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Germany's depth in quality the envy of the football world

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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The World champions look frighteningly deep in terms of quality on the bench and second squad, something not usually seen around in world football. . .

At the beginning of the Confederations Cup, World Cup organising committee chief Alexey Sorokin criticised Joachim Loew's decision to leave out big name players for the curtain-raiser event. The Germany manager defended his decision, saying, “Those players who played so many games reach their limit at some point. I can understand the hosts in Russia and that they have different expectations. But they will see the stars next summer.”

Loew continued, “No matter where we will finish the Confederations Cup, it just makes sense to go with this squad. It might help us as soon as next year, or maybe in three years. One day the Confederations Cup will become important for those who played in it.”

In recent times, Germany has become the cradle of footballing talent for the world, a role well played by South American countries for a long time and Belgium in reminiscent history. The Western European country boasts of the right system, with players coming up through various age-groups from all around the country. Loew’s system, which has overseen a footballing revolution already with a FIFA World Cup victory in 2014, insists on quality and zero nepotism helps in talents believing in doing the hard work and getting sure of selections.

In a football-crazy country, the World Cup winners are demi-gods! Bastian Schweinsteiger is seen here acknowledging the support after Germany's World Cup victory in 2014

It all started after a dismal performance at the Euros 2000, where the country ended bottom in their group. Seemingly forced into technical developments of home-grown players, the DFB and Bundesliga both asked the clubs in the top two tiers to open and invest in their academies, something they can boast of till today. The words "talent without ends" is commonly used among the big-wigs of German football to describe their ideal.

Owning a football club is strict in Germany, with rules set in the 50+1 format. The format allows the club to own the majority of the share and control the voting rights, preserving the traditional culture of the country and ensuring situations of takeovers like Roman Abramovich at Chelsea does not happen. DFL also laid down the rules for the academies, meticulously worked out from licensing of coaches to the minimum number of floodlights on training pitches.

A 2011 report from the DFL showed how investment from 2002 to 2010 totalled approximately €520 million, increasing each year from €47.85 million to €85.70 million. Over that same period of time, the average age of Bundesliga players decreased from 27.09 to 25.77. Thus, this belief in honing up the German talent falls in line with the country known to be proud exponents of narcissism in a minimal way.

The detailed structure of the Talent Development Programme easily suggests why it has been so successful

Let’s talk about Schalke 04, a club which manages to remain in the top 10 of the Bundesliga every season with minimal investments and massive returns from its policy of promoting youth to the first team. Werder Bremen bought Mesut Ozil from S04 in 2007, and Lewis Holtby replaced the current Arsenal assist-king. After Holtby donned the Premier League for Spurs (he had two loan seasons as well) in 2013, the rising phoenix of Julian Draxler replaced him in the role. After Draxler left for Wolfsberg, Max Meyer grew into the role and Donis Avdijaj looks set to don the role after Meyer decides to pursue foreign glories.

Let’s widen this view from a club to the international level. After the deluded outcome of 2000 Euros in which a 39-year-old Lothar Mattheus started every game, it was easy to understand that something had been wrong with the country, which is perpetually known as a superpower in the footballing diaspora. Ever since the 2002 World Cup, the Germans have proven their credentials in every tournament when the world has sat up to notice.

The 2013 UEFA Champions League final saw two powerhouses of German football, Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munchen, fight it out against each other. It was a watershed moment for world football, as 26 players involved in both squads were home-grown and eligible to play for Germany. Interestingly, more than half of these players came through the DFB Talent Development Programme set up in 2003, a plan which introduces technical skill and tactical acumen to footballers at an early age.

More than two dozen players featuring in the Champions League final 2013 were part of the DFB Talent Development Programme

The DFB Talent Development Programme covers 366 areas of Germany, catering to children aged 8 to 13 and is served by 1000 part-time coaches, all of whom must have the UEFA B License. According to a UEFA survey, the nation is doing everything right at the moment. Germany has in excess of 30,000 UEFA B License holders currently, while in England, the numbers are close to 2000. The number of A License holders are close to 6000 and 1100 in Germany and England respectively, while Pro Licensed numbers are close to 1300 and 180 in the same order, easily showing the difference of right education in football.

Another facet of the story is the ability of these youngsters to easily settle into new systems, or the coach’s flexibility to allow players their freedom to revel in the free-flowing and yet compact football Germany is always known for. With Miroslav Klose gone and Mario Gomez on the wrong side of 30, the National team only has Timo Werner and Davie Selke as natural No 9s. At the Confederations Cup though, Borussia Monchengladbach captain Lars Stindl has already proven his goal-scoring credentials. Stindl usually plays as an attacking midfielder, a second striker or a withdrawn forward and has scored twice, playing a false 9. Andre Schurrle and Thomas Muller have played similar roles in the past.

Back under the bar, Marc-Andre Ter-Stegen looks set to take over the role of keeper-sweeper from Manuel Neuer, whenever he feels right to hang up his boots. Even if Ter-Stegen goes down significantly in terms of standards of the game, Bernd Leno and Kevin Trapp look strong and secure choices. Julian Pollersbeck already looks to be close to being ready for first team action, having kept 14 clean sheets already this season, playing for FC Kaiserslautern in Bundesliga II.

Dortmund has a world-famous youth programme, with the likes of Marco Rues and Mario Gotze emerging from their Academy

In the defensive zone, Joshua Kimmich looks set to take over from long-term servant Phillip Lahm to boss the right side of the defensive and attacking wing. The dynamic player has already become the youngest ever captain of the national team since 1905. Jonas Hector, Antonio Rudiger, Matthias Ginter, Marvin Plattenhardt, Shkodran Mustafi, Jonathan Tah and Niklas Sule are names known to excite the world, but most of them are playing second fiddles to national team regulars like Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng.

In the midfield, Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane, Mesut Ozil, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, the Bender brothers and Julian Weigl seem to be hogging the limelight as of now, but the second generation is fiery and ready. Julian Draxler, a part of the main team as well, leads the contingent with Julian Brandt, Sebastian Rudy, Leon Goretzka, Emre Can, Mahmoud Dahoud and Amin Younes easily deserving a place. This line-up shows that for the next 12 years, German football is easily secured.

Harping on another positive, the trend is set to continue in the times to come because nothing has changed back home. In England, the FA expects clubs to invest on talent research and grooming, while in Germany, the DFB has taken the task upon them to groom the talent at the lower pedestals of the German footballing tree.

 

Published: Fri Jun 30, 2017 02:26 PM IST

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