Home > Football > The future’s bright, the future’s german

The future’s bright, the future’s german

Germany has been considered one of international football’s powerhouses ever since Fritz Walter, Helmut Rahn and co. pulled off Das Wunder von Bern (The miracle of Berne) to defeat the seemingly unbeatable Hungarians and win the 1954 World Cup. Since then, Germany has produced a wealth of footballing talent, including the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Müller, Jürgen Klinsmann and Lothar Matthäus. Two further World Cups victories in 1974 and 1990, [1] as well as four runners up spots,[2] have helped cement their place as a force at world level. It has however been twenty years since their last World Cup triumph and fourteen years since Oliver Bierhoff’s super-sub performance scored them their last major honour at Euro 96. Germans have been fretting for some time now that their country’s fortunes are on the decline. They need not worry.

Whilst Sir Trevor Brooking and other FA bigwigs are getting hot under the collar worrying about the lack of English talent coming through, the DFB (German FA) has no such concerns. Germany has so much emerging talent that England is forced to look on enviously, but you can bet they will be glad they do not have to share it. Although there is such an abundance of young talent in Germany at the moment, three players in particular stand out, all of whom have aspirations to represent their country in South Africa and more importantly, all of whom have a very strong case for inclusion.

Mesut Özil

The 21 year old graduate of Schalke’s renowned academy has been a much hyped player for some time in Germany and when Schalke failed to tie him to a contract back in 2008, many felt they had let a future star slip from their grasp. He left for Bremen and since then has not looked back. Primarily an attacking midfielder who can either play at the attacking tip of a midfield diamond or out on the left, Özil has a wand of a left foot. His delivery from wide areas is as good as anything in world football, Beckham-esque you could say, and this ability is also in evidence at set pieces. Although he is not lightning quick, he is not slow either and he shows excellent close control when dribbling. Unusually for a young player, he has a good footballing brain and his decision making when picking a pass is sound more often than not, as is shown by his twelve assists this season (the most in the Bundesliga). He is however, not yet the finished article. He does have a tendency to over-rely on his left foot and he needs to improve the aerial side of his game but he is undoubtedly a huge talent and seems to be on track to fulfil his potential.

Mesut can decide a match on his own. He’s quick-thinking and the ball just seems to stick to his feet, like Messi.

Werder Bremen defender Naldo on his team-mate

He is held in high esteem by many in the sport and Bremen may struggle to keep hold of him for much longer if he continues to perform at his current level. He has been mentioned as a potential replacement for Cesc Fabregas should he choose to leave Arsenal and many more of Europe’s big guns are rumoured to be monitoring his progress. Furthermore, Fatih Terim’s determined attempts to persuade  him to play for Turkey, the country of his parents, show just how highly regarded the young playmaker is. Luckily for Germany, he chose to represent the country of his birth. Özil has enjoyed a fruitful season at Bremen chipping in with eight league goals to add to his assists and with eight caps for the national team to his name already, he has a very good chance of being on the plane to South Africa.

Thomas Müller

A highly talented 20 year old attacking midfielder who can also play as a secondary striker, Müller has had a breakthrough season at Bayern Munich. His performances, which have brought about ten goals in the league, another four in the DFB Pokal (German Cup) and two in Europe, have earned him rave reviews and a Bundesliga player of the month award for September 2009. More significantly, in a World Cup year, he has broken in to the national side. He made his debut against Argentina in last month’s friendly at the Allianz Arena and in the starting eleven at that.

Müller’s strength lies in his technical ability. He is comfortable using either foot and like Özil, is an excellent dribbler. Sixteen goals this season in all competitions are testament to his eye for goal and he seems to feel like he belongs at the top level showing confidence but not arrogance. If there is any obvious weakness in his game it is that he needs to be more physical as he can be muscled off the ball quite easily. There are perhaps also question marks over his discipline, although a red card against Bordeaux in this season’s Champions League group stage is the only real evidence of this. Müller is considered by many in Germany to be the nation’s top talent and having now broken in to the Joachim Löw’s squad, you can expect to see him in South Africa.

