The Bundesliga has no less than 91 representatives at UEFA Euro 2020, but this team of absentees would give any side a run for their money. - © /
The Bundesliga has no less than 91 representatives at UEFA Euro 2020, but this team of absentees would give any side a run for their money. - © /

From Erling Haaland to Dayot Upamecano: The Bundesliga's best XI not at UEFA Euro 2020


With UEFA Euro 2020 fast approaching, spare a thought for the Bundesliga players that remain at home. Among them are Erling Haaland, Marco Reus, Dayot Upamecano and Florian Wirtz who, when combined, make up a team that surely would be capable of going all the way this summer.

There may be a whopping 91 Bundesliga footballers representing their country at the Euros, but some - through no fault of their own - were bound to miss out. pieces together an XI that, under different circumstances, would have lit up the tournament...

Koen Casteels (Wolfsburg)

Only RB Leipzig’s Hungarian goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi (15) kept more clean sheets than Casteels (14) last season, as the Wolves took fourth-place and secured a return to the UEFA Champions League.

Wolfsburg's Koen Casteels kept the second-most Bundesliga clean sheets in 2020/21, with 14. - Sebastian Widmann/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Any other year would have seen Casteels join up with his Belgium teammates with the hope of the 28-year-old adding to his one senior international cap, but he will now spend his summer recuperating from surgery on a long-standing injury.

He told Wolfsburg’s official website: “Obviously it’s a shame that I’ll miss the European Championship, but unfortunately no other decision was possible because the plate has been causing me constant pain for almost two years now.”

Ridle Baku (Wolfsburg)

The 23-year-old’s performances in front of Casteels this season were nothing short of superb, as Baku’s six league goals and six assists resulted in the former Mainz man making his senior bow for Die Mannschaft in November.

He was in the running to make Joachim Löw’s Germany squad but narrowly missed out in the end, instead playing a crucial role in his country’s victory in the U21 equivalent of the European Championships.

Baku started every single game of that tournament, scoring twice and setting up the final’s decisive only goal.

Jeremiah St. Juste (Mainz)

The Bundesliga’s fastest player last term missed just two matches in 2020/21, playing every minute of Mainz’s other 32 outings as the 05ers turned their campaign on its head with a stunning Rückrunde effort that read: P17, W9, D5, L3.

Despite being in the relegation zone at the time, St. Juste earned a maiden Netherlands call-up in March, with the news broken to him by an unlikely family member: “I received a message from my grandmother: ‘Top, top, with your selection for the Dutch national team.’ I was surprised, but my grandmother is always well informed, so I went to look on the internet and saw it myself!”

With the Dutch team blessed with a wealth of defensive options, his wait for a first major international tournament goes on for the time being, but St. Juste is clearly in the national team’s future thinking.

Dayot Upamecano (RB Leipzig)

The Bayern Munich-bound French defender - who won the U17 European Championship in 2015 - scored in France’s 2-1 quarter-final exit to the Netherlands at this year’s U21 competition, having been overlooked for the senior team.

Watch: Why Dayot Upamecano is the perfect signing for Bayern Munich

Again, this omission says more of his country’s defensive riches than it does his own form that saw the 22-year-old top the Leipzig charts for most successful tackles last year (310).

His time at the heart of the national team’s defence will come, especially if Upamecano can kick on next season once he lands at the Allianz Arena. home of the record champions.

Borna Sosa (VfB Stuttgart)

At one stage it looked as if Sosa could have represented either one of Germany or Croatia this summer, but he must instead watch on from afar after being denied German eligibility and the country of his birth opting against his call-up.

Borna Sosa was a constant threat from the VfB Stuttgart left-hand side in 2020/21. - Alexander Scheuber/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

The situation will have been a hard one for Sosa to come to terms with, but his talent is undeniable, and the Stuttgart flier is expected to go on to make his senior debut for Croatia after Euro 2020.

“Like any athlete, as a child I dreamed of performing in big competitions,” wrote Sosa in an open letter to Croatian football fans. “I still dream of them, without thinking about money or other material values, and of course I also dream of performing at European and world championships.”

