Connect in the back of the net

With Hamburger SV in the bottom three, two points adrift of safety with eight games to go, the Bundesliga could realistically be about to lose its only ever-present club. Hamburg have played in each Bundesliga season since its inception in 1963 and, fifty-two years later, may be about to experience their first ever relegation having moved through three managers in a campaign that has seen them win just 6 games out of 26.

How much would those at the Imtech Arena be glancing at Alexander Meier with envious and regretful eyes as the Eintracht Frankfurt attacker has 19 league goals, three more than Hamburg have managed collectively, to add another chapter to his legend with The Eagles. Meier would be given his professional break with Hamburg after they signed him from St Pauli in 2003, but four senior appearances later he would move for a fee of just €500,000 to Frankfurt where he is now into his 11th season.

Over the course of that 11 years Meier has stuck with Eintracht through the good and the bad times whilst hitting 119 goals to position him behind Jurgen Grabowski, Bernd Nickel and Bernd Hozelbein on the list of Frankfurt’s highest ever scorers.

Meier’s haul has come over 329 games to leave him with a strike ratio of 0.36 and he is now closing in on Grabowski’s total of 137 which came over 526 games. On current form Meier should easily surpass it, his 19 goals for this campaign positions him as the Bundesliga’s current top-scorer, ahead of the more illustrious names of Robert Lewndowski, Mario Gotze and Kevin De Bruyne.

It is testament to Meier’s humility that he is reluctant to even entertain the idea of winning the Bundesliga golden shoe (the Torkanone), instead saying that Arjen Robben, two goals behind him on 17, is the favourite and that he would prefer to instead focus on his own game. That admission arrived after he scored twice to help beat his former club HSV in February to remind everyone what a major act of folly it was for the Lower Saxon club to relinquish the attacking midfielder so easily just over a decade ago.

Of course such an assessment can be made with the benefit of hindsight and Meier only reached double figures in a single season once for Frankfurt before they were relegated to the second tier in 2011. In the face of despair, Meier’s loyalty shone through, recalling “it seemed only natural for me to stay and help the team get out of the mire as quickly as possible.”  That he did with 17 goals in 31 appearances to help fire Eintracht back to the top-flight at the first time of asking, in the process earning himself the moniker of Fußballgott (football god) among the club’s support.

The adoration would only grow stronger in the following campaign as he notched 16 goals to secure a Europa League place for The Eagles who were under the experienced guise of Armin Veh. However the difficulties of balancing European competition with domestic affairs would see Frankfurt slide and Veh sacked, although he managed to avert the prospect of relegation.

In came ex-Werder Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf who at first left Meier on the bench for Frankfurt’s opening 3 games of the season. With a goal in his first appearance under the new boss, after only being afforded an opportunity due to an injury to summer signing Nelson Valdez, Meier has thrived in Schaaf’s adventurously attacking system and is looking like he could well be the first Eintracht player since Tony Yeboah, 21 years ago, to win the Bundesliga top-scorer award.

Often the unusual sight of a 6ft 6 inch framed-player appearing in a creative attacking midfield position where he could make use of his deviously tricky feet and clever vision, he has moved further up-front under Schaaf to partner Haris Sferovic in an attacking two. It is a partnership that has seemingly worked on the instruction of shoot on sight, with Meier registering a total of 79 shots to Sferovic’s 76, and has come together to great effect, only VFL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich, the league’s current top two, have scored more than Frankfurt’s 49.

It is shooting that Meier, despite being expected to be a veteran at the skill at the age of 32, is still devoting training sessions to. “My Dad taught me to shoot like that […] Roger Federer hits his forehand over and over again, even though he’s already perfected it. I’ve always practised” he said, referring to the technique of connecting sweetly with the in-step of his right-boot, a method that has become something of a trademark.

Many people will become far more familiar with Meier and his abilities should he remain in the goals over the course of Frankfurt’s last eight games and should he hold off the challenge of Robben for the Torkanone. Though, ever humble, he calls that prospect “unrealistic and probably wouldn’t be too fond of the attention that came with the cannon-shaped gong either. “I don’t feel like a star,” he told German website Kreiszeitung Wochenblatt. “I try to be professional and keep myself in the best shape possible.”

Hamburg are already familiar with Meier of course and could be about to vacate the Bundesliga whilst he finishes top-scorer with Frankfurt comfortable in mid-table. Just don’t expect him to get a call-up to the Germany national side, “You have to be realistic, there are better players out there. I’ve always just tried to go my own way.” Always the typically understated way of Alex Meier.


Written by Adam Gray

Follow Adam on Twitter @AdamGray1250

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