Werder Bremen won their first Bundesliga title in over a decade thanks to a 23-game unbeaten streak in the middle of the campaign which saw them lift the trophy with two games to go by beating Bayern Munich 3-1.
The campaign also ended Ottmar Hitzfeld’s 10-year stay at the Olympiastadion, having failed to guide Bayern to any trophies in 2003-04.
It also cemented Thomas Schaaf’s standing as a club legend at Bremen, having spent his entire playing career at the club before working his way up from Under-17 manager to head coach in 1999, and then the Bundesliga title five years later. The defender had twice won the title as a player.
Bayern Munich broke their transfer record to sign Dutch striker Roy Makaay for €18.75 million from Deportivo la Coruna, where he had averaged over a goal every second game. His ratio was similar in Germany, earning him the nickname “Tor Maschine” (goal machine) from the Bayern fans.
Hitzfeld’s other main addition was Argentine defender Martin Demichelis, who was also adept at playing as a defensive midfielder. However, his debut season in the Bundesliga was hampered by injuries, which meant he played in just 14 league games.
Former Bayern Munich head coach Jupp Heynckes took charge at Schalke, following time managing in Spain and Portugal. Heynckes brought in Turkish midfielder Hamit Altintop to play in defensive midfield, but he proved an excellent all-rounder, ending up with six goals.
Jens Lehmann departed Borussia Dortmund for Arsenal, with Roman Weidenfeller taking over goalkeeping duties after being signed the previous season. Flavio Conceicao was the biggest addition, joining on loan from Real Madrid, but failed to become a key player.
Stuttgart loaned Bayern Munich’s young full-back Philipp Lahm, with Felix Magath initially signing him as cover for right-back Heiko Gerber only to make him their first-choice left-back. They also brought in Swiss defender Hakan Yakin as well as his compatriot Marco Streller, another summer arrival from Basel. Neither player really shone in their new surroundings despite Stuttgart finishing fourth.
Werder Bremen were the season’s success story, having been up at the right end of the table in recent years, but never really challenging. Brazilian striker Ailton netted 28 goals en route to the Bundesliga title, just four less than both 1860 Munich and Cologne scored in total.
Bremen were the top scorers overall, but also had a solid defence and an extremely dynamic five-man midfield. Most of the squad had been together in previous seasons, and that chemistry propelled Thomas Schaaf’s side to the title.
As always, Bayern Munich challenged for the league, but amazingly did not lead the table for any matchday during the season. As a result, Ottmar Hitzfeld’s position as head coach was in jeopardy, and he eventually was dismissed at the end of the season.
Injury to Tomas Rosicky hindered Borussia Dortmund’s chances of mounting a title challenge, and eventually they finished well off the pace in sixth position. Bayer Leverkusen qualified for the Champions League once more, bouncing back from their disappointing 2002-03 campaign to finish third.
Cologne, 1860 Munich, and Eintracht Frankfurt all went down, with Kaiserslautern avoiding relegation by four points. They should have finished higher up the table, but found themselves docked three points because of financial irregularities during the licensing procedure.
PLAYER OF THE SEASON
With 28 goals in a Bundesliga season, Brazilian striker Ailton finished as the highest scorer since Karl-Heinz Rummenigge back in 1980-81, helping Werder Bremen to the league title.
MANAGER OF THE SEASON
The ex-Werder Bremen defender took over at the end of the 1998-99 season when the club were battling relegation, and steadily improved their position turning them into genuine challengers within a few years, winning them the title in 2004.
AILTON - 28 GOALS
Always an entertaining figure off the pitch thanks to his emotional outbursts, Ailton finally showed his skill on the pitch with 28 goals for Werder Bremen.
TEAM OF THE SEASON
HILDEBRAND; ISMAEL, LUCIO, JUAN; MICOUD, ERNST, BALLACK, BAUMANN, HLEB; AILTON, MAKAAY
MOST EXPENSIVE TRANSFER
Deportivo to BAYERN
KEY MOMENT OF THE SEASON
A 3-1 win over Bayern Munich on Matchday 32 secured the title for Werder Bremen, denying their rivals the chance to get back into the race. Three goals in the first 35 minutes secured the victory, with Ailton bagging his 27th goal of the season in the away win.