Joachim Löw named Werder Bremen midfielder Maximilian Eggestein, Hertha Berlin centre-back Niklas Stark and RB Leipzig full-back Lukas Klostermann in his latest Germany squad for the March games against Serbia and the Netherlands. What will the young tyros bring to the table? bundesliga.com has the scoop…
Position: Central midfield
Club: Werder Bremen
Considering Germany already have the likes of Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gündogan, Toni Kroos, Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt competing for a place in central midfield, you have to be something rather special to even be considered a worthy rival to that quintet. And make no mistake: Maximilian Eggestein is a special player. The all-action midfielder is one of the key reasons Bremen still harbor hopes of qualifying for Europe next term after a coming-of-age season in which he has only missed seven minutes so far.
Blessed with the kind of stamina a marathon runner can only dream of, Eggestein averages 7.46 miles per game (most players barely scratch the 7 mile mark) and his total of 123.93 miles is second only to Bayern Munich's Joshua Kimmich in 2018/19. A robust tackler and strong reader of the game, the Bremen No.35 is adept either as a holding midfielder or in a more attacking role.
Watch: Eggestein scored the Bundesliga's January Goal of the Month!
Arguably it is his improvement in the latter regard this season that has caught Löw's eye. With most national teams now opting to sit deep against Germany, anyone who can provide a moment of magic in the final third is highly prized.
And Eggestein can do just that. He had three goals in 57 Bundesliga outings prior to this season, but has scored five in 25 games this term, including a league-high three from long range. Add into the mix his three assists, three efforts against the woodwork and creation of five clear-cut chances for his team-mates, and it becomes clear to see why Löw has taken an interest in seeing the 11-time U21 international up close.
Position: Central defence
Club: Hertha Berlin
Literally translated, 'Stark' means 'strong' in German, and the Hertha centre-back most certainly lives up to his name. Standing at 6'2", the 23-year-old has improved significantly this term in the areas that are a defender's bread and butter: he now completes 89.6 per cent of his passes (up from 84 per cent), wins 58 per cent of all duels (up from 55 per cent) and 64 per cent of all aerial battles (up from 55 per cent).
OK, so he's a solid tackler. But that's not enough to warrant a place in the Germany squad on its own, is it? Hardly, but Stark excels in other areas too. Previously described by Löw as "physical, versatile and focused", he operated in defensive midfield for much of last season – and although he has returned to central defence this year, he is also a threat at the opposite end of the pitch.
Watch: Stark scored his first goal of the season in a 2-1 win over Mainz on Matchday 24
Stark has scored at least once in each of the past four Bundesliga campaigns, with four of his five goals coming from dead-ball situations. And as the 2018 FIFA World Cup showed, set pieces are becoming an increasingly important weapon at international level.
"He's one of the key figures in the U21s and has played in the Bundesliga for a long time now," said Löw of his decision. "We're giving young players responsibility. Only time will tell whether or not they can cope with that. We've got a lot of potential. It was important for us that they take this step so that we can get an impression of them."
Club: RB Leipzig
While Germany have long been spoiled for choice at centre-back and left-back, they have been rather short of cover for Kimmich at right-back. Until now, that is. Klostermann earned his stripes in the national set-up at U21 level, where he is team captain, and helped the side earn a silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil. So what has changed this season to earn him a promotion to the senior squad?
Watch: Klostermann scored the only goal of the game in Leipzig's Matchday 24 win over Nuremberg
For starters, the 6'2" defender is a fighter. He suffered a cruciate ligament injury when he was just 19 and this term he was not in the Leipzig team for the first 10 games, with Nordi Mukiele and Konrad Laimer preferred by Ralf Rangnick. Since Matchday 11, however, Klostermann has started every Bundesliga fixture. And much like Eggestein and Stark, while he excels at the defensive basics, it is his much-improved attacking qualities that have helped him rise to prominence in recent months.
He had just 13 shots and one goal in 27 Bundesliga appearances prior to this season, but has scored three times from 10 efforts on goal this term, while he also has one assist. Furthermore, his pace is another significant factor (he has a top speed this season of 21.69 miles per hour) when it comes to breaking down deep-lying opponents.
"He'll be in the senior team in the long-term," Germany U21 coach Stefan Kuntz told Bild earlier this month. "I discuss our match plans with him. We rate him very highly. In addition to his defensive duties, he's responsible for our build-up and attacks."