Part 14 of this series looks at a player who was once branded as the “future of German Football”. A great future was predicted at a very young age. He was named as a saviour, a messiah and a jewel. In years to come his name was predicted to be said in the same breath as the grea Franz Beckenbauer. However, injuries, off the field issues and the pressure put on him led to Sebastian Deisler retiring at just 27.
They Could Have Been One of Football’s Greatest: Sebastian Deisler
Sebastian Toni Deisler was born on the 5th January 1980 in the German city of Lörrach. At just six years old he began his football career. His first club was FV Turmringen. By the age of 15 he had been scouted by Borussia Mönchengladbach. He went on to play for their junior teams between 1995 and 1998.
A saviour is named
After the 1998 World Cup, Germany, the reigning European Champions were knocked out at the quarter-final stage 3-0 by eventual winners France. Reaching a quarter-final and being beaten by the eventual winners maybe seen as no embarrassment by many countries, but in Germany, it was a low point. Fans, media and professionals alike were now searching for a saviour. It wouldn’t be long before they found one in the shape of a very young but very talented attacking midfielder.
Making his mark
In late summer 1998, Deisler made his debut for Borussia Mönchengladbach. Germans around the country began to take notice of his talent at an early stage; however, it was several months later that he would truly make people sit up and take notice. During a game against 1860 Munich, where he was already outstanding, Deisler picked up the ball on the halfway line, proceeded to dribble past six players and score with both skill and ease.
Relegation and departure
After just 17 games for Mönchengladbach, the youngster was part of the team which was relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time. Deisler, who was already attracting interest from other clubs after a string of impressive performances, did not have to endure a spell in the German 2nd division. 26 clubs clamoured for his signature. In the end it was Hertha Berlin who won the race to sign the brightest young star in German football, paying 4.5 million DM in the summer of 1999.
Although he helped Hertha win the German League Cup and compete in the Champions League, his spell in the German capital would prove to be a difficult one. He went to Berlin with a big weight on his shoulders: Germany’s big hope. Along with this, from the off he was handicapped by a cruciate ligament rupture.
He did eventually cement his place in the first eleven and his performances were attracting praise. All was finally coming together until 2001 when he tore the synovial membrane in his right knee. He missed the rest of the season and the 2002 World Cup, where he was expected to shine.
Around the same time as his knee injury, it was announced that Deisler would join football giants Bayern Munich the following summer. The announcement by a German newspaper caused controversy as it not only announced the move, something which fans were annoyed by, but it also announced that the player had also accepted a payment in the region of 20 million DM to move. Deisler received criticism from fans and media alike, something which the player found difficult to handle. At only 21 he was experiencing the harsh side of football. He was also doing it alone. Deisler has stated since that he was asked to keep quiet about the move and payment by his manager at Hertha.
In the summer of 2002, he finally completed his move to Munich. This was heralded as a new start for the talented youngster and a move which many thought could only be successful. He did, however, begin his Bayern career on crutches after having a knee operation in May. It was hoped that Deisler would now be more comfortable as although he would be still a star player at Bayern, he would not be the only one.
After finally overcoming his injury, his time to shine in Munich was now on the way. It was now hoped that he would finally become the main man and realise his early potential and eventually become what many had predicted he would be. Few realised how much the last year of his life had taken out of the youngster.
In 2003 news broke that Deisler was suffering from depression and would be taking time away from the game. Speculation began to mount as to why this had happened.Whatever the reason, Deisler needed time away.
“There is no time plan and I won’t put myself under pressure any more. That is a lesson I have learned in the past few weeks. The time [when I return to football] is still a long way away. First I have to get well”
Another low point
After finally winning his fight against depression, things looked to be on the up. He got himself fit and back into the Bayern squad. The spotlight was back on him and maybe now he was ready to embrace it and show everyone what he could do. He was also back in contention for the German national side.
In March 2006, tragedy struck. The right knee which had caused so many problems in the past came back to haunt him. Once again the synovial membrane had ruptured. He was back on the sidelines. More painful was that he would now miss the 2006 World Cup, to be held in his home country. The chance to show the world his skill and prove he could be a saviour was once again lost.
No more comebacks
In 2007 at just 27 yeas old, after 36 caps for Germany and just 134 appearances in the Bundesliga, Sebastian Deisler called time on his career. Knee injuries amongst others and battles off the field had exhausted him and now, to him, was the time to walk away. Although his decision caused bemusement amongst many in the game who thought he still had something to offer, the player had made up his mind.
Sebastian Deisler was a player who had the hopes of a nation thrust upon him at a very young age. This, along with a series of unfortunate injuries, ultimately robbed him of a potentially great career. He could have been one of football’s greatest.
For parts 1-13 please click on the links below.