality of Bundesliga players; the main reason is because there has been a shift in tactics, with at least 10 clubs adopting a system with a three-men central defense.

World Class

  1. Jérôme Boateng – FC Bayern München
  2. Mats Hummels  – Borussia Dortmund

International Class

  1. Andreas Christensen – Borussia Mönchengladbach
  2. Javi Martínez – FC Bayern München
  3. Ömer Toprak – Bayer Leverkusen

Further consideration

  1. Sokratis – Borussia Dortmund
  2. Jonathan Tah – Bayer Leverkusen
  3. Aytac Sulu – SV Darmstadt 98
  4. Sven Bender – Borussia Dortmund
  5. Marvin Matip – FC Ingolstadt
  6. Joshua Kimmich – FC Bayern München
  7. Niklas Süle – TSG Hoffenheim
  8. Benjamin Hübner – FC Ingolstadt
  9. Stefan Bell – 1. FSV Mainz 05
  10. John Anthony Brooks – Hertha BSC

Mention: David Abraham and Carlos Zambrano – Eintracht Frankfurt; Leon Balogun – 1. FSV Mainz 05; Dominique Heintz, Dominique Maroh and Mergim Mavraj – 1. FC Köln; Sebastian Langkamp – Hertha BSC; Joel Matip – Schalke 04; Havard Nordtveit – Borussia Mönchengladbach; Slobodan Rajkovic – SV Darmstadt 98; Emir Spahic – Hamburger SV; Jannik Vestergaard – Werder Bremen

Christensen developed into an absolute performer in his first BL season, with very few mistakes, making him a much after-sought defender. Martínez was remarkable after his injury comeback, extremely strong in the air but with less presence than his team mate Boateng in the build-up from the back. Toprak made an encouraging comeback from injury: strong headers, great organizer and a defensive leader.

Kimmich’s versatility had advantages and disadvantages: The youngster had an impressive Euro at right-back, but played most of the times in the emergency role of central defender with decent displays but also a couple of mistakes; exemplary remains his Champions League performance against Juventus.

There was no place for Benedikt Höwedes whose moments came at the Euro against Italy and France, but not playing enough games to earn him a mention in the table. Absent is also Naldo who had a poor spell; his strong display in the first leg of the CL game against Real Madrid was not sufficient.

We resume soon with part two, focusing on three categories: Defensive wing, defensive midfield, and offensive midfield.

[su_label] Post editor: Michel[/su_label]