Toni Kroos

The third of the talented trio is another attacking midfielder, Toni Kroos, who has spent this season on loan at Bayer Leverkusen from Bayern Munich. Bayern’s Club President Uli Hoeness is a known admirer which bodes well for Kroos’s future as the 1974 World Cup winner holds great sway at the Bavarian club. Kroos made a promising start to his career in Munich but it was deemed beneficial to loan him out in order for him to gain valuable experience. Until recently, it looked like this was a decision that might backfire as Leverkusen led Bayern in the race for the title but a dip in form for the Werkself  looks to have iradicated that problem and they may be known as Neverkusen for a while longer yet. Leverkusen have made no secret of their desire to secure the services of Kroos on a permanent basis following an impressive first season in which he has notched nine goals and set up another eight. Bayern however have rejected their overtures and Kroos is set to return to the Allianz Arena in July.

Toni Kroos (This image is the property of 365 Media Group Ltd)

Kroos is another technically gifted player. He is the best of the three young stars as far as the ability to effectively use both feet is concerned and he has an excellent shot. He seems to have Frank Lampard’s knack of arriving at the edge of the box at the last minute unnoticed to slam home a shot and his range of passing is exceptional. He also has that rare talent of always seeming to have time on the ball, a sure sign of a quality player (look at Paul Scholes and Xavi if you need evidence of this). His small build means that he lacks strength and so can sometimes struggle against more physical teams and he does demonstrate something of a maverick streak, sometimes choosing to go it alone when a simple pass is the best option. He is however, a precocious talent and may even go on to be the best of the three.

His performances this season also led to an international call-up and he made his debut in the friendly against Argentina in March as a 66th minute substitute for Müller but will he too be likely to go to South Africa? If he does not, it will not be because he is not good enough.

The issue may well be that Löw is reluctant to take three very talented but ultimately inexperienced players to the World Cup and the likes of Michael Ballack, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Thorsten Frings will not be sacrificed. Consequently, at least one of the youngsters will probably miss out. Özil has the advantage of being naturally left-footed and has played in European competition this year with Bremen, as has Müller with Bayern. Kroos does not have such experience. The fact that Kroos was a substitute for the Argentina match whereas Müller started also serves as an indication of Löw’s plans. It would seem therefore, that Kroos will probably be the one to miss out.

The aforementioned players may be the standouts amongst Germany’s current crop of youngsters but they are certainly not the only stars on the rise. Schalke’s Manuel Neuer is one of Europe’s most highly-regarded young goalkeepers and rumours of an impending switch to Manchester United persist. Jerome Boateng has established himself as a first rate defender who can play either on the right or in the middle of a back four. He too is being watched by Europe’s top clubs and links with Manchester City are now appearing in the English press on an almost daily basis. Even younger players such as Under 20s international Danny Latza, who recently impressed against Italy, are also worth keeping an eye on.

What is even more promising for the Germans is the fact that many of their established stars such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Mario Gomez and Paris Hilton’s favourite Lukas Podolski are all 25 and under. If Löw can successfully blend the likes of Özil, Müller and Kroos with these regular first-teamers, Germany can be a force for years to come. The worry for everybody else is that when the Germans get it right they usually win.


[1] Competed as Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in these tournaments as well as in 1954

[2] Runners up in 2002 as a unified nation, runners up in 1966, 1982 and 1986 as Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany)

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Categories: Football
  1. Harpie
    April 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I don’t really know a great deal about these German players other than what I have seen of them in Europe, but I’ll still say my piece. Whilst I think their stats are all very impressive in the Bundesliga this season, I wonder whether the relative inferiority of the German League, which is definitely not one of the top-European-tier leagues (think Spain, England, Italy), plays a role in these stats. As it currently stands, I am not overly worried by these three players; but the Germans being what they are in major tournaments could spring a surprise or two and, if they do, it would be pretty scary if any of these three break on to the scene, as they could be around on the International Stage for a long time to come. I quite fancy my chances with a fit Lennon, Milner and Walcott. Bring on the World Cup!

