Joachim Low, Germany’s head coach, announced this week that three of his senior players, who coincidentally were instrumental in the 2014 World Cup triumph, would no longer be eligible for selection.
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Jerome Boateng, Thomas Muller and Mat Hummels, all Bayern Munich players, were forced to retire from their national team at an age where players reach their peak. While it can be understood why Low might want to use new blood for Euro 2020, banning the three players completely from the national team makes no sense and is quite disrespectful.
Germany’s form went downhill after their World Cup win in Brazil. Following the World Cup, they had a good Euro 2016, exiting to the hosts France in the semi-finals, after which they struggled a bit more to win games convincingly. At the 2018 World Cup, Germany could not defend their title and went out through the back door, beaten by South Korea in their last must-win game.
Next came the Nations League, where the Germans faced France and the Netherlands. It was probably during those games that Low realized he had to change his team to keep on winning. Germany’s form was still terrible and the only positive was the flash of brilliance youngsters like Leroy Sane, Niklas Sule or Julian Brandt provided.
A logical next step to stay competitive was clearly to bring in fresh faces, to get rid of complacency or burnt-out players. In that respect, Low is absolutely correct. In fact, I would argue rotation should have come a bit earlier. A good way of motivating his troops would have been to show he will be ruthless with players who cannot give their best for the national team.
However, instead of ruthlessness, the manner in which he has proceeded has shown a lack of respect towards players who have always given everything for their country, especially Thomas Muller, who is well-known for his great passion and zeal on the pitch.
Muller’s reaction to the announcement was spot on.
I do not understand why this decision must be so final. I was totally dumbfounded by this decision out of the blue by the national coach. A national coach must take decisions. I do not doubt that.
But Mats, Jerome and I are able to still play football at a top level. Together with the DFB we have come a long, intense and mostly successful way over the last years.
And he is right! It’s Low’s prerogative to try out new players. Nobody is questioning that. But why does he need to make Muller, Hummels and Boateng completely ineligible for selection? Why not inform them that their place in the national team is not as secure as before and that they would have to fight for their place.
The finality of the decision does raise eyebrows, especially considering Muller is only 29 and Hummels and Boateng are only one year older than him.
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Low’s every game will now get a little more of scrutiny and he should expect a backlash from German fans if the new players do not perform well quick enough.
If Muller, Hummels and Boateng were no longer good enough, it would have made sense to not select them based on form – this forced retirement is simply a lack of respect and tact.
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