Pre-season transfers

Two big names left the club ahead of the season in Kai Havertz for a record transfer fee to Chelsea and Kevin Volland to Monaco. Patrik Schick, who had spent the 2019/20 season on loan at RB Leipzig, came to Leverkusen from Roma on a deal until 2025. Youngster Florian Wirtz, who had already tasted the Bundesliga for the Werkself the previous season, also became a permanent member of the senior squad. In addition, right-back Santiago Arias came on loan from Atletico Madrid and goalkeeper Lennart Grill from Kaiserslautern. Players from the Kurtekotten training centre also stepped up to the first-team squad in Emrehan Gedikli, Samed Onur and Cem Türkmen. They trained regularly with the professionals and would make their professional debuts in the Europa League.


Good start in cup

The first competitive fixture of 2020/21 was also the first match in front of a crowd following the lockdown earlier in the year - even if a reduced capacity. There were 300 people in attendance for the 7-0 win over Eintracht Norderstedt in the first round of the DFB Pokal at the BayArena. The fourth-tier club had forgone their right to host the game due to the measures necessary under the Covid-19 protocols. Wirtz and Schick both scored their first goals for the Werkself.

Unbeaten Bundesliga run

The Bundesliga was also played out in front of limited crowds once it returned in mid-September. Bayer 04 went unbeaten in their first four games. Following an opening 0-0 draw at Wolfsburg, the Werkself hosted RB Leipzig for a 1-1 draw in front of 6,042 spectators. A further 1-1 draw followed in Stuttgart before Lucas Alario's goal got Leverkusen their first win of the league campaign against Mainz. It was a result that kickstarted the season.

Blistering start in the Europa League

It means Bayer 04 went into their first European game of the season on 22 October still unbeaten in 2020/21. They demonstrated their confidence with a 6-2 thrashing of Nice in the Europa League. Karim Bellarabi was the star of the show with a brace, while 17-year-old Wirtz got his first international goal. The other opponents in Group C were Slavia Prague and Hapoel Beer Sheva.


Lucky 13

Leverkusen followed that first big win under coach Peter Bosz with an impressive run over the next 13 competitive games. It included 11 wins between the 3-1 win at home to Augsburg on Matchday 5 and the 4-0 thumping of Köln in Cologne on Matchday 12, with the only blemishes a 0-0 draw against Hertha Berlin on Matchday 9 and the 1-0 defeat to Slavia Prague in the second Europa League group game. 

That winning feeling

That run from the end of October to mid-December had an impact on the team, both as individuals and as a unit, with confidence flowing. Clear wins like the 4-1 success over Hoffenheim and the hard-fought 4-3 triumph against Borussia Mönchengladbach were normal during that spell and fired the Werkself to the top of the Bundesliga table, where they placed for two matchdays. It was the first time since September 2014 that Leverkusen had been at the summit in Germany, when Roger Schmidt's team topped the standings after Matchday 3.

At home and abroad

Things were going just as smoothly in the Europa League. A comfortable 4-0 win over Slavia in the final group game meant the Werkself finished on 15 points and were through to the knockout stage. Their 21 goals scored was also the best in the group stage, ahead of the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and AC Milan.


On a run, but with a caveat

Our No.13 was in particularly impressive form at the time, with Alario bagged seven goals between Matchdays 4 and 7. Wirtz continued to impress and emerge as a key part of the team. Gedikli, Onur und Türkmen demonstrated the good work of the academy by making their senior debuts in the Europa League. The only downside during all these good results was the second Covid-19 lockdown in early November in Germany. It meant Werkself fans were forced to watch the action from home again for another six weeks.

Back down to earth

The fact Leverkusen didn't go into the winter break top of the table is down to a string of errors in added time of the final game of 2020. It was 1-1 against Bayern Munich after 90 minutes that Saturday evening - a fair result, given Bayer 04 had been the better side in the first half and the visitors better after the restart. However, with only seconds to go, the Werkself defence failed to get the ball away, allowing Joshua Kimmich to steal in and play in Robert Lewandowski, whose shot deflected in off Edmond Tapsoba. As a result, it was the Bavarians who topped the standings going into the new year.


A dark start to 2021, but with some glimmers

After a few days off, the Werkself returned looking to go again after that painful defeat to Bayern. However, things didn't quite work out. A 2-1 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt in the first game of 2021 was followed by a 1-1 draw with Werder Bremen and another 1-0 defeat to Union Berlin. The four-game winless run was ended with a 2-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 17, where Wirtz struck a late winner to take Bosz's side on to 32 points and third at the mid-point of the season behand Bayern (39) and Leipzig (35). Another shining moment in an otherwise dark January was progress to the round of 16 in the DFB Pokal as the 10-man Werkself came from 1-0 down to beat Frankfurt 4-1 in the second round. 

