Julius Östermann was the first in 1905 when he pitched up to play in attack for the Naples Foot-Ball & Cricket Club and Oliver Kragl the most recent when he joined Frosinone in 2016 – we are of course talking about German footballers in Italy.
Indeed, the history of the Italian game would be much poorer without the strong German presence that’s been an influence for more than a century now.
Dozens of German players have found fame and fortune in Serie A and the Italian game has benefitted in return from their collective professionalism, discipline, physical prowess and adaptability. Who the best German import to Serie A has been is down to your own individual taste of course, so we’ve produced a gallery of the players we think are the strongest to have graced calcio to help you decide. Our team is set out in a rakish 3-4-3 formation.
Jens Lehmann (GK) – Milan 1998-99
A default choice simply because he’s the only German keeper to have played in Serie A! Lehmann’s six-month spell at Milan in the late 1990s proved a disastrous move for player and club alike.
A physical colossus who could have chosen a career in athletics, Briegel was a force of nature when starring for Verona during their historic title winning season of 1985. Fast and strong, Briegel could play in any defensive and midfield position and was also a regular scorer.
Andreas Brehme (LWB) – Internazionale 1988-92
Already an experienced international when he arrived at Inter, Brehme was the technically adept and composed defensive prompter who helped turn Inter from also-rans into runaway title winners.
Thomas Berthold (CB) – Verona, Roma 1987-91
Just as accomplished a player at right-back as he was in central defender, Berthold was a composed and decisive player who brought assuredness and stability to the defences of Verona and Roma.
Jürgen Kohler (CB) – Juventus 1991-95
Italy takes great pride in the tough and resourceful central defenders it produces, so it was a reflection on the impact that Kohler made in Turin that he looked like he could slip effortlessly into the Italian national side.
Karl-Heinz Schnellinger (SW) – Mantova, Roma, Milan 1963-74
Perhaps Germany’s best-ever defender after Franz Beckenbauer, Schnellinger made his name in the game as a rampaging left-back who gradually adapted to Italian football mentality to become a wonderful sweeper.
Lothar Matthäus (CM) – Internazionale 1988-92
A dominant powerhouse of a player in midfield, Matthäus was a one-man engine room who drove Inter to a Scudetto during his first season in Italian football.
Helmut Haller (CM) – Bologna, Juventus 1962-73
An intelligent and creative midfield playmaker who was instrumental in Bologna’s surprise 1964 Serie A success, then went on to enjoy a lengthy and successful spell with Juventus.
Thomas Hässler (RW) – Juventus, Roma 1990-94
A mercurial and intelligent wide player who could come inside and dictate the play from central positions too, Hässler’s flair and quick feet illuminated Serie A over four seasons in Turin and Rome.
A striker in the classic centre-forward mould, Bierhoff was such a hit in Italian football that after he left for the first time early in his career, he returned later for two further encores. Scorer of 143 goals in Serie A in total, Bierhoff enjoyed his best years with Milan where his goals inspired them to a title success in 1999.
Jürgen Klinsmann (CF) – Internazionale, Sampdoria 1989-92, 1997-98
Another player from this selection with a background in athletics and Klinsmann's blistering pace and acceleration showed his sprinting aptitude. A dynamic and acrobatic leader of the line, Klinsmann was a huge success during his three seasons with Inter, then returned for a spell with Sampdoria later in his career.