Dominik Szoboszlai (RB Leipzig)

Were it not for the long-term injury that has delayed Szoboszlai’s Bundesliga debut by 18 months, the 20-year-old would have been nailed on for a starring role alongside Leipzig teammates Peter Gulacsi and Willi Orban in the Hungary team.

Following the announcement of Szoboszlai’s absence, coach Marco Rossi said, “it’s really painful for me not to be able to play him”, and it’s easy to understand why when you take in the fact Szoboszlai has scored three times and provided two assists in 12 matches for the Magic Magyars.

The player himself will now be cheering on from home: “The most important thing is that the national team perform well at the Euros, and for me personally, to get fully fit again for September.”

Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen)

Wirtz is another young German who came agonisingly close to making Löw’s 26-man roster, before channelling any of that disappointment into leading his country to Europe’s U21 crown.

Florian Wirtz - who is already on the edges of the Germany senior team - played a starring role in his country's U21 European Championship win. - Frank Hoermann/SVEN SIMON via images/Sven Simon

The 17-year-old midfielder scored both goals in the 2-1 win over the Dutch in the semi-finals and there will be plenty of international tournaments to come for the teenager, who received his first senior call-up alongside Bayern’s Jamal Musiala earlier this year.

“They have earned their call-up with recent good performances, but especially with such young players, it’s part of our responsibility to bring them up to the highest level carefully and step by step,” said Löw of the pair at the time. “Both have huge potential, and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of fun with them in the coming years.”

Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund)

Having featured 49 times in all competitions for Dortmund this season, Reus took the difficult decision to miss the Euros in order for his body to recover from a hectic campaign that culminated in the BVB skipper lifting the DFB Cup trophy.

For someone that missed out on Germany’s 2014 FIFA World Cup glory, it wasn’t an easy thing to do, and he wrote: “I’ve not taken this decision lightly, since I am always incredibly proud when I have the chance to play for my country.”

Explaining that Reus would very much be on board otherwise, Löw added: “Marco is a great footballer and, as he’s shown in the last weeks and months in Dortmund, would be a huge boost for any team... I thank Marco for his honest words and we respect his decision.”

Filip Kostic (Eintracht Frankfurt)

There’s neither injury nor oversight in Kostic’s non-involvement, which simply boils down to a play-off final defeat on penalties that denied Serbia a place in the tournament.

Eintracht Frankfurt winger Filip Kostic was denied the opportunity to shine on a major international stage in the Euro 2020 play-offs. - Oliver Hardt/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Kostic was taken off after 59 minutes of that loss to Scotland, denying Euro 2020 viewers the chance to see one of the continent’s best left-foots in operation.

You can’t help but wonder what might have been had Kostic - whose 14 Bundesliga assists last season were only bettered by Thomas Müller (18) - been given the opportunity to flourish on a major international stage.

Erling Haaland (Borussia Dortmund)

Arguably, only the involvement of Haaland at the Euros would induce more excitement than Kostic’s and the Dortmund hitman misses out due to Norway’s semi-final playoff defeat to the latter’s Serbia.

Watch: Analysis - Erling Haaland's remarkable first full season at Dortmund

Haaland hit 41 goals in 41 games in 2020/21, emphatically burnishing his reputation as the hottest striker in European football.

When you add his seven goals in just 12 caps for his country to the mix - remember, Haaland is still only 20-years-old - it makes the pill even harder to swallow thinking of the impact the left-footed wrecking-ball could have had.

Max Kruse (Union Berlin)

Having blasted Union into next season’s UEFA Europa Conference League with a dramatic 11th goal of the season that earned a 92nd-minute, 2-1 win over Leipzig, Kruse put forward one final compelling case for inclusion.

Watch: Max Kruse fires Union Berlin into Europe

It wasn’t to be, though, and the 33-year-old will not add to his 14 Germany caps and four goals, although he could still feature at the Olympic Games when football’s gold medal hunt gets underway in July.

“If I get the opportunity to wear the German jersey, I’ll gladly take it. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Olympic team or the senior national team,” Kruse told Focus. “I always dreamed of it as a child. And the dream will never stop as long as I play football.”