    • April 22, 2010 at 10:59 pm

      I think you always have to be careful with players who have impressive stats and performances in their domestic leagues and we have seen plenty of examples in the past of players who have these and never achieve anything internationally. With regards to the Premiership and La Liga, I don’t think the overall standard of the Bundesliga lags behind but rather that it lags behind the top sides in these leagues. Spain is becoming a bit like the SPL with Barca and Real Madrid currently being 25 and 24 points ahead of Valencia in 3rd but they are superior to anything the Bundesliga has to offer. The same is true of England where maybe the top 6 or 7 are better but after that, the quality of the Premiership leaves a lot to be desired. The Italian league has declined greatly since the glory era of the 80s and 90s and I don’t think can be considered a top tier league anymore.

      As for the World Cup Harpie, Germany is a ‘Turniermannschaft’ and will probably be there or there abouts. I agree with you though, I don’t think England will be losing any sleep over them this year but as you say, the real impact of these players could come in the future

      • Harpie
        April 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

        I think the German league is a One-Horse Race, end-of. I know that Bayern havent won it every year recently, but they are still the best team in that league by some distance. I think the fact that Wolfsburg (Champions last year) lost to Fulham, who are a mid-table Prem team tells you a lot.

        La Liga used to be competitive but Barca and Real have used their financial clout (and friendly banking sector) to buy the biggest players from all over the world. Barca, for example, bought Ibra for a ridiculous fee when they already had an arguably better player in Eto’o anyway.

        A note on the Premiership: The quality of the rest of the league does leave a lot to be desired, but there are lots of competitive teams in the league, where competitiveness is defined as the ability of everyone to beat everyone. See Burnley versus Man U; Pompey versus Liverpool, etc.
        I think it has become so much more competitive this year for a couple of reasons: firstly, the biggest clubs havent really invested much and have even lost a couple of very important players to La Liga (e.g. Ronaldo, Alonso); and secondly, lots of the 2nd tier clubs have improved their squads.

        The fact that Inter are doing so well in the CL and are struggling to win their League might be because they have focused on the CL rather than the league, but I think it still shows that there must be a real base level of quality in that league. I, for example, would prefer to face anyone in the Bundesliga excluding Bayern as opposed to Juve, Roma or AC.

  2. April 21, 2010 at 8:34 pm

    Mario Götze is still only 17 and has not yet broken in to Dortmund’s first team squad. He has however, impressed for Germany’s under 17s and I think has recently progressed to the under 18s. One to keep an eye on. Bargfrede is 21 now and has played for Bremen’s first team a few times. I didn’t really notice him a great deal when I saw him. He didn’t stand out in a good way or a bad way so I’m afraid I can’t really provide too much information on him. Sören Bertram is an 18 year old midfielder at Hamburg and only made his Bundesliga debut this weekend just gone in a 1-0 defeat to Mainz. As such, I haven’t seen a great deal of him but he is another one with a lot of caps at national under 17 and under 18 levels.

    Nuri Sahin is a player I have always kept close tabs on as he first came to public attention when I was living in Germany. He has had a lot of expectation to live up to since becoming the youngest player in Bundesliga history back in August 2005 and was sent on loan to Feyenoord two seasons ago. Since returning to Dortmund, he has gradually matured in to a fine midfielder capable of controlling the tempo of a game. He has chipped in with four goals so it’s fair to say he’s had a decent season. Unfortunately we won’t be seeing him at the World Cup as he chose to play for Turkey who failed to qualify.

    As for Marin, he is coming to the end of his first season at Bremen and has therefore had to settle in at a new club. He has had a bit of a mixed season in all honesty but then so has Bremen. I was impressed with his performances in the Europa League and he has shown sporadically what he is capable of in the Bundesliga. I like Marin. He is small but has excellent vision and a great eye for a pass. I think we have to cut him some slack as it has been his first season at the Weserstadion and I have no doubt that there is more to come from him

  3. Superiorraw
    April 21, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    Interesting article, regarding young players in Germany, have you watched or heard of much of these;
    Mario Götze – Borussia Dortmund
    Soren Bertram – Hamburger SV
    Philipp Bargfrede – Werder Bremen
    if so what do you think of them?

    What happened to Nuri Sahin and Marko Marin, have they had good seasons?

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