Bayer Leverkusen get off to a winning start in the Champions League, Ailton makes history and Hamburg's transfer market excursion highlights financial struggles.
Leverkusen can thank striker Franca for his goals in Wednesday's win
Leverkusen Bounce Czechs in Champions League
Bayer Leverkusen took a significant step towards the Champions League proper with a comprehensive qualifying round first leg win over Czech side Banik Ostrava at the BayArena on Wednesday night. Bayer's Brazilian striker Franca scored a hat-trick as the German side thrashed the Czechs 5-0. The lucrative group phase of the Champions League looks almost certain to contain Leverkusen after the stunning win. "This is a dream result but it was hard work," said Bayer coach Klaus Augenthaler in an interview with Bundesliga.de. "The Czechs were as strong as expected and could have given us problems after the break if they had made it 2-1. But we were able to add to our goals and earn the victory. Franca is in a great form and also physically fit," the coach gushed. Leverkusen's other goals came from Juan and Dimitar Berbatov.
Ailton is First Foreign Player of the Year
Mladen Krstajic congratulates Ailton before the rush starts
Schalke 04's Brazilian striker Ailton has become the Bundesliga's first foreign Footballer of the Year for his stunning contribution last term to Werder Bremen's double-winning campaign. With 216 votes from a total of 712 cast by German sports journalists via a poll carried out by soccer magazine Kicker, the 28-goal center forward was placed ahead of Stuttgart's Philipp Lahm with 172 votes and last year's winner Bayern Munich's Michael Ballack with 63.
Hamburg Feel the Pinch in Gravesen Deal
Will the next team photo include Thomas Gravesen?
The management at Hamburg SV has suffered a blow in its plans to bring Everton's unsettled Danish international midfielder Thomas Gravesen to the club. The English Premier League club has made it clear that there is little room for negotiation over the player's possible transfer fee, leaving Hamburg with a financial dilemma if they wish to sign him. Hamburg made an offer of €2.9 million ($3.5 million) to bring Gravesen back to the club which he left four years ago for the Merseysiders. Everton want as much as €4.4 million for the Dane. "We are not giving up," said Hamburg director Dietmar Beiersdorfer, "but the whole financial deal for Gravesen is very big and we have little room to maneuver." Gravesen played 74 games for Hamburg between 1997 and 2000, scoring six goals. Since his move to England, he has scored 7 in 120 appearances for Everton and has been an established member of the Danish national side.