For 55 years, Hamburg were mainstays in the Bundesliga, but that came to an end in the 2017/18 season when they were relegated.
The Rothosen were the last remaining ever-present in the Bundesliga prior to their drop, with even the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund all previously having tasted the 2. Bundesliga.
As a result of their historical Bundesliga stature, Hamburg have been considered a real footballing institution in Germany and it is hardly a surprise, therefore, that some exceptionally gifted players have pulled on the distinctive white, blue and red kit at one time or another, including in recent seasons.
These days, Hamburg are more accustomed to dealing with relegation than competing for major honours and one potential reason for their struggles is the fact they regularly lose their best players to other clubs.
Had they managed to hang onto their very best players, though, Hamburg would possess a seriously talented squad. Just take a look for yourself.
Goalkeeper: Daniel Heuer Fernandes
Current club: Hamburg
Hamburg apps: 27
Major honours: 0
Daniel Heuer Fernandes is Hamburg’s current number one having joined the club from Darmstadt last summer. The 27-year-old has so far kept six clean sheets in 25 2. Bundesliga games this season, helping Hamburg sit third in the table in their quest for promotion.
Right-back: Jonathan Tah
Current club: Bayer Leverkusen
Hamburg apps: 20
Major honours: None
A product of Hamburg’s youth academy where he played right-back on occasion, Jonathan Tah graduated to the first team in the 2013/14 season and his performances in defence were so impressive that Bayer Leverkusen signed him two years later.
Tah stepped up impressively after joining a Champions League-level team, playing in all but five of their league matches in his first season, and he was rewarded with a place in Germany’s Euro 2016 squad as a result, though he missed out on the 2018 World Cup squad. The 24-year-old continues to impress for Leverkusen at centre-back, playing 32 times in 2019/20.
Centre-back: Jerome Boateng
Current club: Bayern Munich
Hamburg apps: 113
Major honours: 19
Arguably one of the finest central defenders in the world at his peak, Jerome Boateng joined Hamburg in 2007 after making a handful of appearances for Hertha Berlin, where he, along with brother Kevin-Prince, honed their talents.
Boateng spent three seasons with Hamburg and forced his way into Germany’s starting XI for the 2010 World Cup while still at the club before leaving for Manchester City and then Bayern Munich. He has since gone on to become one of the most highly-rated centre-backs in Europe, although his time with Bayern appears to be coming to an end.
Centre-back: Vincent Kompany
Current club: Anderlecht
Hamburg apps: 51
Major honours: 14
What a defensive partnership this would have been. After being touted for greatness ever since bursting onto the scene as a teenager for Anderlecht in his native Belgium, Vincent Kompany made the slightly surprising move to Hamburg in 2006 despite interest from elsewhere.
Kompany spent two full campaigns in Germany before moving on to join Manchester City just a month before their takeover and remained a pivotal part of the Citizens back four until 2019 when he left to become player-manager of Anderlecht — although now he is just focusing on playing.
Left-back: Douglas Santos
Current club: Zenit
Hamburg apps: 88
Major honours: 3
Douglas Santos joined Hamburg on transfer deadline day in 2016 and was seen as a real coup judging by his performances for Brazil at the Olympics.
In many ways an archetypal Brazilian full-back who loved getting forward, his partnership on the left alongside Filip Kostic, who joined that very summer, proved extremely fruitful for Hamburg. However, Santos left for Zenit in the summer of 2019
Central midfielder: Milan Badelj
Current club: Fiorentina (on loan from Lazio)
Hamburg apps: 69
Major honours: 9
After winning the Croatian league time and again with Dinamo Zagreb, Milan Badelj finally made the move to a more reputable European league when he joined Hamburg in 2012.
It was with Hamburg that Badelj finally forced his way into Croatia’s star-studded midfield but he only spent a couple of seasons in Germany before moving on to Italy to link up with Fiorentina and, finally, Lazio. After a season with Lazio, winning the Coppa Italia, Badelj returned to Fiorentina on loan.
Central midfielder: Valon Behrami
Current club: Genoa
Hamburg apps: 23
Major honours: 1
Having spent the majority of his career in Italy with a variety of different clubs, as well as in England with West Ham, the Kosovan-born Switzerland international embarked on a new challenge in 2014 by moving to Germany.
He featured regularly for Hamburg upon signing after the 2014 World Cup but departed after just one season to join newly-promoted Premier League side Watford in 2015. He remained in England for two years before moving to Udinese and eventually Genoa.
Right wing: Son Heung-min
Current club: Tottenham Hotspur
Hamburg apps: 78
Major honours: 0
Of all the top European leagues, it is Germany where most South Korean players have fared best and Son Heung-min is arguably the finest player from the nation to have graced the Bundesliga.
Son was scouted by Hamburg while playing for his school team and following two years in the club’s academy he broke into the side in 2010. His numerous goals and assists led to Leverkusen signing him in 2013 and following another couple of impressive campaigns, he joined Tottenham, where his stock has massively increased.
Attacking midfield: Hakan Calhanoglu
Current club: AC Milan
Hamburg apps: 38
Major honours: 0
Another prodigious talent who shot to prominence while at Hamburg is the Turkish playmaker Hakan Calhanoglu, who joined in 2013 from Karlsruhe in the German second-tier.
Calhanoglu demonstrated his clear ability only a few months into his Hamburg career by scoring an outrageous free-kick against Dortmund from close to the halfway line, before following up with a couple more wonder goals as he followed the well-trodden path to Leverkusen, finally joining Italian giants AC Milan for whom he is now a key player.
Left wing: Filip Kostic
Current club: Eintracht Frankfurt
Hamburg apps: 38
Major honours: 0
As previously mentioned, Kostic built an excellent partnership down Hamburg’s left-hand side with Douglas Santos after joining from Stuttgart in 2016.
His performances earned Kostic a loan move to Eintracht Frankfurt two years later and he was a big part of the side that reached the semi-finals of the Europa League. Kostic’s loan move was made permanent last summer and he remains a key player for the Eagles.
Striker: Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting
Current club: Paris Saint-Germain
Hamburg apps: 37
Major honours: 2
Things may never have worked out for Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting at Hamburg, with just 37 appearances and five goals across four years at the club as a young player, but the forward has gone on to do well.
The Cameroon international has had spells at Mainz and Schalke in the Bundesliga, as well as Stoke City, before joining current club Paris Saint-Germain. Despite being best-placed as a striker, the 31-year-old has also proven his worth playing out wide as he did for spells at Stoke and Schalke.