A thrilling campaign saw VfL Wolfsburg become German champions for the first time in 39 years in 2048. Robinho Lazaró’s young side had achieved great things but the Colombian manager believed there was much more to come from this talented squad.
Lazaró was tempted to consider moving elsewhere in Europe, but there were no viable options across the continent at the end of the 2047/48 campaign. And then he saw the finances available to him.
The title win saw Wolfsburg finish the campaign with £237 million in the bank, which was boosted to £304 million by the end of season commercial summary. Lazaró was handed a £109 million transfer budget, which was boosted by selling Kevin Berrer to Zenit for £11.5 million and backup left-back Antonio Renard to Galatasaray for £5.5 million. He replaced Renard with exciting left-back Cauet Neiva for £10.75 million from his former club Flamengo. And that proved to be the only summer signing as Lazaró was happy with his exciting young squad.
Lazaró swiftly added his second trophy in Europe. Wolfsburg beat Stuttgart 2-0 in DFL-Supercup with goals from attackers Enrique Cafagna and Albert Mockel, who scored 51 last season and has been newly installed as a club legend. And that was backed up by a 13-0 humiliation of Sasel in DFB-Pokal, in which Juarez got four, Mockel scored five and midfielder Anderson Robles scored a hat-trick plus four assists!
Another tricky Bundesliga start
The last two German champions faced off as Wolfsburg entertained Hertha on the opening day of the 2048/49 campaign. But Wolfsburg proved themselves far the dominant force with 25 shots and 2.27 xG to five shots and 0.36 xG and won 3-1 with goals from Juarez, Mockel and Cafagna.
For the second season in a row, their first away day took them to Dortmund, where they lost 3-2 to taste league defeat for the first time in 11 months. But a Darwin Dutra masterclass got them back to winning ways as the attacking midfielder scored one and made two in a 5-1 thrashing of Koln. That sent them onto a run of three consecutive wins heading into another big away day at Bayern, where Wolfsburg made a bright start, Juarez scored early and they held on for a 1-0 win.
Champions League group
The Champions League served up an interesting group alongside Atlético, Porto and Anderlecht. They got off a good start as a Juarez wondergoal and Mockel hat-trick led a 5-0 hammering of Anderlecht.
They drew 0-0 in Porto despite dominating, got mugged in a 1-1 at home to Atlético then drew again 2-2 in Spain. Before another wasteful performance eventually ended with Juarez’s 79th-minute winner nicking a much-needed 1-0 win at home to Porto. And they wrapped up the group on the final day as Mockel scored twice in a 5-1 thrashing of Anderlecht, taking the striker to 30 goals before Christmas! Lazaró and Wolfsburg were into the knockout stages of the Champions League for the first time.
Stunning league form
The big win at Bayern set Wolfsburg onto a stunning run of nine consecutive league victories, including a fantastic 3-0 win at Leverkusen. That gave them a chance to equal the Bundesliga consecutive wins record at home to bottom side St. Pauli, and they did with a Mockel hat-trick leading a 6-0 rout. They then broke the record with a 4-2 win at Hoffenheim led by a Dutra brace (although we should point out Bundesliga records only exist since we turned the German leagues on a few years ago).
That run ended with a draw at home to Leipzig, but Wolfsburg went into the winter break with a six-point lead at the top of Bundesliga. While Bayern were lingering in fifth and sacked their manager.
Bundesliga dominance continues
The winter break offered a chance to refresh the players going into a massive game against third-placed Dortmund. Mockel scored an early penalty before right-back Uwe Gotze foolishly got sent off. Dortmund dominated but found the world’s best goalkeeper in inspired form, making 15 saves to nick a 1-0 win!
That sent Wolfsburg onto a ridiculous run of form. They won all but three of their next 12 league games heading into a massive trip to Leipzig on the penultimate weekend. Wolfsburg were five points clear, meaning anything other than a defeat would see them defend their title. If there were any nerves they didn’t show it as Cafagna scored after 29 seconds then Mockel doubled the lead eight minutes later! And that proved enough as Leipzig offered nothing, which shows just how dominant Wolfsburg have become under Lazaró’s rule.
That was proven by racking up a league record 92 points and 30 wins in defending their title. They won it by 10 points from Leipzig but finished an outrageous 41 points ahead of Bayern, who finished seventh! The goals dried up in the second half of the season, scoring 79, but they only conceded 18 all season. Mockel was Bundesliga top scorer with 27 goals, but struggled to score after the turn of the year.
