Jürgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund side may have run away with the title, but there was plenty of the weird and wonderful worth revisiting in the German league this season
So there you had it. For the third time in a row, an odd year saw an odd season, with a post-tournament, knackered and insufficiently strengthened Bayern wilting away to give others a shot.
It was all predictably unpredictable in that sense, but unlike in 2007 and 2009, when the ability to string a few wins together after the winter break was enough to rise above the mundane, one side's superlative performances from October onwards turned it into a procession. One or two wobbly games at the end feigned just the slightest amount of tension but this really was the most one-sided League since the German promo of All I Ever Wanted (Alter Ego Remix) was released in 2002 by the Human League on a 12-inch with nothing on the B-side.
Jürgen Klopp's Borussia Dortmund were the youngest-ever champions, the most exciting team in the competition, tactically the most sophisticated and most adept at getting the very maximum out of the squad. Hardly anyone could live with their pressing and lightning-fast turnovers. The Black and Yellows were to space what Takeru Kobayashi is to hot dogs: they ate it up until the opposition were blue in the face and going down with cramps.
Bayer Leverkusen took a more measured approach, as Jupp Heynckes successfully married his side's great technical potential with some defensive rigidity. The injury-stricken Michael Ballack hardly played but still proved an inspired buy: the combination of the 34-year-old midfielder and Bayer had "runners-up" written all over it, and so it came to pass.
The dethroned champions, meanwhile, completely lost their way amid a bewildering amount of positional changes, with Louis van Gaal stubbornly refusing to play anyone in their accustomed role. Away from home, they won only six games. "Take off their Lederhosen", the popular terrace chant, was sung with gusto by opposing fans, as Bayern's backside was exposed with alarming regularity.
Even stranger things were going on behind the Bavarian's behind, though. Hannover, Mainz, Nürnberg and Kaiserslautern finished unfeasibly high while yesteryear's champions (Stuttgart, Wolfsburg) and this year's Champions League participants (Schalke, Bremen) spent most of the season fighting against the drop.
The instant demise of newly promoted media darlings St Pauli was probably to be expected but Eintracht Frankfurt's fourth relegation in 15 years looked all but impossible at Christmas, when they were seventh. The "Eagles" managed only seven more goals in the second half of the season, however, to equal Tasmania Berlin's horror record of 1965-66. They went down like their electronic colleagues from Phoenix.
There was only one thing quicker and more difficult to predict than Dortmund's attacks: the sack race. Undistinguished campaigns from all but a few of the bigger names saw nervous chairmen axing down coaches on a Conan the Barbarian-scale. Thirteen bosses were dismissed or resigned, three more announced they would leave after the final match. We had teams coming up against a former manager who also happened to be the future manager, and teams playing against a future coach who also happened to be a former coach. The nomadic Felix Magath – he left Wolfsburg for Schalke in May 2010 and Schalke for Wolfsburg in April 2011 – almost managed to sit in two different dugouts simultaneously. Only six out of the 18 teams will start the next season with the same manager in charge.
In August, we will welcome back Hertha BSC Berlin and say a big hello to first-timers FC Augsburg. But in the meantime it's "pfirti, servus" from me. Have a very good summer. But first, the Honigstein Awards 2011
Neuer (Schalke); Piszczek, Hummels, Subotic (all Dortmund), Fuchs (Mainz); Robben (Bayern), Sahin (Dortmund), Vidal (Leverkusen), Götze (Dortmund); Gomez (Bayern) , Cissé (Freiburg)
3) Arturo Vidal, Leverkusen. The Chilean was a disaster in the 5-1 defeat away defeat to Bayern – coincidentally, that's also the club he wants to move to this summer. Apart from that minor mishap, however, the 23-year-old's box-to-box play was sublime, full of guile and effective: 10 goals and 12 assists in 31 starts. A world-class midfielder in the making.
2) Mario Gomez, Bayern, with 28 goals, including five hat-tricks. No Bundesliga striker has scored more in nearly 30 years. The 25-year-old could have easily improved on his tally with more care in front of goal and less dysfunctional build-up play from his colleagues.
1) Nuri Sahin, Dortmund. Borussia's triumph was first and foremost collective, but 22-year-old Sahin was first among equals. The Real-Madrid-bound Turk pulled the strings with a maturity that belied his age, popped up with decisive goals and shaped the champion's style. Not even three missed penalties – an offence that usually warrants capital punishment in German football – could detract from his excellence.
3) Thomas Müller v Wolfsburg. Keepy-uppy at full pace. And it's his weaker foot.
2) Mario Götze v Hannover. Not simply a wonderful individual effort but also the goal that effectively ended all doubts.
1) Sami Allagui v Bayern. The quintessential Mainz goal: superb movement and awareness from Lewis Holtby. Killer finish to boot.
Georgios Tzavellas's clearance-cum-shot from 73 metres past a befuddled Manuel Neuer bobbled in for the longest-distance goal in the history of the league.
