“At the top of the Bundesliga, these European giants are joined not by Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund or Schalke, but by lowly SC Paderborn 07.”
‘We are only four games into the new Bundesliga season but Paderborn’s rise to the top of the division is still remarkable. Just 10 years ago, this tiny club was playing in the regional league.’
When they achieved promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history last May, many expected them to remain rooted to the bottom of the table for a year. But their start has been explosive. Four games, two draws, and two wins, including a 3-0 thrashing of Hamburg.
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’This is a club from a town of only 150,000 people. Their Benteler Arena stadium has a capacity of just 15,000, with only 5,000 of those in seated areas.
‘When they line up against Munich on Tuesday night, the entire market value of Paderborn’s squad will be at about £20million – about half the value of Thomas Muller.
‘And yet it is Bayern who are quaking in their boots. Munich legend Franz Beckenbauer said this week that ’Bayern are only slight favourites, and that’s only because they’re playing at home,’ while Pep Guardiola didn’t hesitate to express his admiration for Paderborn.
‘We know why they are at the top of the table. They play aggressively. They have no pressure on them. It’s not a surprise.’
Paderborn’s success story has been led by two figureheads. The first is club president Wilfried Finke, a local furniture magnate who has pumped money into the club for nearly two decades.
‘Finke is characterised first by a slightly ruthless leadership, but also by an impressive football savvy. His managerial appointments have almost all been successful, with many, such as Jos Luhukay and Roger Schmidt, going on to bigger clubs.’
“The latest in that line is current coach André Breitenreiter. A far cry from the cult of the individual which surrounds Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp, Breitenreiter is a measured, considered manager. His tactical flexibility and his players’ mentality have been the foundation stones for the team’s early success.”
‘We don’t have a specific system, it is always about working out the best way to play against a certain opponent,’ says Breitenreiter. ‘I know that our boys go out together in the evenings, and that shows that this isn’t about 10 or 12 players playing well, it is about the whole team.’
For while individual players such as Elias Kachunga and Moritz Stoppelkamp have stood out for the goals they have scored, it is the team effort which has set Paderborn apart.
As they line up against Bayern on Tuesday evening, they know they are light years behind in terms of individual quality. But if they play as fearlessly as they have done so far, a shock result is no longer too hard to imagine.
Date: Tuesday, Sept. 23
Time: 7 p.m. BST, 2 p.m. ET
TV Info: ESPN (UK), GolTV (US)Read less