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By ESPN Staff

Bayer Leverkusen - Squad Profiles

Hans-Jorg Butt (goalkeeper)
Born:
28.05.74
Nationality:
German

Butt

Lost his first team spot early this season after a couple of shaky performances, but returned to the side within a fortnight when his replacement Juric was injured and has rediscovered his best form.

Previously with Hamburg, he was Germany's number three keeper at Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002, and is famous for his penalty taking. Butt is a hero of the Leverkusen team that made it through to last season's Champions League Final.


Group A: Barcelona | Bayer Leverkusen | Inter Milan | Newcastle
Group B: Ajax Amsterdam | Arsenal | AS Roma | Valencia
Group C: AC Milan | Borussia Dortmund | L Moscow | Real Madrid
Group D: Basle | Deportivo | Juventus | Manchester Utd

Frank Juric (goalkeeper)
Born:
28.10.73
Nationality:
Australian

Leverkusen's back-up keeper for the past three years, the giant Aussie must have thought his luck had finally turned when he displaced Butt in the autumn, only for a hip injury to strike.

Of Croatian stock, he joined Leverkusen from Fortuna Dusseldorf in 1999 and has two full caps for Australia. A reliable deputy to the mercurial Butt.

Juan (defender)
Born:
01.02.79
Nationality:
Brazilian

Athletic and competitive centre-back bought from Rio de Janeiro club Flamengo for a cut-price £2.3million last summer.

Equally comfortable in a three-man defence or a back four, he has adapted quickly to football in Germany and poses a threat when going forward at set-pieces.

Surprisingly omitted from Brazil's World Cup 2002 squad after putting in a fine season in Leverkusen colours, he is out to prove his worth for club and country in the Champions League this season.

Lucio (defender)
Born:
08.05.78
Nationality:
Brazilian

Central defender who was an ever-present in Brazil's World Cup-winning side and has been linked with a number of top sides in Italy and Spain, particularly Real Madrid.

An aggressive marker, brilliant counter-attacker and no mean finisher, he can, however, be prone to defensive lapses. Joined Bayer from Internacional Porto Alegre two years ago in a £5.8million deal, and would certainly fetch more should bayer ever decide to sell him.

Jens Nowotny (defender)
Born:
11.01.74
Nationality:
German

Jens Nowotny

Leverkusen's skipper and central defensive organiser is due to return to the side in early 2003 after nine months on the sidelines with damaged knee ligaments.

Capped 37 times for Germany, he was signed from Karlsruhe in 1996. Nowotny's absence was a big loss to the German national team during the summer and will add new strength to Leverkusen's Champions League challenge when he regains his fitness.

Pascal Ojigwe (defender)
Born:
11.12.76
Nationality:
Nigerian

Ojigwe has looked the part when deputising for the injured Diego Placente at left-back this season, but his best position is as a defensive midfielder.

Signed from Koln two years ago, his first European club was Kaiserslautern, and his versatility has been useful for coach Kluas Toppmoller during a season in which he has been hit by a series of injury blows. One of the unsung heroes of Leverkusen's revival this season.

Diego Placente (defender)
Born:
24.04.77
Nationality:
Argentine

Attack-conscious left-back signed from River Plate midway through the 2000-01 season, he settled into the Leverkusen side with ease and played in last season's Champions League Final defeat against Real Madrid.

Part of his country's ill-fated World Cup campaign last summer, he was dropped after the 1-0 defeat to England. Began his pro career at Argentinos Juniors, Diego Maradona's former club.

Zoltan Sebescen (defender)
Born:
01.10.75
Nationality:
German

A dynamic right-back or right-sided midfielder signed from Wolfsburg at the start of last season, Sebescen made his only appearance for Germany in a friendly against Holland in February 2000.

He will be hoping to revive his international career with some solid Champions League displays in the second group phase. Not the most subtle of players, but very effective and important to his team.

Boris Zivkovic (defender)
Born:
15.11.75
Nationality:
Croatian

Although not often first-choice, Zivkovic has proved an extremely valuable squad player, filling in competently in both full-back roles as well as in central defence.

Rugged and strong in the air, he can be reckless at times, picking up unnecessary yellow and red cards. This ex-HD Zagreb and Marsonia Slavonski Brod star was in Croatia's World Cup squad.

Marko Babic (midfielder)
Born:
21.01.81
Nationality:
Croatian

The young midfield all-rounder has proved to be a surprise source of goals in the Champions League this season, netting a brace in the 2-0 win at Maccabi Haifa and adding another in a home victory over the same opponents.