1) FC Nürnberg. Staving off relegation looked the only realistic target for the Franconians. But Mehmet Ekici and Ilkay Gündogan struck up one of the best midfield partnerships in the league to provide the striker Julian Schieber with ammunition and protect a remarkably resilient back line. Fourteen different players pitched in with goals. The result? Sixth place.
2) Mainz 05. Thomas Tuchel's boy band were sensational, especially at the start of the season, when their all-action football led to seven wins on the trot. (Bayern, in 2001-02, and Kaiserslautern, in 1995-96, were equally quick out of the blocks; Dortmund won the league on those occasions, too) Fifth place was scant reward for their sophisticated pressing game.
3) Hannover 96. Mirko Slomka was the bookies' favourite for the first dismissal of the season. But the 43-year-old put a game plan (defensive pressing in their own half combined with quick, vertical balls to strikers) into practice that saw the squad perform well beyond its capabilities. The Lower Saxons nearly made the Champions League.
Shinji Kagawa. The Japanese attacking midfielder was brought in for €350,000 (£306,000) from Cerezo Osaka in Japan's second division. The 22-year-old played brilliantly before breaking his foot at the Asian Cup. Dortmund could easily sell him for €10m, if they were so inclined.
Diego. €15m for the pint-sized schemer seemed a bargain for Wolfsburg but the Brazilian's ego was much bigger than his impact. He took and missed penalties that he wasn't supposed to take and left the team hotel before the final game of the season, rather than sit on bench. A crying shame, considering his talent.
Heribert Bruchhagen. "We are seventh now and it would be stupid not to try to finish fifth," said the Frankfurt CEO in the winter break. "We can't go down." They could.
Steffan "Tiger" Effenberg. The former midfielder wanted to take over Borussia Mönchengladbach by democratic means but the club's members were not in the mood to endorse the "Stinkefinger" coup. Despite some very public campaigning, his initiative won only 335 of 4,769 possible votes at the AGM, some way short of the two-thirds majority necessary to remove the current president, Rolf Königs.
Hoffenheim's Icelandic midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson celebrated his opener against Bayer with a bizarre "I've been shot and will go down holding my crotch" routine. Asked about this disconcerting behaviour, the 21-year-old told reporters he had seen a digital version of himself doing just that in Fifa 2010 on the PlayStation. "I have no idea how they come up with it but decided to go with it now," he explained later. It was a case of life imitating (Electronic) art.
3) Bild. The tabloid had a big problem with Kagawa. "How the hell are we supposed to tell him apart from [Schalke's Japanese player] Atsuto Uchida?" it wondered.
2) An unnamed teacher. He – or she – asked authorities to look into the legality of Julian Draxler's performances for Schalke 04. The 17-year-old prodigy played a number of evening kick-off matches, in possible violation of employment law. Article 14 of the youth worker protection law states that minors are not allowed to work after 8pm. Permitted exceptions include baking, gastronomy, work in amusement parks or artistic performances – none of these categories would seem to fit football, let alone Schalke matches. Despite the legal uncertainties, the authorities didn't intervene. "It's not as if we're bussing in a coach-load of 15-year-olds to check tickets late at night," said a S04 spokesperson.
1) ZDF Sportstudio. It might have seemed a good idea at the time to ask Didier Ya Konan's wife to try her luck at the customary "Torwand" shoot-out in place of the injured Hannover striker. But handing the Ivorian a hand drum and getting him to play during proceedings – "it symbolises the African joy of life", anchor woman Katrin Müller-Hohenstein explained, helpfully – did go beyond the call of duty. Politically incorrect, gallopingly mad, car-crash television made in Tschermanny.
Uli Hoeness tried to unsettle Dortmund by conjuring up an uncomfortable image. "If I was wearing black-yellow pants, I wouldn't sleep soundly," said the Bayern president in light of Borussia's slightly less imperious run-in. "Hmm. I wonder what his pants looked like before he went to bed," Klopp shot back.
Matthias Sammer. "It was a flirt that was interesting for all those involved," the German FA's sporting director said about his aborted negotiations with Hamburger SV. "But it's a problem when one isn't careful. I have a love, that is the German FA. After five years, I fell a little bit for another setup. I was ready for a new setup. And maybe I was ready for a new love. But when I'm getting involved with a new love, I need to know all the details first."
"We won't batter them now," the Mainz general manager, Christian Heidel, was texting to a friend at half-time against Wolfsburg, when his side were 3-0 down. They didn't – but still came back to win 4-3.
4) Gregory van der Wiel, Ajax. ("We have Diego Contento")
3) Sami Khedira, Stuttgart. ("We have David Alaba")
2) Fábio Coentrão, Benfica. ("We have Diego Contento)
1) Nemanja Vidic, Manchester United. ("We have Holger Badstuber")
"Such crap, he's whistling for every mosquito bite, unbelievable," the Leverkusen sporting director, Rudi Völler, said about referee Deniz Ayetkin's performance. "Go and referee women's football."
