Football is not always a beautiful game; sometimes bookings are necessary. This season was no different in Germany, even if statistically player discipline was comparatively better than in the past several seasons. While goal scorers have the Torjägerkanone (awarded by the magazine kicker) to shoot for, no comparable trophy exists for the Bundesliga’s best/worst troublemakers. That is a need BundesligaTalk can fill. We can think of no one better than Stefan “111 Yellow Cards in only 370 Bundesliga Games” Effenberg after whom to name the trophy. History will remember Effenberg as so many things: the architect of Bayern’s Champions League-winning midfield in 2001, not-so-celebrated author, and now an annual trophy’s namesake as well.
So who is this year’s worthy winner?
3. Grafite (Edinaldo Batista Líbano) – VfL Wolfsburg, Striker (9 Yellows, 1 Red)
Grafite begins this countdown, barely edging out Tomasz Zdebel for third place (who had comparable numbers, but in more games and with a less interesting name). His 9 yellows and 1 red were earned in just 22 starts for Wolfsburg this season. This was a significant increase from his numbers the previous year with Le Mans in the French Ligue 1. Across the board he improved in goals, assists, and yellow cards per game. It appears as though he’s adapted to the Bundesliga quite well. Look for him to make a strong push for the top spot next season (and on the scoring charts as well).
2. Mark Van Bommel – Bayern München, Midfielder (7 Yellows, 2 Reds)
No one does it with less class on a consistent basis than Mark Van Bommel. An entire article full of youtube clips could be dedicated to his antics. In the 26 Bundesliga games he started this season (undoubtedly it would have been more had it not been for the constant suspensions) he made quite an impression and online readers of the German tabloid Bild duly voted him this year’s “Stinkstiefel” (“stinking boot”). Statistics aside, he’d likely win the Eurovision vote-in equivalent for least likeable player.
1. Mihai Tararache – MSV Duisburg, Midfielder (13 Yellows, 1 Red)
While a bit of subjectivity marked the decision to put Van Bommel and Grafite on the list Tararache is without doubt the only choice to win. It would be a bit harsh to suggest that Tararache’s antics alone doomed Duisburg to drop, but his 13 yellows and 1 red certainly didn’t help. It would not be unfair to mention that his on the field performances sealed Duisburg’s spot at the bottom of the Bundesliga’s fairplay rankings. So while he will likely not be around next season to defend his trophy, how does he compare to the worst offenders of some of the other major European leagues? Not well, honestly:
Spain – The league may be lauded for its players’ technical skill but they’re also either very tenacious or very sloppy in going after the ball. Mihai Tararache, the Bundesliga’s poor discipline standard bearer would do no better than sixth behind Daniel Alves, Fernando Amorebieta, Sergio Ramos, Roberto Ayala, and Aitor Ocio. Interestingly enough both Fernando Amorebieta and Aitor Ocio play for Athletic Bilbao, perhaps the Bundesliga could learn something from the Basques?
Italy – While not quite as outrageous a disciplinary situation as in Spain, it seems as though everyone in Serie A is required to end the season with at least half a dozen yellows. Tararache would place third behind Manuele Blasi and Morris Carrozzieri (while a strong argument can be made for Napoli’s Maurizio Domizzi above Tararache as well).
England – Reliable old England. Finally something the Germans can proudly say we do better than the English (not including World Cups, European Championships, Health care, etc.): player indiscipline. Mihai Tararache would comfortably place first (having played in a league with fewer games to boot) ahead of Nicky Butt, Nigel Reo-Coker, and Christopher Samba.