Four Unioner to Leave at Season's End
Thanks for all you gave
Though filled with optimism at the coming of the new and the joy at everything already achieved, the end of a season will also inevitably mean a parting of the ways. But while some players must leave us, their memories and successes will always remain.
So, we say goodbye to a long-standing Bundesliga pro, an Union veteran, a Fußballgott with chalk on his boots, and a true fighter - on and off the pitch.
After two seasons - Levin Öztunali moves on
Hardly any other player in the squad has so many Bundesliga games under his belt. With Leverkusen, Bremen, Mainz and most recently with Union, Levin Öztunali has made 190 German top-flight appearances. Only Robin Knoche (281) and Rani Khedira (202) have played more in the Bundesliga.
Öztunali will certainly have fond memories of one of his two "assists". In the historic last 16 victory against Hertha BSC in the DFB Pokal, it was his pressure and cross that defender Niklas Stark put into his own net to make it 2-0 for Union. In two seasons, Öztunali made a total of 26 appearances in the Bundesliga, the Cup, and the UEFA Conference League. “Mete” no longer has the chance to break the magic mark of 200 Bundesliga appearances for Union, but we are just as certain that he will do it somewhere else.
Almost six years at Union - Tim Maciejewski says goodbye
Maciejewski came to Köpenick via SC Staaken and Hertha BSC and started his time in the capital’s south-east with Union's U-17 team. Shortly before the Corona pandemic the then 18-year-old broke through into the first eleven for the first time where, in 18 games, Maciejewski scored 12 goals and 7 assists. And all as a right-winger.
Consequently, he signed his first professional contract with Union in the spring of 2020 after the conclusion of the U-19 season. Maciejewski will have fond memories of his Bundesliga debut the following year as the then 19-year-old came on towards the end of the 5-0 win against Bielefeld. After a year and a half on loan at Austria Klagenfurt, Maciejewski came back to his hometown, and was an integral part of the successful UEFA Europa League squad.
Crossing into the Unioner’s hearts - Niko Gießelmann's journey ends in the summer
In the summer of 2020, the Hannover native moved to Köpenick from then league rivals Fortuna Düsseldorf. Gießelmann made 15 appearances in his first season at Union, claiming his first assist in the DFB Pokal before breaking his shoulder in the second half of the season. He was to come back stronger than ever.
In the following season, the 29-year-old had the best period of his career so far. With three goals and seven assists, Gießelmann was also instrumental in Union’s qualification for the Europa League and got his first taste of European competition in the Conference League. Across all competitions, he made a total of 87 appearances for Union. And though the end of this season will mark his departure, the memories of his pinpoint crosses from the left-hand side will always remain.
Fought together, won together - Timo Baumgartl looks for a new challenge
Following a difficult time at Dutch first division club PSV Eindhoven, the then 25-year-old from Böblingen arrived at Union in the summer of 2021 for an initial one-year loan. And in no time at all Baumgartl established himself as a regular face in the three-man backline, deciding the 2-1 Bundesliga win against Leipzig almost single-handedly with a goal and an assist. “Baumi” didn't miss a minute of the DFB Pokal run that season until Union were eliminated in the semi-finals.
In the second half of the season, the Swabian was ready to push on to ever greater heights, until a diagnosis in April redefined his priorities. He had developed testicular cancer. But with the support of his girlfriend Julia, his family, his friends, Union's medical department and the backing of the entire club - and not least of all his own willpower - he beat the disease and fought his way back. On 18.09.2022, he made his emotional comeback to the starting XI in a 2-0 win against VfL Wolfsburg, only five months after his diagnosis. Baumgartl made a decisive contribution to Union’s qualification for the Europa League for the first time through his superb performances.
Thanks for all you gave
The cliche is as old as the game itself, but as with many this one rings true here, sometimes football tells stories few other pursuits can. The entire Union family are happy to have been able to accompany Timo Baumgartl on the difficult road to recovery and to have been even a small part of his emotional comeback.
All four players have experienced their own highs and lows with 1. FC Union Berlin. But there is one thread that connects Levin, Tim, Niko and Timo forever. They will all always be part of the squad that played the best season in the club's history. No one can or wants to take that away from them. Once a Unioner, always a Unioner!