Javier Pinola. Following a bit of handbags, TV pictures showed the Nürnberg left-back spitting on Bastian Schweinsteiger's head. Pinola's misdemeanour was reminiscent of Frank Rijkaard's liquid assault on Rudi Völler's perm at Italia 90 but even less warranted. If anything, Pinola's mad monk-meets-spandex rocker cut could have done with some lathering.
2) Roman Weidenfeller. "We have a grandios saison gespielt," the Borussia Dortmund goalkeeper told his similarly proficient interlocutor from Al-Jazeera TV.
1) Sky reporter post-match question to Steve McClaren: "We saw two different half-times. Was it magic speak?"
2) Neuer, Höwedes, Hummels and Özil take on the dreaded "Nutella curse" in fancy dress. (Previous players who have endorsed the product have tended to lose their form)
1) Football and wallpaper glue. A match made in advertising hell.
Uli Hoeness's "Nürnburger" campaign. (Hoeness, a successful sausage producer away from the pitch, tries to hawk his latest invention)
The age-old cry of "we wuz robbed" had a special, pertinent ring to it in the BayArena. After a narrow 3-2 defeat away in the local derby to Bayer Leverkusen, the Köln players returned to their dressing rooms to find most of their possessions missing. Thieves had somehow managed to take wallets, credit cards and mobile phones. Strangely enough, Lukas Podolski himself was untouched by this crime – "The boys have lost stuff but I've got everything," he told reporters. Police did not believe this was an inside job, however.
"We don't have enough points, not enough goals and concede too many goals" – Steve McClaren
"A kind of kick and rush without the rush" – Süddeutsche Zeitung
"They must have all smoked the same dope", TV reporter Reinhold Beckmann commented live on air
Pierre Littbarski. Well before his appointment as caretaker at Wolfsburg, the 1990 World Cup winner "Litti" was striking a forlorn figure on public transport.
"Signing a big manager would have smacked off panic" – the rationale of the Köln president, Wolfgang Overath, for appointing the Under-23s coach Frank Schaefer.
"Assholes without tradition to be put here" – Stuttgart at home to Hoffenheim
Christoph Daum. The Frankfurt coach was never short of a good line – or perhaps he was. The 57-year-old harped on about "audio-suggestion" (sic) and "neurolingualistic methods" (sic) but only managed to look utterly ridiculous in the process.
Thirty-three Chilean miners were rescued, one of them was called Mario Gomez. Bayern's Gomez wears the No33 shirt. So? "It wasn't a coincidence, it was fate," said the striker after registering a hat-trick against Hannover. The striker briefly pretended that he had received exactly 33 text messages after the match, too, but then changed his mind.
Felix Magath is well known for his eccentric taste when it comes to glasses but he took it to a whole new level when he borrowed a pair from Schalke's bus driver (model: Adidas Evil Eye) to hide an eye infection and followed that up for the match at Stuttgart with a black number that was equal parts Dr Octopus and Belarussian village pimp.
HSV captain Heiko Westermann and the St Pauli player Gerald Asamoah agreed that the loser in the derby would clean the winner's car – topless. The match finished in a draw.
2) A couple of Dortmund supporters hissed a 4m long Black & Yellow flag on top of the Schattenberg mountain (1,800m). The stunt had some worried people call in the mountain rescue service as they mistook the flag for a parachute.
1) The roof of the Schalke stadium caved in under the weight of snow after Christmas. Builders were sent up to repair the tear. Then the unthinkable happened: one worker raised a Dortmund flag on top of the structure. The Arena boss Ulrich Dargel was not amused: "This joke goes too far. This particular worker will never set foot on our building site again. He was supposed to get rid of the snow, not decorate our stadium." The man apparently told Dargel he had always dreamt about seeing the black and yellow flag on S04's stadium and calmly went home after getting rumbled. A hotel in Dortmund offered one year of free beer to the prankster, who never came forward.
Poor Hannover new boy Carlitos was on for his Bundesliga debut on matchday one. Thirty seconds into the game, he went in for a fifty-fifty tackle, managed to touch the ball, then ruptured his cruciate ligament.
"I feel as if I have a knife in the back," said the Köln goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon. "Jesus was betrayed and deceived, too."
Sven Ulreich. "There is no 'too young' or 'inexperienced' in football, only in street prostitution," said the Stuttgart goalkeeper.
"They had players who had more hair on their backs than on their heads. Obviously they have more experience," said Thomas Müller after Bayern's Champions League elimination by Internazionale.
Dortmund fans managed to wipe Schalke off the map, at least in one of their fanzines. The people behind schwatzgelb.de emailed Google under false pretences and asked for the Veltins-Arena to be excluded from the Street View service on grounds of privacy – and "ugliness". It didn't quite work.
Jakub "Kuba" Blaszczykowski had the ball at his feet and an empty net at his mercy.
SC Freiburg. They closed down a street outside the stadium to protect a rare breed of migrating toad.
This year's second most uncomfortable social network appearance by a football personality. Felix Magath's move to placate Schalke supporter's anger by opening his own Facebook page suffered from a less than convincing execution. The manager's cringeworthy video will be a rich source for parody for years to come.