By Ultan Corcoran@UltanCorcoran

Bundesliga End of Season Awards: Heidenheim's Player of the Season

With the lion’s share of 7 votes secured from our team of writers, Jan-Niklas Beste has picked up the Bundesliga Player of the Season award for FC Heidenheim.

Heidenheim and European competition football. Who would have envisaged that before a ball was kicked this season. With just €2.3 million spent in the summer transfer window, many would have expected the club from Southern Germany to struggle. Their first time in the top-flight perhaps a harsh reality of achieving too much too soon. Yet, with leadership from long-term coach and local hero Frank Schmidt in the dugout, Heidenheim quickly adjusted to life in the Bundesliga. With just a solitary weekend (Matchday 2) spent in the relegation play-off position the red and blue striped side never looked back.

Schmidt’s side pushed on and on, even embarking on an unbeaten run between Matchday 14 and 21 which practically ensured favourable odds of survival. Many envisaged the club to be content with the comfort of midtable. So it seemed until on the final day Heidenheim’s 4-1 thrashing of Köln was enough to leapfrog Bremen and Freiburg on goal difference – UEFA Conference League football secured. No individual was more critical to that achievement than Jan-Niklas Beste. A former Borussia Dortmund youth player had become a chief operator in Heidenheim’s multifaceted attack.

Amassing an incredible 8 goals and 11 assists in 31 outings, Beste held a 42% stake in Heidenheim’s goal tally. Those creative numbers put the 25-year-old German in good company alongside Julian Brandt, Leroy Sané, Florian Wirtz and Xavi Simons as the joint second to Alejandro Grimaldo’s 13 assists. Beste’s workload didn’t stop there with 1,022 sprints made (2nd best in Bundesliga) while placing 11th overall with 70 chances created. It comes as no surprise when the nifty winger terrorised defences with pin-point accuracy from dead ball scenarios and his elusive dribbling. Having doubled in value from €7million to €15million per transfermarkt.com, Heidenheim fans will be hopeful their star man will remain at the Voith-Arena. 

STANDOUT PERFORMANCE:

While he chipped in with his fair share of returns throughout the campaign, Jan-Niklas Beste’s crowning performance came against Darmstadt on Matchday 14. Scoreless approaching the interval, Beste stood over a central free-kick 35-yards from goal. An inconvenient position – too far to shoot, too parallel with the box to curl. This failed to deter the winger who scooped a delightful delivery onto the head of Jan Schöppner to thump home with his head.

On the stroke of the hour Heidenheim trailed 2-1. Tim Skarke had levelled and a horror moment for Lennard Maloney saw him prod past his own goalkeeper. Losing to the side bottom of the Bundesliga was not an option. A two-minute spell starting in the 69th would see Beste fix that. From the left corner, the German winger whipped a delightful towards the box which Patrick Mainka powered to the net. Beste and the club captain repeated the dose from a subsequent corner on the opposite side. Demonstrating his technique from either corner flag, Mainka blasted past Marcel Schuhen. In doing so snatching a 3-2 victory from the jaws of defeat. 

HONOURABLE MENTION:

Tim Kleindienst who received 1 vote enjoyed a remarkable season leading the line for Heidenheim. Alongside his 12 goals and 3 assists, Kleindienst also topped the Bundesliga metrics for aerial duels won (187), total sprints (1,056), and intensive runs (2,863) as the 28-year-old enters his prime. Patrick Mainka also picked up 1 vote, finishing 5th overall in the top-flight with 368 duels won to his name.

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