The 2023-24 Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday as Bayern Munich head to Werder Bremen to start their quest for a 12th straight German top-flight title.
Bayern’s closest rivals this season are expected to again be Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig, both of whom finished in the top four last term.
The Bavarians’ supremacy could also be challenged by surprise Champions League participants Union Berlin and Xabi Alonso’s Bayer Leverkusen.
Here, AFP Sport looks at five players to watch in the Bundesliga this season:
Harry Kane (Bayern Munich)
The transfer saga which dominated the summer was settled a week out from the season opener when England captain Harry Kane arrived in Munich.
Kane, 30, moved to the German champions after spending his entire career at Tottenham, where he scored 280 goals in 435 appearances without winning a trophy.
“I wanted to be playing at the highest level, fighting for titles every year,” Kane told reporters.
The England captain should get his wish in Munich, with Bayern having won at least a trophy every season for over a decade.
His style of play should suit Bayern as well, with the side struggling without a top-class centre-forward last season after the departure of Robert Lewandowski.
Julian Brandt (Borussia Dortmund)
Last season was when Dortmund midfielder Julian Brandt finally delivered on the biggest stage.
Brandt was the creative spark as Dortmund won 10 matches in a row to start 2023 to push themselves firmly back into the title race.
The 27-year-old won two consecutive Bundesliga player of the month awards before picking up an injury in Dortmund’s 2-0 loss to Chelsea in London, after which the German side struggled for consistency.
With both Jude Bellingham and Raphael Guerreiro leaving in the summer, Brandt’s creativity will be crucial as Dortmund look to end Bayern’s Bundesliga dominance.
Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig)
While RB Leipzig lost several stars in the summer including Christopher Nkunku, Konrad Laimer, Josko Gvardiol and Dominik Szoboszlai, retaining Dani Olmo has already paid dividends.
Leipzig extended Olmo’s deal in June to 2027 and the Spanish midfielder paid them back in this season’s first competitive fixture, scoring a hat-trick as RB thumped Bayern Munich 3-0 in the German Super Cup.
Leipzig have recruited strongly, but keeping the ever-impressive Olmo at the Red Bull Arena will help in their bid for a maiden German title this season.
Granit Xhaka (Bayer Leverkusen)
Former Arsenal captain Granit Xhaka returned to the Bundesliga after seven years in north London, signing for Bayer Leverkusen.
The 30-year-old midfielder brings welcome leadership to Alonso’s young side, having led Switzerland to the knockout stages at Euro 2020 and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Leverkusen made it to the Europa League semi-finals last season and launched a late push for the top four under Alonso’s inspired coaching.
With two FA Cups under his belt from his time at Arsenal, Xhaka may even help Leverkusen break their long-standing trophy drought, helping to shed the ‘Neverkusen’ moniker once and for all.
David Datro Fofana (Union Berlin)
One of the most interesting additions to the Bundesliga this season is Union Berlin striker David Datro Fofana, who arrived on loan from Chelsea.
The forward made his debut for Ivory Coast at just 16 years of age.
He scored 24 goals in 65 appearances with Molde, propelling them to Norwegian Cup glory, before moving to Chelsea in January.
While Union conceded the equal-fewest league goals in the Bundesliga last season, the club were heavily reliant on the output of Sheraldo Becker up front, making Fofana a useful option for the Champions League debutants.