VfB Stuttgart: The Impossible Dream

It has been nothing short of a legendary Bundesliga season. From Bayern Munich’s dynasty coming to an end, Bayer Leverkusen winning an invincible double, Heidenheim achieving European football in their first-ever season in the German top-flight, there have been quite a few incredible storylines. However, perhaps the biggest shock has been the ‘rags-to-riches’ story of VfB Stuttgart.


Founded in 1893, Stuttgart boasts over 100,000 members, making it the largest sports club in Baden-Württemberg and the eighth-largest football club in Germany. Die Roten’s golden period began in the start of the 1950s, winning the German Championship in 1950 and 1952 and the DFB-Pokal in 1954 and 1958, whilst they would also claim the league title in 1984 after finishing level on 58 points with HSV and Gladbach, albeit ahead on goal differential.



The next few years would see them reach two European finals, win the Bundesliga in the first season since Germany’s reunification, and claim the DFB-Pokal in 1997. 10 years later, Stuttgart edged Schalke to the league title to claim their fifth championship, with the likes of Mario Gomez and Cacau wreaking havoc in attack. However, they would experience a steady decline — having missed out on top-flight football just twice in the 20th century, Stuttgart suffered relegation in 2016 and 2019.


Die Schwaben would return in impressive fashion with a ninth-place finish before regressing to 15th the following year. Stuttgart would sack Pellegrino Matarazzo after three years at the helm in October 2022 — whilst Matarazzo would quickly become Hoffenheim’s new manager, Stuttgart would hire Michael Wimmer and Bruno Labbadia before appointing Sebastian Hoeneß in April, who had spent the previous two years managing Hoffenheim.


It was an unenviable task for Hoeneß, who became Stuttgart’s fourth manager of the campaign, but he nevertheless managed to pick up 13 points from eight matches and secure a 16th-placed finish. They would face off against HSV in the two-legged promotion / relegation playoff, demolishing the second-tier side 6-1 to secure their place in the Bundesliga. What followed was a player exodus — Borna Sosa headed to Ajax, Kostas Mavropanos joined West Ham, and captain Wataru Endo made the move to Liverpool.


Konstantinos Mavropanos: West Ham’s Greek Defender


In turn, they would reinforce their side by bringing in the likes of Deniz Undav, Alexander Nubel, Maximilian Mittelstadt and Woo-yeong Jeong, whilst they also reunited Hoeneß with his former player Angelo Stiller. With a host of cut-price signings and loan deals, they would quietly lay the foundation for a successful campaign at the MHPArena.


Stuttgart kicked off their season with a bang, thrashing Bochum 5-0 and exhibiting an eye-catching style of play. Their midfielders were calm and precise with their through balls and chipped passes, their defenders remained firm and organized, and their wingers dazzled with their electric skills and sensational crossing ability, whilst their strike force dominated the final third.


Serhou Guirassy and Silas Katompa Mvumpa scored two goals apiece, Dan-Axel Zagadou added another, whilst Pascal Stenzel and Chris Fuhrich — the two wide players — both provided two assists. With the entire stadium jumping in unison and cheering on their team, it seemed to be the start of something new for Stuttgart, who picked up where they left off and continued to progress in their stellar form.



Having failed to convince on loan at Monaco, Nubel’s new adventure in Stuttgart would see him provide a solid presence in between the sticks, Waldemar Anton and Hiroki Ito would form a brick wall in defense, whilst the fullbacks — Mittelstadt and Jamie Leweling — would bomb forward and chip in with goals and assists. All in all, they had the second-most clean sheets in the league (12) and the joint-second-fewest goals conceded (39).


The midfield, meanwhile, would see Stiller and Enzo Millot form a dynamic partnership, whilst Atakan Karazor also emerged as a midfield enforcer. Stiller, a 23-year-old Bayern graduate, played his role with ample maturity and excelled in defensive duels as well as progressing the ball with proficiency. Stiller was capable of quickly moving the ball forward and progressing the attack, finishing the campaign with five assists and a goal, whilst Millot chipped in with five goals and four assists.


As far as the attack goes, Serhou Guirassy finished as the second-top scorer in the Bundesliga behind Harry Kane and chipped in 28 goals, whilst Deniz Undav and Chris Fuhrich offered 27 and 15 goal contributions, respectively.All in all, Stuttgart had a well-rounded squad with various players doing their job and making Hoeneß’ tactics work to perfection.


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They even made a deep run in the DFB-Pokal, thrashing lower-tier TSG Balingen before edging Union Berlin 1-0 and Borussia Dortmund 2-0. Despite taking the lead on two occasions, however, they failed to give Bayer Leverkusen their first loss of the campaign, with Jonathan Tah’s 90th-minute goal seeing Die Werkself advance to the semifinals.


Having kicked off 2024 with back-to-back losses to Gladbach and Hoffenheim, Stuttgart would bounce back by taking 35 points from 11 matches, beating Leipzig and Dortmund along the way, before falling to a 2-1 defeat at Werder Bremen. Next up was Leverkusen: Undav and Fuhrich scored after halftime, but Amine Adli would pull one back at the hour-mark, and Robert Andrich would equalize in the final second to keep their unbeaten record alive.


On May 4, Stuttgart found themselves in third place and with a golden opportunity to finish in the top two. Leonidas Stergiou opened the scoring for the hosts early on, but Kane would level the scoring for Bayern Munich from the penalty spot before the break.


However, Stuttgart would not quit and continued to dominate proceedings, but they were nevertheless unable to find a much-needed goal. Hoeneß would turn to his bench in the 72nd minute, bringing on January arrival Mahmoud Dahoud for defender Anthony Rouault, to help shore up the midfield, and putting on Jeong Woo-yeong for Fuhrich.


Jungen Wilden: VfB Stuttgart’s Glorious Wild Youth


Having struggled with injury throughout the campaign, Silas was introduced for Leweling in the 79th minute and quickly made an impact, teeing up Jeong with a tempting cross and enabling the Korean to head home against his former side. In the 93rd minute, Dahoud burst forward on the counter and delivered a through ball towards Guirassy, whose tackle beat Raphael Guerreiro to the ball. Whilst Dayot Upamecano crashed into his teammate Mazraoui, Silas was there to slot home and secure a historic victory.


After securing a first home win vs. Bayern since 2007, Stuttgart would proceed to edge Augsburg 1-0 with Guirassy opening the scoring after halftime before demolishing Gladbach 4-0 via a Guirassy brace and goals from Jeong and Silas. On that same day, Bayern would relinquish an early two-goal lead and fall to a 4-2 loss to Hoffenheim on the final day, and as a result, Stuttgart would end up finishing second in the Bundesliga table.


With Bayer Leverkusen beating Kaiserslautern in the DFB-Pokal Final, Stuttgart will now kick off the German football campaign by facing off against Leverkusen in the DFL-Supercup. They have a chance to win their first top-level silverware since 2007, and for the first time in 15 years, they will be competing in European football next season. With Hoeneß at the helm and a captivating array of young talent, Stuttgart may just have what it takes to be one of the revelations in next season’s UEFA Champions League.


By: @TSpec1al

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Neil Baynes – Getty Images