Former Germany captain Lothar Matthäus has said that Hertha Berlin forward Davie Selke might be the next man in line to fill the number nine role for his country. bundesliga.com explores the logic behind such an opinion.
Germany have been searching for another genuine out-and-out striker ever since Miroslav Klose retired after they lifted the 2014 FIFA World Cup trophy. The former Bayern Munich and Werder Bremen player scored a record 16 World Cup goals, and finished with 71 in 137 matches for Germany, and was always going to be difficult to replace.
Joachim Löw has tried many different ways to replace the goalscoring legend. Mario Götze has been used as a false nine in the past, while Mario Gomez and Thomas Müller have also been turned to over the years. Timo Werner played through the middle more recently, but the RB Leipzig attacker is often best when he’s cutting in off the wing. He was deployed in a wide role for Germany’s successful start to UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying.
That’s where Matthäus comes in. Writing in his column for Sky after Germany’s 3-2 win in the Netherlands, the 1990 World Cup-winning captain suggested that Selke has the potential to help break down more defensive-minded opponents.
“In terms of the line-up I could see us, with a view to the upcoming tournament, looking to add a real number nine, so that we have another means of beating teams that focus solely on defending,” the former Bayern skipper wrote.
“Selke could work, if he’s fit and in form.”
Matthäus knows a thing or two about what it takes to a be a successful frontman in international football, having played with the likes of Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Rudi Völler, Jürgen Klinsmann, and Oliver Bierhoff.
On the face of it, though, Selke might seem like a surprise call. The 24-year-old has yet to play for his country at senior level, and he has netted only four times in all competitions this season. Context is everything, though, and a closer look at Selke’s progress suggests that there is sound reasoning behind Matthäus namechecking the Hertha man.
The former RB Leipzig forward scored 10 league goals in his first season in the capital – as well as four in the UEFA Europa League – but he suffered yet another injury blow before the 2018/19 campaign had even started.
Having also missed the start of the previous year, Selke suffered a collapsed lung after a collision during pre-season training in July, a setback that required surgery and kept him out of action until September.
The ex-Germany U21 international made 10 substitute appearances as he eased his way back, but since returning to the starting line-up in December his statistics have been improving rapidly.
The pacy attacker got an opportunistic goal in Hertha’s DFB Cup defeat against Bayern in February, and just three days later he no doubt caught the eye of Matthäus – and perhaps Löw – with a barnstorming performance against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
After a brilliant solo goal from Salomon Kalou gave the visitors the lead, in the second half Selke made sure of the win. He picked up the ball in his own half, drove past Matthias Ginter to the byline, and then showed smart footwork to tee up Ondrej Duda for 2-0.
“I always say,” Hertha boss Pal Dardai said of Selke’s lung-busting run past Ginter. “When Davie is gone, he’s gone.”
Selke is certainly quick, and is much faster than many strikers in the league. His top speed this season is 21.2 miles per hour – not bad at all for a man who stands at 6’3”.
Watch: Selke stole the show against Gladbach this season!
The assist for Duda wasn’t Selke’s final contribution in the Gladbach game, though. He used his considerable height to head home and complete a 3-0 victory – marking his 100th appearance in the Bundesliga with his 25th goal in the German top flight.
“That was one of my best games,” he said. “I felt really good. Things can continue like this.”
So far it has, notwithstanding another injury that saw Selke sit out the 2-1 defeat in Freiburg in early March. He got his third league goal of the season in a 1-1 draw with Bremen in a fruitful February, and four of his five assists this season have come in 2019. That means he has had a hand in a goal every 114 minutes in 2019, while he is also willing to do the dirty work – winning an average of 13 duels per game.
Once described by ex-West Germany striker Klaus Fischer as being like a “young Miroslav Klose”, Selke, as a teenager, enjoyed watching Gomez during his four-year spell at Bayern. When he first broke through at Bremen, Selke looked all set to follow those two by leading the line for Germany.
He was prolific at youth level, after all, winning the Golden Boot and Golden Player awards as he helped his country’s U19 team become European champions in 2014.
Selke was also part of the Germany squad that won a silver medal at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, and a year later he got two goals as his side won the European U21 Championship in Poland.
“Your talent brings you to Hertha, but your mentality decides your future,” Dardai said recently, when discussing the club’s younger talents like Selke, Arne Meier, Jordan Torunarigha and Niklas Stark.
Stark, who was also a teammate of Selke’s in the Germany U19 and U21 teams, was called up to Germany’s senior squad for the first time ahead of the games against Serbia and the Netherlands. If he keeps up his current form, then Selke could well be the next Hertha player to be given his chance.