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Kudos for Diego

DW staff (nda)January 7, 2008

Werder Bremen's Brazilian maestro Diego has been winning plaudits all season for the form which has propelled his Bundesliga club into the title fight. Now, it seems, it's not only adoring crowds who rate him highly.

Werder Bremen's Diego celebrates a goal against VfB Stuttgart this season
Diego accepts not only the adulation of the Bremen faithful but that of his fellow playersImage: AP

Critics and fans alike marveled at the diminutive playmaker's all-round performance and eye for goal before the winter break as Bremen charged up the league to devour Bayern Munich's early season lead to leave the league finely poised in the second half run-in.

Now it seems that Diego's brilliance hasn't gone unnoticed by his peers. Despite being tantalized, teased and trounced by the little dynamo, Diego's fellow players have bestowed on him the accolade of being the best outfield player in the Bundesliga in the first half of the season.

The Bremen star's nine goals which have made him the league's joint top scorer -- which is not bad considering he's a midfielder and that he has some stiff competition -- helped land 44.9 percent of the 275 votes in the survey by Kicker magazine. Diego beat French midfielder Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich (21.5 percent) into second place and Dutch playmaker Rafael van der Vaart of SV Hamburg (16.8 percent) into third.

Diego looks on target to repeat his 2006/2007 achievement of being voted the best player at the end of the season by his contemporaries.

Bremen maestro in world's top four

Brazil stars Diego and Robinho during a training session
Diego, here with Robinho, is rated among the world's bestImage: AP

He also features in the "world's best" list voted for by the Bundesliga players. Diego sits joint fourth with compatriot Ronaldinho of Barcelona, while fellow Brazilian Kaka of AC Milan tops the list. Barca's Argentinean genius Lionel Messi and Manchester United winger Cristiano Ronaldo separate the Selecao stars, in second and third respectively.

The top German star in Kicker's Bundesliga poll was Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Simon Rolfes (4.3 percent) who came in behind van der Vaart in fourth place.

In a separate vote for goalkeepers, Leverkusen's Rene Adler was voted the best keeper with 35.8 percent of the vote, followed by Hanover's Robert Enke (28 percent) and Frank Rost of SV Hamburg (11.4 percent).

Promotion suprise package wins coach plaudits

SC Karlsruhe coach Ede Becker
Becker's Karlsruhe are fighting for a European placeImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Edmund Becker of promoted SC Karlsruhe was named the Bundesliga's best coach of the season so far.

While their fortunes dipped a little before the break, Becker's boys have been a consistent top five team since August when many were tipping them to struggle for survival from the first whistle.

Karlsruhe's exploits earned their coach 39.4 percent of the players' votes. Hamburg's Huub Stevens (31.7 percent) and Hanover's Dieter Hecking (12 percent) were next.

It wasn't only winners who got a mention in the Kicker poll. In the coaching "losers" category, Arminia Bielefeld's Ernst Middendorp was deemed the biggest flop so far, followed by Thomas Doll of Borussia Dortmund.

The poll, published Monday, kept all votes anonymous, allowing players to return to their clubs for post-break training without fear of reprisals.

Merk the world's best ref

The Kicker poll comes as Germany's soccer referees were also getting congratulations.

German referee Markus Merk
Markus Merk remains on top of the world gameImage: picture-alliance/ dpa

After his success in 2004 and 2005, German ref Markus Merk was voted the world's best by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics. Compatriot Herbert Fandel was second and Slovakia's Lubos Michel third.

Merk officiated at the World Cup in Japan and Korea in 2002 and Germany in 2006. He also reffed the Euro 2004 final between Greece and Portugal, along with 2003 Champions League final.

He is also a six-time Bundesliga Referee of the Year winner and one of the most respected officials in the game.