Reinforcements from the UK

Bayer 04 brought in three reinforcements in the January transfer window with Jeremie Frimpong (Celtic), Demarai Gray (Leicester City) and Timothy Fosu-Mensah (Manchester United).


Contrasting second half

Leverkusen discovered in the second half of the season that runs can be both good and bad. Bosz's team managed just two league wins between Matchdays 18 and 26. Those were the 5-2 victory at home to Stuttgart when Moussa Diaby provided a hat-trick of assists, plus the battling 1-0 win over Gladbach in a somewhat less convincing display.


From three to one

Things weren't much better in other competitions. A 2-1 defeat to fourth-tier side Rot-Weiss Essen in February saw elimination from the DFB Pokal. The Werkself were then knocked out of the Europa League in the round of 32 by Gerardo Seoane's Young Boys. A season that had started so promisingly was at risk of ending in disappointment. The goal now was just to qualify for Europe in the Bundesliga.

Wolf replaces Bosz

It was decided that a change was needed in the dugout, with further defeats to Arminia Bielefeld (2-1) and Hertha (3-0) leading to the dismissal of Bosz. Hannes Wolf was brought in to replace him on loan from the German FA, working alongside Miguel Moreira and legend Peter Hermann to see the team through to the end of the season.


Winning start for Wolf

Coming in from his job in charge of Germany's U18s, Wolf only had 11 days to get the Werkself back on track for European qualification. With intense and demanding training sessions, the then 39-year-old tried to restore some defensive stability - and it worked. Wolf's debut in charge against Schalke ended in a 2-1 win thanks to Alario and substitute Schick.

Derby victory

That new-found solidity was on display again in the goalless draw with Hoffenheim and when the Werkself completed the double over Köln - for the first time since 2008/09 - as an-form Leon Bailey and Diaby helped the team to a 3-0 win.


Although the derby win couldn't be celebrated with Bayer 04 fans inside the BayArena, a number did gather on Bismarkstraße - wearing masks and maintaining a safe distance - during the game to cheer on the team from outside. It was a special example of how to support your team in special circumstances. And with a little help from the stadium root, Lukas Hradecky and the team were able to celebrate with the fans - or at least hear each other celebrating.

Werkself international

Although Wolf's unbeaten start of seven points from three games was ended with a 2-0 loss in Munich, the team went on another three-game win with a 3-1 win over Frankfurt, a 0-0 draw with Bremen and a 1-1 draw against Union to guarantee European qualification with a game to spare.

An emotional finish

The Werkself then went to Dortmund for the final game of the season. Neither team had anything to play for in terms of the table, and the 3-1 defeat was almost immaterial given the emotional goodbyes from all parties that day.


It was the final game for referee Manuel Gräfe, while Dortmund were saying goodbye to Lukasz Piszczek. As for Leverkusen, it was the final professional games for Lars and Sven Bender as the pair bowed out after 15 years of battling, passionate displays.

You would've thought the emotional highlight was when Sven - against his former club - made way in the 89th minute for Lars, who shouldn't have even played given his ankle injury. But that wasn't the end of it. 

Bender against Bürki

After 12 proud years at the BayArena, with five of those as captain, Lars ended his career by getting on the scoresheet, putting away a consolation penalty in the final minute. As a sign of respect, BVB goalkeeper Roman Bürki made no attempt to save the last kick of a great career.


Following the conclusion of that ultimately meaningless game, the twins said goodbye in an emotional and impressive TV interview together. Lars said: "A football team is how society should look. Stand together. Have a common goal. It's completely irrelevant who's sitting next to you, how they look, where they come from, what religion they are or what culture they come from. Stand together. Don't be divided. That's the message I want to send. That's what I'll take from my career."

Seventh honorary captain

Those parting words were just yet another example of what a great player and person was leaving the big stage. So, it was no surprise when the club announced ahead of the final home game of the season that Lars would become the Werkself's seventh honorary captain, joining the ranks of Ulf Kirsten, Carsten Ramelow, Bernd Schneider, Simon Rolfes, Rüdiger Vollborn and Stefan Kießling. But the ceremony would only happen when spectators were finally allowed back in the stadium, in 2021/22.