"It's the dark, destructive force of German football. You really shouldn't mess with it," cautioned Berlin-based broadsheet
To the uninitiated, Nutella is simply a hazelnut-based chocolate spread manufactured by an Italian company. Tooth- and waistline-destroying but essentially harmless stuff, you might think, but you couldn't be more wrong. Since becoming an official sponsor of the Germany team six years ago, Nutella has been singularly responsible for the demise of an entire generation of young footballing talent. The eerie coincidences are too great to be merely coincidental. This is voodoo: Whoever features in the (usually cringe-worthy) TV ads for that particular product soon finds his career in a downward spiral.
TSV 1860 Munich striker
It won't surprise you at this point to find out that Schalke striker
There can be no doubt who has been the worst affected player, however.
"When somebody looks at me, I'm not the perfect German," the 28-year-old said. "When I look at people in the States, they look more like me. In Germany, with my tattoos people say, 'Ooh, he's not a good man.' But look at [
Jones later claimed he had been misquoted, but many commentators felt he had cynically brought in politics to justify a straightforward career move: Getting into the U.S. team, he must have deduced at the time, would be a lot easier than displacing the likes of
It didn't quite work out that way, of course. A hairline fracture of his left tibia has sidelined him for more than 10 months. His immediate prospects are looking bleak, too. "I'm wearing a 'bone stimulator' around the clock," he told
Jones couldn't even rule out the need for more surgery. "If that's the case, it will take three more months for me to be on the pitch again," he said.
He's actually come close to making a comeback in recent months, perhaps too close at times. "I think I might have started too early," Jones said. "We've all made mistakes: me, the doctors, the coaches." He's not even able to run at the moment.
Truth be told, Schalke has hardly missed him. Magath did say he needed more "characters" in the team a couple of weeks ago but has juggled formations and lineups to devastating effect this season. Schalke's 1-0 win at Hertha Berlin on Saturday kept it firmly in the title race -- first-place Bayern is ahead on goal difference only -- and secured participation in next year's Champions League, along with an estimated $26 million in appearance fees.
For Jones, his club's surprising success should prove a mixed blessing. On the one hand, Magath will be able to bring in better players (defender
Even his detractors in the Bundesliga will wish him a speedy recovery, but unfortunately, the omens are not good. The fact that Jones shares his fate with a long list of victims who have all been hurt by German football's dark side can be of little solace to him.
Hannover 96 weren't quite as bad as against Munich the week before (when they lost 7-0 to
Former Houston Dynamo midfielder