Germany coach Joachim Löw has admitted that Thomas Müller, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels - three players not used since late 2018 - could be in contention for a UEFA Euro 2020 place, and that they know exactly how things work with Die Mannschaft.
Following Germany’s early exit at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Löw began a process of reshaping his side with a view to challenging at the 2020 European Championship.
The 61-year-old informed the 2014 World Cup-winning trio, now aged 31, 32 and 32 respectively, that they were no longer part of his plans, but all three have been performing well since then, and Löw admitted that the coronavirus pandemic could open the door for a potential return.
“What I can say about that is that I’m a coach who thinks in two-year cycles. I think after 2018 and after the Nations League campaign, it was necessary to have a change and to begin the process of rebuilding. When you do that, you should never interrupt it and go in the opposite direction.
“However, through the pandemic over the last year, we’ve had almost a year stolen from us. So, you can start to think about interrupting a phase of rebuilding, and doing so if it’s absolutely necessary, and if me and my coaching staff feel we need an extra percentage point here or there, or someone else to give a new energy or leadership in sporting terms.”
Müller, Boateng and Hummels would certainly fulfil those criteria.
Watch: Müller and Bayern's assist kings
For instance, after a difficult start to last season under former Bayern head coach Niko Kovac, Müller has flourished under current boss Hansi Flick – Löw’s former Germany assistant – and finished the 2019/20 campaign with a Bundesliga record 21 assists, to go alongside eight goals scored.
He was a key figure as Bayern won the continental treble of Bundesliga, DFB Cup and UEFA Champions League, a silverware collection that has since been extended to a sextuple including the DFL and UEFA Super Cups and the FIFA Club World Cup crown.
And despite being unavailable for Bayern’s last two Bundesliga outings, only two outfield players, David Alaba and Robert Lewandowski, have played more minutes than Müller’s 1,769 this term. Furthermore, Müller is once again the league’s leading assist provider this season with 11, while he has chipped in further with 10 goals himself.“
He’s got a very good sense of the game tactically and he’s a player who’s very important on the pitch – he’s the coach’s right-hand man,” said Flick of Müller – nicknamed “Radio” in the Bayern squad due his constant on-field instructions - last year.
That ties in neatly with the qualities Löw is looking for as Germany bid for glory at the rescheduled Euro 2020 this summer.
“I'd like a different kind of communication out on the field,” he said. “It’s important to communicate with each other, to talk, give instructions and organise. When things go off track a bit, we need a different kind of intensity in terms of our sound levels, a different kind of strength on the pitch. That much is clear.”
Boateng also fits the bill in that regard, and he remains an important figure at Bayern too. Although he was told he was behind Niklas Süle in the defensive hierarchy in Munich a couple of years ago, and even with the subsequent arrival of French World Cup winner Lucas Hernandez, the Berlin native has refused to give in, establishing himself alongside Alaba as one half of Flick’s preferred centre-back pairing.
The defender started 23 Bundesliga matches last year, began every game in the Champions League Finals tournament, and has 19 league starts to his name this season too.
Famed for his laser-guided distribution from the back, Boateng is accustomed to playing in a high defensive line and has the pace to recover – he has clocked the fourth-fastest speed at 21.36 mph of any Bayern player this season, behind only Alphonso Davies, Kingsley Coman and Leroy Sane.
Hummels is equally adept at building from the back, a defender very much in the quarterback mould. A vastly experienced player, he is one of the older members of a youthful Borussia Dortmund team, where he is the only player to have started each of their 23 Bundesliga assignments this season.
While he is graceful in possession and calls himself “Aussenrist” on Instagram, a nod to his fondness for playing elegant forward passes with the outside of the boot, Hummels is as steely as they come: his 292 challenges won this term is sixth best in the Bundesliga, while his aerial prowess has resulted in three goals and 128 duels won – the second best tally in the division.
All of which has no doubt not gone unnoticed by Löw, even if he confirmed that the trio would not be called up for the World Cup qualifiers against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia this month.
“In the end we need to make a decision in May,” the Germany boss said. “We’ll go over and analyse everything that’s happened in the last two years. We won’t rule anything out, I can assure you of that.
Watch: Hummels: Soccer's best quarterback
“The only thing that matters is how can the team have a good tournament? What does the team need? What kind of players? What do we need in the individual positions in order to be as successful as possible? I’m the first person to discuss and think about those things, and to then make the decisions that are necessary.
“I don’t want to interrupt the rebuilding process. We’ll need to analyse what we need for the tournament. If [Müller, Boateng or Hummels] were to be considered then they’d be integrated quickly. It wouldn’t be a problem. They know exactly how things work with the national team.”