The German Bundesliga is the highest-attended soccer league in the world and there’s a good reason for that. It’s simply because the league’s featured some of the world’s best players since its inception back in 1963. A total of 54 teams have played in the top-tier of German soccer with Bayern Munich being the best of the bunch with 26 titles to their name.
This list deals with the top-10 Bundesliga players of all time from 1963 to 2017. Not surprisingly, the list is dominated by former German internationals and Bayern Munich players. These players have all performed at an elite level for both their clubs and country and will go down in history as the best of the Bundesliga for years to come.
10. Michael Ballack
Former German international Michael Ballack was named Europe’s best midfielder in 2002 for his performances with Bayer Leverkusen. He was named the footballer of the year in his homeland three times and scored 42 goals in 98 matches for Germany. Ballack also played with Chemnitzer, Kaiserslauten and Bayern Munich in his homeland and enjoyed a four-year stint with Chelsea in the English Premier League between 1995 and 2012. Ballack was an excellent passer with a goalscorer’s touch and won four league titles and a German Cup during his career along with several trophies in England. Ballack could basically do it all and finished his Bundesliga days with 117 goals in 456 games while netting 148 in 648 appearances in all club competitions during his career.
9. Oliver Khan
Goalkeeper Oliver Khan hated to lose and fans could easily see that during games by watching him berate his own players and take charge of things inside the 18-yard box. He made his pro debut in 1987 with Karlsruhrer and stayed with the club until 1994. He then signed for Bayern Munich and became a household name among soccer fans around the world until retiring in 2008. He appeared in 557 league games and 780 club matches in all competitions. Khan helped his teammates haul in eight league titles, six domestic cups and a Champions League crown. Khan was a fearless keeper who wouldn’t hesitate to come charging off of his goal line to rush opposing shooters. He also played 86 times for Germany from 1995 to 2006 and was named the best player at the 2002 World Cup.
8. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge
Center-forward Karl-Heinz Rummenigge spent a decade in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich from 1974 to 1984 before testing the waters in Italy and Switzerland. The former German international then called it a day and hung up his boots in 1989. Rummenigge won three Golden Boots in the Bundesliga as well as two league titles and German Cups. He helped Bayern Munich win two European Cups and an Intercontinental Cup and was named European Footballer of the Year on two occasions. The striker also played 95 times for his homeland and netted 45 goals, helping West Germany conquer Europe in 1980. Rummenigge ranks number 11 on the Bundesliga’s all-time scoring list with 162 goals in 310 matches. He’s still currently in the league as the chairman of Bayern Munich.
7. Sepp Maier
Sepp Maier of Bavaria is the second goalkeeper on the list and was a one-club man during his Bundesliga career. Maier played with Bayern Munich from 1962 to 1980 and appeared in 536 league games. Like Oliver Khan, he was also Germany’s national keeper and suited up 95 times for his homeland, winning the European Championships in 1972 and World Cup in 1974. Maier had the pleasure of playing on the same team as some of the Bundesliga’s other top stars such as Gerd Muller and Franz Beckenbauer and they helped Bayern capture three straight European Cups. Maier also managed to play a league record 442 Bundesliga games in a row and won four Bundesliga championships and German Cups. He was also a three-time German footballer of the year.
6. Robert Lewandowski
The only foreign-born player on the list is Polish international striker and captain Robert Lewandowski. He’s also the only active player. The prolific striker currently ranks as the Bundesliga’s 13th top scorer with 159 goals in 234 games as of Oct. 6, 2017. Lewandowski scored 78 goals and won three Golden Boots in his homeland before signing with Borussia Dortmund in 2010. Since moving to Germany, he’s won two more Golden Boots, led the German Cup in scoring twice, was named to the Bundesliga Team of the Year on three occasions and won the Bundesliga Player of the Year Award once. He also won two league titles, a German Super Cup and German Cup with Dortmund before moving to Bayern Munich in 2014. He’s added three more league titles, and another German Cup and Super Cup since then. The six-time Polish player of the year has the second-best goals-per-game ratio in Bundesliga history for its top 50 scorers at .68.
