The Bundesliga season is just a matter of days away, so it’s time to preview every side ahead of another exciting campaign. Today… SC Freiburg.
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The Story of Last Season
Even Union Berlin’s improbable qualification for the Europa League was overshadowed by the performance of SC Freiburg last season. The provincial club from the Black Forest didn’t just wow the division by coming within 3 points of the Champions League, but SC Freiburg even made it all the way to the DFB-Pokal final – bowing out only after 120 minutes and 8 penalty kicks.
With smart summer business, and the enigmatic Christian Streich at the helm, SC Freiburg will now look to kick on another gear in their first full season in the Europa-Park Stadion. Will they have enough to master a congested fixture list and the loss of their star player?
The Star Player
Vincenzo Grifo, Matthias Ginter, and even the super-sub Nils Petersen are all worthy candidates, but any selection that doesn’t begin with C and end with hristian Streich isn’t worthy of featuring in this selection.
The 57-year-old is now in his 27th season at the club and 12th as the first-team head coach. In that time he’s done a remarkable job of stabilising a yo-yo club in the upper regions of the Bundesliga table. Only once in Christian Streich’s decade-plus at the helm have Freiburg been relegated from the top-flight, and even then they immediately sprung back up as second-tier champions.
The U-23 Player to Watch
SC Freiburg is a destination of choice for young talent looking to make their Bundesliga breakthrough, and 20-year-old Kevin Schade could be the next bright spark to master the Christian Streich ‘Fußball-Schule’.
A Potsdam native who signed with Freiburg in 2018, Schade was a constant threat on the wings of Freiburg’s 3-4-3 formation. He ended last season with an impressive 24 appearances and 7 goals in all competitions.
Clocked at 36.37 km/h Schade was the third fastest player in the topflight last year, but his game is far more nuanced than just elite speed. Schade regularly uses sharp turns and fakes to pose a threat from either flank, and the German-Nigerian isn’t reliant on his stronger right foot like other wingers.
Injuries are perhaps the biggest threat to his career, however. A tricky abdominal strain currently sees him sidelined for 140 days and counting, but the fact that Freiburg rejected an enormous bid of €15 million from Brentford this summer goes to show just how highly Christian Streich rates the talented winger.
Nico Schlotterbeck may have departed the Black Forest after 6 seasons at the club, but fans of SC Freiburg can still look forward to seeing another namesake in the backline next season – his brother Keven.
The elder of the two, 25-year-old Keven Schlotterbeck has a big season ahead of him after spending much of last year looking on from the sidelines. The combination of his Olympics participation, and Freiburg’s dominant initial displays meant Keven went from 18 league starts in 20/21 to just 3 last season.
Thus, many expected the 3-time German international to depart over the summer, but to the surprise of many, Keven instead opted to prematurely extend his contract at the Europa-Park Stadion.
Perhaps the demands of 3 competitions, and the fact that he is the only remaining left-footed center back in the squad, convinced the 25-year-old that he will feature more often next year.
The Key Signing
Three transfers stand out in a summer where Freiburg have spent modestly, but astutely. Daniel-Kofi Kyereh was arguably the player of the season in the Zweite Bundesliga. His 22 goal contributions in 29 matches were a key reason FC St.Pauli spent 14 matches at the top of the table.
Ritsu Doan’s 8 goals for PSV last season are perhaps slightly less impressive, but the Japanese international’s prior loan to Arminia Bielefeld should fill Freiburg fans full of confidence with his ability to adapt to the Bundesliga.
SCF’s key signing, though is Matthias Ginter. A World Cup winner with almost 300 Bundesliga appearances, the 28-year-old center back wasn’t just an elite talent Freiburg were able to prize away from the likes of Atletico Madrid, and Inter Milan, but he’s also a former graduate returning to the Black Forest in his prime.
Ginter’s re-signing is a massive signal that SC Freiburg are preparing to take the next step, retaining their talent and regularly challenging for European places.
The Key Departure
There’s truly only one selection here, with the departure of Nico Schlotterbeck leaving a gaping hole in the Freiburg backline. Kicker.de’s decision to rate Nico the second-best player in the league last season should tell you everything you need to know about the magnificent performances from the BVB-bound defender.
Routinely driving possession forward, taking risks in possession, and willing to step out of the backline to address danger higher up-field made Schlotterbeck the prototype for a modern left-sided centerback in a progressive 3-4-3.
Matthias Ginter is a strong replacement with valuable European experience, but it’s hard to argue that Nico won’t be missed in the upcoming campaign.
The Season Verdict: 6th Place
With the Freiburg of the past, one would predict a massive regression and descent down the table after the performances last year. However, this time around all the signs point to Christian Streich’s outfit sustaining their ability to compete for European places in the Bundesliga.
Bar Nico Schlotterbeck the core of the side has remained in tact, and sporting director Jochen Saier has made solid summer additions that can immediately step into the side and compete towards the top end of the table.
By: Adam Khan / @XxAdamKhanxX
Featured Image: @Juanffran / Getty Images