Champions League knockouts
Lazaró’s first Champions League knockout tie took him to Rennes but it didn’t go well as they lost 3-2. A Robles goal nicked a 1-0 win at home, which meant a penalty shootout and Rennes missed two spot-kicks to very narrowly send Wolfsburg through.
A much tougher test followed against Chelsea, but they earned a creditable 1-1 at Stamford Bridge. Wolfsburg dominated the home leg and got their reward as centre-back Youssef Joly headed home the only goal from a Dutra corner.
Another English side followed in reigning Premier League champions Liverpool, who are managed by Nikola Vlasic. The home leg was up first and started slowly, but Robles lit it up 10 minutes before half-time by thundering a 30-yard rocket into the top corner. Juarez then won a penalty four minutes after the break and Dutra’s penalty was saved but he tucked home the rebound. And Liverpool’s misery was topped off by Lazaró’s former Colombia midfielder Rubio getting sent off late on.
Liverpool took an early lead at Anfield but Cafagna nodded home an equaliser then laid on a goal for midfielder Laurenz Wolf and added his second to wrap up a comfortable 5-1 aggregate success. Wolfsburg were going to the Champions League Final!
Champions League Final
The trend of playing English clubs continued as Wolfsburg’s first-ever Champions League Final saw them take on reigning European champions and Premier League winners Man City. Fans flocked to the Johan Cruijff ArenA in Amsterdam for Lazaró’s third continental final and first in Europe.
Lazaró’s biggest dilemma was who to play up front. He decided to back his main man and captain Mockel ahead of semi-final hero Cafagna. So Wolfsburg lined up:
Baghlani; Gotze, Calisto, Joly, Petrík; Diomande, Musarella, Robles; Dutra; Mockel, Juarez
Subs: Cafagna, Bernardes, Arnold, Ozturk, Wolf, Neiva, Gil, Bleker, Eisenmenger, Kalala, Rubio, Rump
The final started very quietly with neither side creating significant opportunities. That was until five minutes before the break as Robles raced through and unleashed a shot that was parried into the path of Juarez to tap home the opener.
Just before the hour mark Wolfsburg put together a delicious flowing passing move that ended up at the feet of Mockel, who burst into the box, rounded the keeper and tapped home a second. Decision justified! City offered nothing and Mockel could have sealed it with another decent chance, but Wolfsburg breezed to a straightforward 2-0 win.
Wolfsburg were Champions of Europe!!
What a season this has been! A dominant Bundesliga title and stepping up to become Champions of Europe. This young Wolfsburg team really is something special.
Mockel led the way with 40 goals and 11 assists in 47 games, Juarez scored 22 and got 11 assists in 42 games, Dutra scored 14 and got a new club record 19 assists in 44 games, and Robles scored 10 and got 12 assists in 36 games. Goalkeeper Reza Baghlani deserves a special mention for conceding just two goals in 12 league games and just seven in 23 in all competitions! While the centre-back partnership of Edson Calisto and Joly have become truly world-class this season.
Dutra is very much the best player at the club, with a 7.61 average rating. But the squad is absolutely packed with unbelievable talent, which you can peruse in the slideshow of the Champions League Final squad below:
A brilliant season was topped off by superstar Juarez winning the Best Player in Europe award, having previously won FIFA Best U21 Men’s Player for the second season in a row. And Dutra was named in the FIFA FIFPro Team of the Year, then later won German Players’ Player of the Year.
The league win saw Lazaró enter the worldwide Hall of Fame for the first time, before the Champions League success lifted him to 14th, just 140 points behind the great Jurgen Klopp, who retired 14 years ago after winning one more title at Liverpool, one with Man City and four at PSG!
The size of the job Lazaró has done at Wolfsburg is portrayed by the value of the club. When he took charge, it was worth £591 million. Now, that’s soared to £1.65 billion. That increased stature saw the board announce permission had been granted for Kevin De Bruyne Stadium, which will cost £162 million and will be completed in the summer of 2051. Which sounds like a good enough reason as any to leave the club!
Indeed, Lazaró was absolutely loving his time at Wolfsburg and the team he’d put together. But, now aged 65, he was wondering whether it might be time to chance his arm at other European leagues now that his side was dominating Bundesliga.
Would Robinho Lazaró stay in Wolfsburg or would he go to pastures new? Join us next time to find out!