5. Uwe Seeler
Forward Uwe Seeler was one of the Bundesliga’s best goalscorers, with 137 tallies in 239 matches to rank 19th all time. He was well known for his ability in the air as well as his power and consistency. He spent his entire pro career between 1953 and 1972 with Hamburg. Seeler chipped in for the West German national team as well with 43 goals in 72 games and his leadership qualities saw him skipper his sides for both club and country. In total, Seeler scored 404 goals in 476 matches with Hamburg, which ranks him as the second-best striker of all time in Germany behind Gerd Muller. However, the first nine years of his career were spent in the old Oberliga, before the Bundesliga was formed in 1963. Seeler won a league title and German Cup during his career as well as a Golden Boot and was a three-time German footballer of the year.
4. Lothar Matthaus
Lothar Matthaus is known as being one of Germany’s best ever midfielders for both club and country during his career from 1979 and 2000, which also saw him play four years in Italy. Matthaus starred for Borussia Mönchengladbach for the first five years in the Bundesliga and also spent a dozen years with Bayern Munich. He managed to capture seven league titles and a trio of German Cups as well as being named Germany’s player of the year and Europe’s player of the year on two occasions each. In addition, he was the first recipient of FIFA’s World Player of the Year Award in 1991 and the only German ever to win it. Matthaus was known for his versatility, passing, shooting and tackling, which made him such a complete footballer. He won a World Cup and European Championship with West Germany while scoring 23 goals in 150 matches for his country. Matthaus scored 121 Bundesliga goals in 464 contests.
3. Jupp Heynckes
Jupp Heynckes ranks number three on the all-time scoring list in the Bundesliga with 220 goals in 369 games for a scoring ratio of .60 goals per game. Heynckes career kicked off the same year the Bundesliga did back in 1963 and it lasted until 1978. However, his team didn’t join the Bundesliga until 1965. He spent his first four seasons with Borussia Mönchengladbach before moving to Hannover for three seasons. Heynckes then returned to Mönchengladbach for his final eight campaigns before getting into management. In total, he scored 327 goals in 501 games in all competitions and added 14 more in 39 matches with West Germany. Heynckes won four league titles, a German Cup and a UEFA Cup during his career along with a pair of Bundesliga Golden Boots. He also captured the European Championship and World Cup with his homeland.
2. Gerd Muller
The all-time top scorer in the Bundesliga is former German international striker Gerd Muller. He banged in 365 goals in 427 outings for a league-best goals-per-game ratio of .85. Muller had a lethal scoring touch around the net and also scored 51 goals from the penalty spot. He started his career in 1963 with TSV Nordlingen before signing with Bayern Munich the next season. Muller spent the next 15 years in Munich and then finished his career in America with two seasons in Fort Lauderdale. He won four Bundesliga titles, four German Cups, three European crowns and seven Golden Boots in Germany. He was also named European Footballer of the Year once and was the Golden Boot winner at the World Cup in 1970. Muller then scored the World Cup winner four years later for West Germany and won the European Championships in 1972. His national goal tally was an incredible 68 in 62 games for his country.
1. Franz Beckenbauer
The first modern sweeper was former German international Franz Beckenbauer, who could also play in the midfield. Beckenbauer won the European Footballer of the Year Award twice and scored 14 times in 103 games with West Germany. He’s one of just two men to win a World Cup as player and manager. Beckenbauer won several other international awards while playing in the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich and Hamburg. He also had two stints with the New York Cosmos during his career, which spanned from 1964 to 1983. With Munich, Beckenbauer won three straight European Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and four Bundesliga championships. He later managed Bayern Munich and became the club’s president. Beckenbauer was an elite defender, passer and organizer who also scored 94 career club goals and was rewarded for his greatness by being named the Bundesliga Player of the Year four times.