On the 1st of August 2008, the moon passed perfectly between the Sun and the Earth causing a full Solar Eclipse. Such an event is rare and requires the perfect positioning and alignment between three objects, that same year, Wolfsburg fans witnessed an occurrence almost as rare, if not, just as magical.
The signing of Zvjezdan Misimović from FC Nurnberg gave coach Felix Magath the trifecta of talent needed to challenge the Bundesliga, but not even the eccentric German could have predicted what would happen next.
At the Volkswagen Arena, he would join fellow Bosnian, Edin Džeko and Brazilian striker Grafite and the three components combined to great one of the great strikeforces in German football history.
Džeko had signed from Czech Republic side FK Teplice in 2007, scoring eight goals in 17 starts in his first season. His South American partner, 28 years old at the time, joined from Ligue 1 side Le Mans at the same time and he added 11 goals. Not a bad partnership, if not spectacular.
Misimović had caught the eye at Nurnberg, despite being unable to help them avoid relegation. The hope was that his vision and creativity to help the front two add to their goal tally, what happened next would exceed all expectations.
The Brazilian and Bosnian strikers would combine for 54 league goals, a Bundesliga record at the time. Neither player featured in every league game, with Džeko adding 26 in 29 starts and the elder of the two firing in 28 times in just 25 games. 13 of those goals were assisted by Misimović. The Bosnian midfielder added another seven to the rest of the team, setting another league record with 20 assists.
This was a great wolfsburg side. Misimovic, Dzeko, Grafite and Hasebe https://t.co/HuRPMgC1ZJ
— Ricky (@Rickyboshe) September 9, 2015
Grafite played the role of the typical Brazilian No.9, the one that every club dreamed of signing. Strong, with great balance, he was deadly inside the box, and looked a step ahead of every defender in Germany.
Not looking to burst the ball with every effort, the forward would place his finishes, finding the corner, giving the ‘keepers no chance of recovery. For all their good play, they went into the winter break in ninth position. Hoffenheim were the story of the season, leading the division after just winning promotion to the top-flight.
However, Grafite’s equaliser away at FC Cologne in Week 18 sparked a run of 10-straight wins, no one in the league could match it. Averaging 2.6 goals per game, the Brazilian scoring 10 times. Included in that run was a magnificent, almost unbelievable 5-1 win over Bayern Munich, the striker would score twice that day, his second later crowned the goal of the season.
Advancing down the left, he would reach the penalty area unchallenged. Grafite then took seven touches to score. Six of them bamboozled the Bayern defence, weaving inside in out, beating two players and rounding the goalkeeper, before his last, the cheekiest back heel you will ever see, found the bottom corner. Just fast enough to cross the line, but slow enough to tease and torture the Bayern defenders.
Philip Lahm, perhaps one of the best defensive players of his generation, was left beaten and red-faced by the Brazilian’s dazzling footwork and finish.
His Bosnian team-mate was everything Grafite could want in a strike-partner, scoring all types of goals that season. Headers, tap-ins, sticking out a foot in the right place at the right time. Away at Hannover, he would delightfully take a high pass on his chest on the edge of the box before smashing it perfectly on the half-volley and into the roof of the net. He too would net in the game against Bayern, cushioning a return ball from Misimović with the outside of his right foot before finishing low past Michael Rensing with his left.
“They both have pace and an eye for goal, but because they’re so close they are not selfish. Always, always they look for their partner if they have a better chance of scoring,” former Germany midfielder Torsten Frings told Goal.com during that wonderful season.
“They’re not like a target man and a penalty box striker partnership – instead they play a very similar game, so much so that it’s identical sometimes. But because they work so well together they get great results.”
Crazy how Grafite+Dzeko helped wolfsburg win Bundesliga that year https://t.co/HOA7rUJliC
— Minus (@SalehNeRd) October 11, 2016
Jurgen Klinsmann had taken over from Ottmar Hitzfeld that summer, but with just seven away wins and poor performances in the big games, the former Spurs striker was sacked just a few weeks after they were humbled at Wolfsburg. Magath had also been sacked by FC Hollywood just two years previously, so the moment they climbed above their rivals in Week 26, would have been sweeter than most.
Although they lost twice after that game, a 3-0 win over Borussia Dortmund, 5-0 away at Hannover and a final day 5-1 thumping of Werder Bremen sealed their first ever Bundesliga title.
“Joy, a lot of joy. It was a fantastic year for everyone who was involved in this triumph,” Grafite told German magazine Kicker years later. “A great run with the title at the end. Unforgettable!”
Like most of these stories, the team and the players never go on to replicate their success. Misimović ended up playing in China after a spell at Galatasaray. Grafite headed to Dubai in 2011, joining Al Ahli at the age of 32.
Magath left for Schalke that summer, returned in 2011 before he too ended up in China. For Džeko, he finished the Bundesliga’s top scorer the following season despite the others not matching his improvements. That led to his January transfer to Manchester City in 2011. Often deemed as a flop, he scored 50 goals in 130 Premier League games, 14, 14 and 16 in his three full campaigns.
Since that very day, no club outside of Bayern Munich or Dortmund has lifted the Bundesliga title. Perhaps, just like the solar eclipse, it’s time for some magical to happen in Germany.