Football Features

Forgotten Eagles: The path between Frankfurt and English football is well-trodden

By James Richards

Forgotten Eagles: The path between Frankfurt and English football is well-trodden

Published: 10:35, 10 May 2022

When you think of Bundesliga football, the first clubs that spring to mind are the likes of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

But the German game, like any other top European league, has a number of sides with lofty ambitions and even more interesting histories.

Eintracht Frankfurt are one such club. Based in the central region of Hesse, the club won the German Championship in 1959 and were founding members of the Bundesliga four years later.

More recently, they won the 2018 DFB-Pokal at the expense of Bayern and are through to this season’s Europa League final.

There are a number of top players who have graced the turf at Waldstadion and some of them may even surprise you.

With that in mind, here are 10 players you may not have realised played for the Eagles.

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1. Jay-Jay Okocha

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 1992-96

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 115

Current club: Retired

Jay-Jay Okocha can be considered one of the most entertaining mavericks to have played in the Premier League but between 1992 and 1996 he was the star of Frankfurt side that contained other quality individuals in the likes of Tony Yeboah and Thomas Doll. His move to Germany came after he was spotted while on holiday in the country and moved to Frankfurt after spells in the lower divisions.

He would net 16 times in 90 Bundesliga appearances before moving on to play in Turkey with Fenerbahce. Bolton fans consider him a legend following his move to the Premier League but he is one name that many would not associate with Frankfurt despite him making a huge impression at the Eagles in his brief spell in Hesse.

2. Kevin-Prince Boateng

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 2017-18

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 36

Current club: Hertha Berlin

Kevin-Prince Boateng was actually born in Germany and represented the country at youth level before opting to play for Ghana. He started his career at Hertha Berlin before playing in England with Tottenham Hotspur and Portsmouth as well as spells in Italy with Milan.

He returned to Germany to play for Schalke in 2013 before further spells in Italy and Spain. It was in 2017, however, that he started a one-season-stint with the Eagles. His time at Waldstadion was a success as Frankfurt sealed European football and an eighth-place finish.

3. Jonathan de Guzman

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 2017-present

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 61

Current club: OFI Crete

Jonathan de Guzman was once heralded as the kind of rising star that had everyone playing Football manager 2005 make him their first ‘must-have’ signing when starting a new game. He has had an impressive career but it has perhaps not scaled the heights many predicted some 17 years ago.

The Netherlands international joined Frankfurt in 2017 after a disappointing spell with Napoli, much of which was spent out on loan.

He has scored in four of European football’s top five leagues (becoming only the eighth player to achieve this) and looked to be enjoying his time in Germany before injury problems derailed his Eagles career. He is now strutting his stuff in Greece for OFI Crete.

4. Michael Hector

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 2016-17

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 27

Current club: Fulham

The former Reading star has played for no less than 17 different clubs during his career and bearing in mind he is still only 29 it is even more remarkable.

One of the teams that the much-travelled defender has played for is Frankfurt. He was sent on loan to the German club for the 2016/17 season by parent club Chelsea. The London-born centre-back made 27 appearances for the Eagles, helping them to an eleventh place finish.

5. Junichi Inamoto

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 2007-09

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 46

Current club: Nankatsu SC

Inamoto is still playing at the age of 42 but just over a decade ago the Japan international was playing in Germany for Eintracht Frankfurt.

He became a bit of a cult hero during his time at Fulham due to his hat-trick in the Intertoto Cup against Bologna and has garnered a reputation as a tough-tackling midfielder who could chip in with some pretty special goals.

Two seasons in Frankfurt brought zero goals but he did make a good impression on the locals. Now back in his native Japan, he recently joined Nankatsu SC in the nation’s fifth tier of football.

6. Joselu

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 2013-14

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 33

Current club: Alaves

Joselu has played for some pretty big clubs during his career but he has never been as successful as he was during his time with Frankfurt. The striker, formerly of Newcastle United, is a product of the famous Celta Vigo academy.

He moved to Real Madrid before venturing to Hoffenheim. In 2013 he went on a season-long loan to the Eagles where he netted 14 goals in 33 appearances including nine in the Bundesliga. It remains his most prolific season to date.

7. Cenk Tosun

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 1997-2011

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 1

Current club: Everton

The Turkish forward started his career in Germany with the Eagles. He joined them at the age of six, having been born in Hesse, and would work his way through the youth team and reserves.

Despite the many years he spent within the Frankfurt system, he only made one senior appearance for the team when he came off the bench for a 25-minute cameo against Wolfsburg in the final game of the 2009-10 season.

He would move on to Turkish side Gaziantepspor in January 2011 ending his 14-year association with the club.

8. Tony Yeboah

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 1990-95

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 156

Current club: Retired

Tony Yeboah was a trailblazer in Germany. When he joined Frankfurt in 1990 he was the first black player the team had ever signed.

Yeboah showed great personal conviction and courage to overcome the racism he experienced during those early years in Germany. It wasn’t long before the quality of his performances and the deadly finishing ability he displayed silenced all the critics.

He netted 89 goals during his time in Hesse and was the first African player to captain a Bundesliga side. He later would join Premier League outfit Leeds United where he goal against Wimbledon is still replayed to this day.

9. Jurgen Klopp

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: N/A

Current club: Retired

We are stretching the definition of ‘played for’ here, but Jurgen Klopp’s account of his Frankfurt trial is pretty interesting.

“I went to a trial at Eintracht Frankfurt, looked around [and thought] ‘Oh, they’re good’,” he told Goal.

“I saw Andy Moller. Same age as me at the time, 19 years old. I thought, ‘if that’s football, I’m playing a completely different game’. He was world-class. I was… not even class.”

Andreas Moller was a decorated attacking-midfielder who won the 1990 World Cup with Germany and, later in his career after leaving Frankfurt, won two Bundesliga titles with Borussia Dortmund after picking up a Uefa Cup winner’s medal with Juventus.

Jurgen Klopp as a youth-team player

Jurgen Klopp at a youth tournament in 1985, a year before his Frankfurt trial.

Klopp’s playing career involved no major honours but he found a home at Mainz, where he was record-goalscorer for a while (56 goals) despite spending much of his time there in defence. At Mainz, he graduated from player to manager and the rest, as they say, is history.

10. Joachim Low

Time at Eintracht Frankfurt: 1981-82

Number of Eintracht Frankfurt senior appearances: 28

Current club: Retired

Another legendary manager who once turned out for Frankfurt, only Joachim Low’s stint was a bit more memorable than Klopp’s ephemeral existence in Hesse.

Having turned out for Freiburg and Stuttgart, Low moved to Frankfurt in 1981, but with mixed success. The attacking midfielder stayed a year, netting five goals in 28 games, though one of those did come against Bayern Munich (see above).