We look at five Brits who made an impact in the Bundesliga
We look at five Brits who made an impact in the Bundesliga

Bundesliga: From Kevin Keegan to Owen Hargreaves - five British players who made their mark in Germany

Lots is talked about the current crop of British youngsters playing in Germany, but what of the established names of the 1970s, '80s, '90s and even 2000s?

Jadon Sancho left England for Germany as a 17-year-old, one of 13 British players to make that same move since 2016, and has since become a star of European football.

But the Bundesliga wasn't always a place young footballers of these shores simply to looked to as somewhere to cut their teeth.

Just as Sancho's transfer from Manchester City to Borussia Dortmund seemed to opened the door for his peers to follow suit, it was another English forward's decision to swap the north west for Germany's top flight in 1977 that triggered a similar migration.

And that man is first on our list of five Brits who made their mark the Bundesliga.

Kevin Keegan - Hamburg: 1977-80

Kevin Keegan (left) at Hamburg alongside Manfred Kaltz (cente) and Casper Memering
Kevin Keegan (left) at Hamburg alongside Manfred Kaltz (cente) and Casper Memering

Kevin Keegan's switch from Liverpool to Hamburg in the summer of 1977 was for a British record £500,000, and a fee that was nearly twice the previous German transfer record.

He arrived as the European Footballer of the Year (or Ballon d'Or) runner-up, from the reigning European champions, and as one of the sport's first major superstars.

Hamburg on the other hand had never won the Bundesliga, although they had just lifted the Cup Winners' Cup, but they were able to attract Keegan thanks to a sudden influx of cash.

Kevin Keegan - Top 5 Goals

Huge backing from Japanese manufacturing firm Hitachi meant the England international's annual salary reportedly skyrocketed from £12,000 to a mammoth £250,000.

During his three years with 'Der Dino', Keegan won the Ballon d'Or twice, while also helping the club win a first Bundesliga title and reach the European Cup final.

He became a true fans' favourite.

Keegan even released the single 'Head Over Heels in Love' in 1979 to reflect the mutual admiration he and the city's people had for one another. To this day, murals and banners of 'Machtig Maus' (Mighty Mouse) still adorn the hipster German city.

Even if we weren't going chronologically, for impact, he'd simply have to top our list.

Oh, and that perm by the way...

Tony Woodcock - Cologne: 1979-82 & 1986-88

Tony Woodcock in action for Cologne
Tony Woodcock in action for Cologne

While his time in the Bundesliga may not have resulted in the personal awards and winners' medals that it did for so many on this list, Tony Woodcock made a huge impression in Germany.

The England striker swapped Nottingham Forest for Cologne a few months after the first of Brian Clough's side's back-to-back European Cup triumphs, for what at the time was a hefty £600,000.

It was, in fact, his performances against the German club during Forest's unlikely run to European glory that prompted them to sign him in the first place.

Woodcock was a big hit during his initial two-and-and-half-year spell, forming a lethal partnership with legendary West German forward Dieter Mueller.

The Billy Goats narrowly missed out on major honours three times: defeat in the 1980 German Cup final, semi-final agony in the UEFA Cup the following year and runners-up spot in the Bundesliga in 1982.

Arsenal then took Woodcock back to England, and after topping the Gunners' scoring charts in three out of four seasons, he returned to Mungersdorfer Stadion in 1986.

He was given a hero's reception.

Although a serious knee injury, sustained during his time in north London, meant his second spell lacked the punch of his first, he would finish with a record of 47 goals from 155 Cologne appearances and achieve truly iconic status at the club.

'Kolschen Englander' (the Colognian Englishman) is revered in a city which remains his home.

Murdo MacLeod – Borussia Dortmund: 1987–91

Dortmund's Murdo MacLeod (left) grapples with Bayern Munich's Radmilo Mihajlovic
Dortmund's Murdo MacLeod (right) grapples with Bayern Munich's Radmilo Mihajlovic

In Scotland, aside from his trophy-laden spell at Celtic, Murdo MacLeod is perhaps best remembered for being knocked out cold by a vicious free-kick from Brazilian full-back Branco at Italia 90.

But in Germany, he was Borussia Dortmund's first of two Glaswegian generals; we'll come on to the second in a moment.

A fall-out with Celtic bosses over the cancellation of his testimonial saw MacLeod swap Parkhead for Westfalenstadion in the summer of 1987 for a sizeable £250,000 fee.

And he immediately showed Dortmund what they'd gained and the Hoops had lost, by helping dump his former side out of the UEFA Cup just two months into his stint in black and yellow.

Having arrived as an all-action, goalscoring midfielder, he returned his physicality for the technical requirements of the German top flight, becoming a more defensive, holding player.

MacLeod would go on to make 103 Bundesliga appearances - it remains the most by any Scottish player.

He returned home with German Cup and German Super Cup winners' medals, and having left a sizeable impression during his four-year stay.

Paul Lambert - Borussia Dortmund: 1996-97

Dortmund's Paul Lambert (left) battles for the ball with Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
Dortmund's Paul Lambert (left) battles for the ball with Manchester United's Ole Gunnar Solskjaer

In similar fashion to Tony Woodcock, Paul Lambert's Bundesliga move came about after he piqued the interest of an opposition coach.

Having taken the somewhat risky decision to leave Motherwell without a new employer lined up, the midfielder was offered trials at two clubs: PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund.

Luckily for both Lambert and Die Schwarzgelben, his tryout in the Netherlands didn't lead to anything, and so Ottmar Hitzfield snapped him up largely on the basis of what he'd come up against in the previous campaign's UEFA Cup.

I say lucky for Dortmund because that season would culminate in a little known Scottish midfielder becoming a Westfalenstadion legend.

After one of just two Lambert goals in his 64 appearances for the club had helped see off Manchester United in the Champions League last four, he was named man of the match in the final as Dortmund lifted the European Cup for what remains the only time in their history.

Not only did he create one of Karl-Heinz Riedle's two goals in a 3-1 win over Juventus, but most crucially the Glaswegian marked the Italian giants' superstar Zinedine Zidane out of the game.

Lambert holds a place in pub quiz folklore - both the first British player to win the trophy with a foreign club, and the first British player to win it since its 1992 Champions League rebrand.

A few months later he was back in Scotland to embark on an eight-year spell at Celtic, but those 18 months in Germany undoubtedly defined his career.

Owen Hargreaves - Bayern Munich: 2000-07

Owen Hargreaves in action for Bayern Munich
Owen Hargreaves in action for Bayern Munich

Owen Hargreaves takes a unique place in our list having started his professional career in Germany.

Born and raised in Canada, but eligible to play for England through his father, Hargreaves left Calgary for Munich at the age of 16.

And what a spell he had at Bayern. He's by far and away the most decorated British player to have played in the Bundesliga.

Barely out of his teenage years, the midfielder collected Bundesliga and Champions League winners' medals in his breakthrough season of 2000/01.

He would go on to make more than 200 appearances for the Bavarian giants, adding three further top-flight titles and lifting the German Cup in each of those campaigns too.

While the World Cup would end in familiar penalty shootout pain for England, Hargreaves was a shining light throughout 2006 - and he scored his spot-kick in that defeat against Portugal, too - which saw him named England's Player of the Year.

Although he did later win another Champions League and a Premier League title at Manchester United, horrendous injury problems meant German football certainly saw the best of him.

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