Niedermeier opens up on the Premier League clubs that almost signed him

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Georg Niedermeier might have donned the colours of Bayern Munich, VfB Stuttgart and Freiburg, racking up nearly 200 appearances in Germany’s top flight, but since young, he has always set his sights on the Premier League.

The “motherland of football”, the 33 year old hails it.

Born and raised in Munich, he came close to sealing his dream move to England at his time in Stuttgart and Freiburg, receiving offers from not one, not two, but multiple clubs.

“Crystal Palace, Norwich, Queens Park Rangers, Aston Villa were some,” he said.

“They were pretty good clubs, it would’ve been nice.”

Image Credit : Ngau Kai Yan

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But the timing was never right.

“I wasn’t playing regularly in Stuttgart so I was thinking of changing clubs in the winter. But just before the winter break we got a new coach again (Bruno Labbadia, in December 2010) and I was back in the squad again.

“You feel like being part of the club again. You realise in both (Stuttgart and Freiburg) that they had great fans and are great clubs, so I saw no point changing.”

Was he disappointed? Initially, yes, but when he looks back at it now, Niedermeier has no regrets.

“I will never say I have any disappointment now, the experiences I had with this job is priceless, you can’t pay for this. I’ve played my heart out on the pitch for the clubs I was at and met some awesome people along the way. I’m super happy with my career so far and it’s not over.”

Image Credit : Ngau Kai Yan

Having joined the Bayern Munich youth academy at nine years of age, he quickly progressed through the talent line to the U19s and then Bayern Munich’s second team in the fourth tier of German football. He departed to Stuttgart in 2003 after spending 15 years at Germany’s most successful club. He then spent a majority of his senior career at Stuttgart before making a short stopover at Freiburg before arriving at the shores of Melbourne.

Some of his friends and mentors based in Germany are big wigs in the football world, while others happen to naturally be World Champions.

“I mostly spend time with Sven Ulreich (back home) because we played together in Stuttgart for a long time. The rest are so busy, Mats (Hummels) has a kid now, (Thomas) Muller has his horses to play with, Manuel Neuer… he’s the same age as me.

“I’ll never forget that save he made against me in the 2013 DFB Pokal (German Cup). I still don’t know how he made that, won the game, and won the treble.”

While he blossomed into a decent European defender alongside the first wave of gems produced from Germany’s youth factory, he credits where he is today to Helrmann Gerland. After having a less than average stint as a manager before 2009, the “Tiger” occupied the touchlines as assistant manager for Pep Guardiola, Jupp Heynckes, Louis van Gaal, Carlo Ancelotti at their Bayern Munich stints.

“He’s old school, very rough, and it was not easy playing under him. For the first one and a half years we were fighting each other and that’s when I realised this would not bring me any further.

“But only when I accepted what is needed, I know he meant well. He meant all the things back then that will profit me from and until today I am still profiting. Guys like Thomas Muller, Holger Badstuber, Mats Hummels, they all went through his experience and see how they are doing in the Bundesliga now.”

Georg’s well trodden career has taken him from the highs of winning a Champions League game with Stuttgart, successfully saving them from relegation, to the lows of being cast to the Freiburg second team. But in all of his time in Europe, he name-checked Lionel Messi as the best player he ever faced.

“(Robert) Lewandowski when he was at Dortmund was impressive, but Lionel Messi is still top,” he said.

Niedermeier then recalls how a 22-year-old Messi scored the opener in Barcelona’s 4-0 thrashing of Stuttgart.

“He took the ball from the halfway line, dribbled through the midfield. Matthieu (Delpierre) and I were both coming at him fast but he just shot near the box at that angle. Jens Lehmann in the goal couldn’t even get close to the ball and because of Messi’s performance, that was pretty much the game. Very impressive.”

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However, the hustle and bustle of European matches and controlling club schedules is something Niedermeier was more than happy to forego in Australia.

“Here you can sleep at your own home, get up, bike to the beach to have a walk, get to the game at six. Of course you have to be mentally prepared to do it your own way, whereas in Europe the clubs try to make it the best way for you, but it’s not always the best way for an individual like me.”

Niedermeier misses his daily Weisswurst Frühstück and has concerns about the bike lanes in Melbourne, but has more than embraced his short stay here so far.

“You can do everything in Melbourne, that’s what I appreciate and what I missed in the past few years in Freiburg because it was a bit too small for me. I live in St Kilda, so this is the first time in my life I’ve had the opportunity to live close to the beach, and it’s so nice.

“I’ve tried so many cafes, been to markets in many suburbs but I’m far from done. I was always away from my hometown Munich, this time it’s a bit further away but I appreciate the different culture and experiences. I personally can create and profit from that as a person.”

Image Credit : Ngau Kai Yan

Feature Image Credit : Ngau Kai Yan

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Ngau Kai Yanhttp://ngaukaiyan.com
Journalism undergrad at Monash University, Kai is a multimedia journalist covering Melbourne Victory. Manchester United and Borussia Dortmund. Once "stole" Shinji Kagawa's plane ticket.