From Schalke 04’s infamous youth academy to representing both sides of Sydney, via a spell at Bayern Munich; Alexander Baumjohann has played in some fantastic teams in his career.
The 34-year-old, now playing in Sky Blue for Sydney FC, spent the vast majority of his career in the Bundesliga, but has also had a spell in Brazil.
After graduating from Schalke’s academy, Baumjohann joined Borussia Moenchengladbach. His impressive form for Die Fohlen earned him a move to giants Bayern Munich, where he rubbed shoulders with some of the best players ever to grace German football.
He returned to Schalke in 2010, where he won a DFB Pokal and played continental football. He later stepped down to the 2. Bundesliga with 1. FC Kaiserslautern for a season. Despite missing out on promotion in play-off defeat against Hoffenheim, Baumjohann earned a move back to the top flight with Hertha BSC.
In 2017, Baumjohann left Germany altogether and joined Brazilian first division outfit Coritiba. A hand injury kept him sidelined for much of the season, and he departed the club upon their relegation for Vitoria.
It was in 2018 that Baumjohann made the move Down Under to Western Sydney Wanderers, who at the time were under the stewardship of Markus Babbel. He was released at the end of his contract and joined Sydney FC, helping them to win both the A-League Premiership and Finals Series.
As part of so many high-profile teams, Baumjohann’s starting XI of former teammates is mightily impressive…
Goalkeeper: MANUEL NEUER
AB: “That’s easy, I think he’s the best goalkeeper of all-time! We played together for a long time at youth level in Schalke, and then after as professionals. For me he is the most complete ‘keeper and by far the best I have ever played with.”
Right back: RAFINHA
AB: “We played together back at Schalke. He’s playing in Brazil now but he also played for the Brazilian national team. He has won six or seven Bundesliga titles with Bayern [Munich].”
Centre backs: JEROME BOATENG and DANTE
AB: “On the right side I’ll put [Jerome] Boateng. We played together in the German youth national team. He’s played for a long time at Bayern and won lots of titles there. He is the best centre-back I ever played with.
“On the left side I’ll put Dante who also played at Bayern, but we also played together at Borussia Moenchengladbach.”
Left back: DAVID ALABA
AB: “He can also play in midfield, but I think as a left back he is probably top three in the world right now. He just got a move to Real Madrid but we played together at Bayern when he was very young, and we are still in touch and good friends.”
Centre midfielders: BASTIAN SCHWEINSTEIGER and IVAN RAKITIC
AB: “I would play with a six and an eight. One is Bastian Schweinsteiger – I don’t really need to say much about him! He retired two years ago and we played at Bayern together. He was a fantastic player and also played for many years at Germany. He won everything at Bayern and everything with the German national team. I will take him on one side.
“On the other side, I’ll take Ivan Rakitic. We played together at Schalke and he also played for Barcelona and is now back at Sevilla. I think this is a very good centre midfield, maybe a little too offensive, but I like offensive football!”
Attacking midfield: ALEXANDER BAUMJOHANN
AB: “I’ll play in front of those two [Schweinsteiger and Rakitic] so they can do the defensive work for me! Once they win the ball, they can give the ball to me.”
Wingers: FRANCK RIBERY and ARJEN ROBBEN
AB: “Left side, Ribery, I would say the best player I have ever played with. Unbelievable technique! He’s very small but so strong, it’s so hard to take the ball off him. His speed, dribbling and vision too.
“On the right wing I’ll have his partner in crime Arjen Robben. Everyone knows he just had a left foot. He was similar to Messi; he would always cut in on his left foot, but you could not really defend it even if defenders knew about it.
“I think those wingers are crucial and probably the best two wingers of the last decade or even more that have played in Germany.”
Striker: RAÚL GONZALEZ BLANCO
AB: “I was lucky enough to play with him at Schalke in his last year before he went to America. I think he played for 15 years at Real Madrid. We achieved a lot of things together like winning the German cup and reached the Champions League semi-finals.
“Like I said before, I think Ribery was the best player I ever played with quality-wise, but I think Raúl was the most complete player. He doesn’t really have one strength that is outstanding, he can just do everything. What I loved about him was that I never saw him make a wrong decision. Everything he does on the pitch, it’s the right decision.
“Such an unbelievable player but also such an amazing guy. With most of the players I just told you about I am not still in touch but with Raúl, we always kept in touch, and hopefully he has a similar coaching career ahead as to what he has done as a professional footballer.”
Coach: JUPP HEYNCKES
“He was the coach at Schalke who called me up to train with the first team when I was just 16 years-old and gave me a chance. I’d signed my first professional contract back then in 2004, and during my whole career he has always kept in touch and I could always ask him for advice. He is the main person in football when you want to talk about advice and things throughout my career. He’s like a father figure for me and also a very good coach. He won the Champions League with Bayern and lots of domestic titles.”
Image Supplied: Sydney FC