As Eintracht Frankfurt set foot in Seville for the Europa League final, they represented the Bundesliga. More than anything, this year, it was important that they won it.
Bayern Munich, the usually reliable torchbearers of German football, had been unceremoniously dumped out of the Champions League by last season’s UEFA Europa League winners Villarreal; Borussia Dortmund had been dumped out of the Champions League in the group stage, hammered by Ajax; Wolfsburg ended up firing Mark Van Bommel as their campaign went down the drain. In the Europa League, Leverkusen and Leipzig both showed promised only to lose before the final as well.
There was a chance that Leipzig would be in the final; they led Rangers from the first leg; a drop in form coincided with the second leg and they were not in the final. Leipzig being in the final might not have been a true representation of the Bundesliga — Leipzig is not a traditional German side unlike Eintracht Frankfurt.
But there is something more to be said about Frankfurt aside from the fact that they are steeped in tradition. Take the passionate fan base, who turned Camp Nou into their home ground. For this match, the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan once again reminded us of just how much the Frankfurt fans care; their voices, through all the tension, kept singing till the very end.
But there is even more to be said. Frankfurt is quite a wonderful team; commentators notably mention their poor finish in the Bundesliga this season; yet, what is forgotten is, had Adi Hütter’s impending departure for Borussia Mönchengladbach not been revealed last season, Frankfurt might already have had been in the Champions League. There is so much steel in this team, particularly under Oliver Glasner — Martin Hinteregger, Sebastian Rode, and Makoto Hasebe (a Bundesliga winner with Wolfsburg in 2009) are three veterans who come to mind. And there is so much flair in the likes of the loanee from Dortmund, Angsgar Knauff, Daichi Kamada and of course, the star of the team, Filip Kostic.
I have watched Frankfurt throughout this campaign and, aside from this particular match, they have put together some rather wonderful displays. But most of all, I want to focus on Rafael Santos Borré. Borré was brought in to replace André Silva, a striker who scored 28 goals in Frankfurt’s campaign in 2020/21. Silva went to Leipzig because he wanted more; Leipzig was meant to be a step up. Borré only scored eight goals this campaign. Yet, his passion and skill was there for all to see as he scored against Barcelona in the quarters, West Ham in the semis and today, the two most vital goals for Frankfurt including the final penalty of the match. He wanted this. Of course he did. He will go down in history as a Frankfurt legend.
As will Kevin Trapp — discarded by PSG and at number three or lower in the German national side for the keeper role, he showed today how consistently good he is, pulling off an unbelievable save to keep Frankfurt in the game with two minutes of extra time remaining.
Overall, Frankfurt did what Bundesliga teams fail to do time and again — win tournaments. No team aside from Bayern from Germany has won a European trophy since 1997. We got in Dortmund’s way in 2013 but finals have been lost along the way (Leverkusen lost the Champions League final in 2002, Werder Bremen the UEFA Cup final in 2009).
Frankfurt has won the DFB-Pokal in recent memory and has also added a European trophy to their name, I doubt Frankfurt will fear anybody going into the Champions League. They have an identity under Oliver Glasner who prefers defensive solidity; Frankfurt’s backline, despite what happened in the league this season, is quite sturdy.
Moreover, the Bundesliga, consistently regarded as a one-team league and criticized by some regarding “50+1”, ownership by the fans, has some respite for now. There is another German team on the map tonight thanks to Frankfurt. Also, there is something to be said about fan ownership — the Frankfurt fans shared the cup with their supporters; I doubt they would have toppled Barcelona at Camp Nou without these supporters.
I tip my hat off to Eintracht Frankfurt who caused my nerves considerable damage for over 120 minutes. I tip my hat off to Rafael Borré who showed what passion can do in a game such as today. I tip my hat off to a German club that knows how to come back from behind and win a game. Maybe, just maybe, the likes of Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund will learn a lesson or two.
For now, I leave you with this:
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