Joined Leverkusen from NK Osijek in 1999, and Toppmoller says his performances have been one of the pluses of a season that started poorly before picking up mid-way through the first phase of the Champions League.

Hanno Balitsch (midfielder)
Born:
02.01.81
Nationality:
German

A tigerish midfield battler often compared to Bayern Munich's Jens Jeremies, Balitsch's importance to the side should not be underestimated.

Bayer paid Rhineland neighbours Koln £1.3million for the German under-21 international last summer and, while he is not a regular starter, he has rarely disappointed when included in the line-up. Still has time on his side to develop into a top class performer.

Yildiray Basturk (midfielder)
Born:
24.12.78
Nationality:
Turkish

Basturk

Born in Germany to Turkish parents, this diminutive playmaker was a revelation last season as he played a major role in Leverkusen's excellent displays at home and abroad and helped Turkey achieve third place at the World Cup.

Highly skilful, elusive and imaginative, he was bought from Bochum in the summer 2001. Some say he needs to improve his strike-rate, but he is one of the rising stars of European football and Leverkusen have done well to keep hold of him.

Daniel Bierofka (midfielder)
Born:
07.02.79
Nationality:
German

One of Germany's most promising youngsters, the pacy left-sided midfielder took some time to settle following a £2.5million move from 1860 Munich. But he is now beginning to show the sort of form which persuaded Leverkusen to choose him as the replacement for the Bayern Munich-bound Ze Roberto.

Won his first full cap for Germany towards the end of last season, though he did not make the World Cup 2002 cut.

Carsten Ramelow (midfielder)
Born:
20.03.74
Nationality:
German

Whether employed in a midfield holding role or in the centre of defence - where German boss Rudi Voller used him to great success at last summer's World Cup finals - the industrious and consistent Berliner always gives full value for money.

Joined Bayer from Hertha Berlin back in 1997 and has been skippering the side in the absence of Nowotny. The sort of inspirational leader any coach wants in his side.

Bernd Schneider (midfielder)
Born:
17.11.73
Nationality:
German

After his impressive form for Leverkusen and Germany last term, a number of leading Italian and Spanish clubs were chasing Schneider in the close season - only for Leverkusen to refuse to do business.

Busy and technicallyaccomplished, he is at his most potent on the right flank and is renowned for his pinpoint crosses and outstanding set-pieces. Has the experience to back up his obvious class.

Jan Simak (midfielder)
Born:
13.10.78
Nationality:
Czech

In the wake of the departure of midfield star Michael Ballack to Bayern Munich during the summer, Leverkusen had hoped to fill the gap by paying Hannover £4million for the Czech creator and goalscorer.

But apart from a couple of well-taken goals early this season and some flashes of skill, Simak has not lived up to expectations. The next few months will be make-or-break for a gifted player who will need to shine in this Champions League campaign.

Dimitar Berbatov (forward)
Born:
30.01.81
Nationality:
Bulgarian

The young Bulgarian striker has hardly been in prolific goalscoring form this season, but coach Toppmoller insists he will soon turn things around.

Pacy and mobile, he signed from CSKA Sofia in 2000 and played a part in last season's Champions League Final defeat against Real Madrid. Berbatov has already collected 17 caps for Bulgaria, and there should be many more on the way in years to come.

Thomas Brdaric (forward)
Born:
23.01.75
Nationality:
German

Ever-willing and tricky front runner who is arguably one of the most improved players in the country.

Capped once for Germany - in a friendly against the USA last March - he can at times overdo the theatrics, though he was entirely blameless when Bayern and Germany keeper Oliver Kahn fouled him earlier this term.

That incident caused a storm that propelled Bradaric to front page news, and his profile has never been higher.

Franca (forward)
Born: 02.0376
Nationality:
Brazilian

No-one doubts the striker's pedigree - he has skill to spare and is a proven goal scorer - but Franca has been hampered by injuries and a loss of confidence sinve arriving from Sao Paulo for £5.6million in the summer.

On the scoresheet for Brazil in a friendly with England at Wembley in May 2000, he will be hoping for better luck in the second phase of the Champions League.

Oliver Neuville (forward)
Born:
01.05.73
Nationality:
German

Neuville

A lively attacker equally comfortable out wide or through the middle, Neuville has improved constantly since arriving at Leverkusen from Hansa Rostock in the summer of 1999.

Of Italo-Swiss parentage, he owes his German passport to the fact that his father was born in the Rhineland border town of Aachen. He has also played for Locarno and Servette in Switzerland and Spanish side Tenerife, and had the unwanted distinction of being a loser in the Champions League and World Cup Finals last season.