Since 1963, when the Bundesliga was created, thousands of players have appeared in Germany’s top tier.
Some have had more success than others, of course, with each of the top ten having played at least 500 matches amongst the elite. Given a Bundesliga season has usually only included 34 games per side, four fewer than the rest of Europe’s top five leagues, that takes some doing.
You may expect the likes of Manuel Neuer and Thomas Muller, given their longevity and success, to make it onto this list, but they are some way off – although you wouldn’t bet against them sticking around for long enough to do so.
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But who makes it into this top ten? Let’s find out.
10. Uli Stein – 512 appearances
First on this list is Stein, who made more than 500 appearances in the Bundesliga. Interestingly, he played over 200 matches for two different clubs – Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt – and is the first of three goalkeepers to feature in the top ten.
He started his top-flight career with Arminia Bielefeld, where he spent four years between 1976 and 1980. Then, HSV, one of Germany’s most prominent clubs at the time, came calling, and Stein moved to the Volksparkstadion. The next seven years were his most successful as a professional, as he won the European Cup in 1983, the league title in 1982 and 1983, and the DFB-Pokal in 1987.
Following that final success, he made the transfer to Frankfurt, where he won the Pokal in his first campaign. He spent another seven seasons there before ending his elite career with HSV and Bielefeld, where it all began.
9. Michael Lameck – 518 appearances
Lameck is one of three players in this countdown who featured for only one club during their top-flight career, with all 518 of his Bundesliga matches coming in a VfL Bochum shirt.
He first shone at Schwarz-Weiss Essen, who played their football in the Regionalliga (the 2. Bundesliga’s predecessor), before his manager, Heinz Hoher, took him to Bochum upon his own appointment as the new boss.
Lameck had found his home and was one of Hoher’s most trusted players there. Across the first seven seasons, he played all 34 matches on six occasions, only missing four fixtures in the other. Although he was never able to pick up any silverware, he does hold the distinction of being Bochum’s record appearance maker, while no other player has played in more Bundesliga matches without earning an international cap.
8. Willi Neuberger – 520 appearances
Neuberger did not make a Bundesliga appearance until his 20 years old. However, as soon as he played his first game for Borussia Dortmund in 1966, he would never drop below the top tier again.
He played for Die Schwarzgelben for five years and quickly became a fan favourite – that was a regular theme throughout his career. Then followed a two-year stint at Bremen and one year at Wuppertal SV before he ended up at Frankfurt in 1974.
He is best known for his nine-year spell with Die Adler, where he won two Pokals and the Uefa Cup in 1980. While he was on Dortmund’s books when they won the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1966, he made just one appearance during their triumphant run.
7. Eike Immel – 534 appearances
Immel was just 17 years of age when he made his Bundesliga debut for Dortmund in 1978, against none other than Bayern Munich. The Ruhr-based outfit prevailed 1-0 as the goalkeeper embarked on a long career amongst the country’s best.
After eight years with Dortmund, he made the switch to Stuttgart, where he won the Bundesliga in 1991/92. He ended his career in Germany in 1995, playing for two years at Manchester City before hanging up his gloves permanently.
While Immel is fourth on the all-time list of Bundesliga clean sheets with 148, no shot-stopper has conceded more than his 829 in the division. Still, as shown in the video shared on YouTube by Borussia Dortmund, he was handy between the sticks.
6. Klaus Fischer – 535 appearances
Not only does Fischer come in at number six in terms of appearances, but he also trails only Gerd Muller and Robert Lewandowski in terms of the Bundesliga’s record goalscorers.
Two years with 1860 Munich came before 11 at Schalke 04, with whom he is most commonly associated. He quickly became a key player for Die Konigsblauen and was often their leading goalscorer. His record is even more impressive when you consider he missed the entirety of the 1972-73 season due to his part in a match-fixing scandal two years earlier. The video above, shared on YouTube by Boloa Silva, shows just how good he is was in front of goal.
There was no Bundesliga title in Gelsenkirchen, but he did win the Pokal before moving to Koln, where he lifted the Cup again, before seeing out his playing days in Bochum.
5. Miroslav Votava – 546 appearances
Until his record was beaten by former Chelsea striker Claudio Pizarro – who just misses out on this list – Voltava was the Bundesliga’s oldest goalscorer, striking against Stuttgart for Bremen aged 40 years and 121 days.
He played for Borussia Dortmund’s youth team for a single season before spending eight years in the first team, initially juggling his career as a footballer with work as an electrician.
Next on his path were three years at Atletico Madrid, but he couldn’t resist the allure of the Bundesliga and returned in 1985 to play for Werder Bremen until 1996. He was a regular winner with Die Werderaner, topping the Bundesliga table twice, lifting the Pokal as many times, and also conquering Europe as Bremen took home the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992.
Above, you can see a video from Dortmund’s official YouTube channel where Votava discusses his post-playing career.
4. Klaus Fichtel – 552 appearances
Fichtel might not have scored at the grand age of 43 years, six months and two days, but that did not stop him from becoming the Bundesliga’s oldest-ever player in 1988, a record he holds to this day.
It is hard to mention Fichtel’s name without immediately thinking of Schalke. The defender, who could also play in midfield, was part of the club’s fabric between 1965 and 1980 and, had it not been for a four-year stint with Werder Bremen, he would have spent 23 consecutive years with the same outfit.
Despite his long career, he won just one trophy – the Pokal in 1971/72 – while he was also punished, along with Fischer, for his role in the 1970/71 betting scandal that rocked German football to its core.
3. Oliver Kahn – 557 appearances
Surprisingly, Kahn is the only player on this list to have played for Bayern, Germany’s record champions, despite their outstanding success. It may be because it takes an incredible level of consistency to remain in the club’s plans – for Kahn, that was never a problem.
While Kahn spent 14 years with Die Roten and is arguably the Bavarians’ greatest-ever goalkeeper (Neuer and Sepp Maier provide intense competition for that title), it is often forgotten that his time in the Bundesliga started at Karlsruhe, where he marshalled the goalline between 1987 and 1994.
He became the most expensive Bundesliga goalkeeper of all time when Bayern signed him, but he was worth every penny, helping the team to eight league titles, six Pokal victories and the 2000/01 Champions League before embarking on a well-earned retirement in 2008.
2. Manfred Kaltz – 581 appearances
Kaltz is a bona fide Hamburg legend, spending 18 years with the club between 1971 and 1989, as well as the 1990/91 season following his return from a year in France.
HSV are currently in the second tier and have been so for the past few years, but towards the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s, in particular, they were one of Germany’s strongest sides.
Right-back Kaltz, a specialist penalty taker with 53 converted spot-kicks throughout his career, was a key player and a part of the teams that won the European Cup in 1983 as well as three Bundesliga titles. One of the few blemishes on his C.V. is his top-tier record of six own goals, held with Nikolce Noveski.
1. Charly Korbel – 601 appearances
We have already gone through some marvellous feats of stamina, but Korbel stands head and shoulders above the rest. He is the only player to make more than 600 Bundesliga appearances, and it is hard to see anyone breaking that record any time soon.
He first played for Frankfurt in 1972, with his final appearance coming 19 years later in 1991 – he featured for no one else in between. On his debut, he almost marked the legendary Gerd Muller out of the game as Eintracht beat Bayern 2-1 – it was clear that Korbel belonged.
Frankfurt rarely challenged for the title, but they did win the Pokal on four occasions during Korbel’s stint, as well as the UEFA Cup in 1980. As the above video from Frankfurt’s official YouTube channel shows, the defender was capable of producing some special moments.
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