Known for his wavy locks and a name you always recall but aren’t sure why, Torsten Frings was the typical German defensive midfield general. A fantastic leader on and off the pitch, Frings had the aggression, tackling and versatility to be a mainstay in the national side throughout the 2000s.
Frings started his career in the German Third Division at Alemannia Aachen and quickly made his mark in Germany with his work rate, vision and vocal presence on the pitch. He also began to develop his trademark powerful longshot at Aachen, notably scoring 12 goals for the side in the 1995/96 season – not bad for a defensive-midfielder!
At the start of 1997, impressed by what they had seen from the youngster, Bundesliga side Werder Bremen signed Frings for under £100,000. Frings didn’t take long to adapt to the higher level, and soon found himself playing a pivotal role in taking Bremen to the German Cup Final in 1999 where they would beat Bayern Munich dramatically on penalties.
2002 Quarter Final: Torsten Frings gets away with a handball on the line as Germany beat USA 1-0. pic.twitter.com/JeqaW7ajnd
— World Cup Photos (@WorldCupPhotos1) February 12, 2014
Frings’ impressive form for his club side meant that by 2001, Germany manager Rudi Völler had seen enough to call him up to the national side. Frings would pick up 79 caps for his country during his career and starred in two World Cups.
At the end of the 2001/02 season, Frings’ good form for club and country had him on the radar of several of Europe’s leading clubs. The bidding war for his services coincided with the 2002 World Cup. In between group stage games, Frings was being trailed by several clubs. Eventually, after the second game, a deal was made with Borussia Dortmund for just under £10 million.
Playing for Dortmund allowed Frings to make his debut in the Champions League, scoring two goals in his first season in Europe’s elite competition. He would only spend two seasons with BVB, the second of which was hampered badly by a knee injury, before he would be on the move again.
Torsten Frings. Werder Bremen legend. Another workhorse. Midfield all-rounder (nearly). Always brought balance. Had a nice touch too. pic.twitter.com/jItlcJFZMB
— ‘Zatore (@Cerebrone) October 6, 2016
Much as the trend in recent years, Frings was picked up by Dortmund’s rivals, Bayern Munich, in 2004 for a smaller fee than perhaps he was worth. However, Bayern would not get the bargain buy that they expected.
Coach Felix Magath, known across Europe for his dictatorial managerial style, regularly played Frings out of position and this upset a player known for not shying from his opinions. Despite winning the domestic double, Frings fell out with Magath, never settled, and made the decision to return to Bremen at the end of the season.
Frings would go on to spend the rest of his domestic career at Bremen, taking his overall tally at the club to well over 300 appearances. Frings continued playing for the national side until 2009 as well, and scored a memorable World Cup goal in Germany’s opener to the tournament against Costa Rica in 2006.
Sadly, that World Cup campaign would end in controversy. After Germany’s penalty shootout win against Argentina in the quarter-finals, Frings was handed a fine and a two-game suspension (one of which was eventually made probationary) for his involvement in the post-match brawl.
It was claimed that Frings punched Argentine player Julio Cruz, even though Cruz himself denied this. The Italian media was blamed for provoking FIFA to act due to their front-page coverage of the incident, and this all led to Germany’s defeat to Italy in the semi-finals in extra time. Without Frings in such a tight and important game, this may have been the deciding factor.
Frings stayed at Bremen until 2011 when he decided he wanted to join Toronto FC in the MLS for his career swansong. The German quickly became a fan favourite at the Canadian club and was also soon named captain of the side. Sadly, injuries soon curtailed Frings’ career, and by February 2013, he made the difficult decision to retire from football, despite Toronto wanting to maintain a relationship with the player.
Frings is now the head coach at Darmstadt 98, after joining last December when they were bottom of the Bundesliga. The club remained there to be relegated at the end of the season, but Frings has so far been praised for his managerial style, despite his often-snappy responses to the media.
Whether Frings will be a successful coach of the future remains to be seen, but he will forever be remembered for his loud voice and ferocious tackles which terrified the opposition for years.