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Aleksandar Pavlovic: Germany's gain, Serbia's loss?

March 14, 2024

Bayern Munich's rising star, Aleksandar Pavlovic, has been called up to the German national team. The Munich-born midfielder says his decision is for Germany and not against Serbia as both prepare for EURO 2024.

Aleksandar Pavlovic points while playing for Bayern Munich
Aleksandar Pavlovic has become a regular at Bayern Munich and might break in to the Germany team before EURO 2024Image: Tom Weller/dpa/picture alliance

For generations, a strong Bayern Munich has meant a strong Germany, with homegrown players from the serial champions often central to the national team, whether it be Franz Beckenbauer, Philipp Lahm or Thomas Müller.

For a time, Müller was the sole survivor of that tradition, and the last Bavarian native to rise through the ranks at Bayern and become a regular for Germany and Bayern. But the emergence of Aleksandar Pavlovic could change all that.

The 19-year-old, who has a German mother and Serbian father, has become a standout under Thomas Tuchel at club level this year, after previous boss Julian Nagelsmann had spotted his potential. Nagelsmann is now Germany coach until the EUROs and has handed Pavlovic a first call-up after announcing his squad for friendlies against France and the Netherlands later this month. 

"[Pavlovic] has been producing very good performances. Very consistent and very stable," said Nagelsmann when asked whether he'd made his selection was to "win" Pavlovic for the German national team.

"If he had said on the phone he'd rather play for Serbia I wouldn't have called him up, but I didn't have to convince him."

From ballboy to Bayern's first team

It's been a rapid rise for a player who was a ballboy at Bayern's Allianz Arena as recently as 2018. Footage from the time shows him throwing the ball back to Joshua Kimmich, who will now become his international- as well as clubmate.

"I'm very happy about being called up for the German senior national team," Pavlovic told BILD. "My plan was to decide between Germany and Serbia only after the EUROs this year. I had to make this decision immediately."

Nagelsmann has clearly been listening to the powerbrokers in Bavaria, such as sporting director Christoph Freund, who have been singing the teenager's praises.

"Aleks Pavlovic is a technically gifted midfielder with very good vision. Furthermore, he’s incredibly eager to learn, ambitious and determined in terms of his goals. Aleks has worn the Bayern shirt since the age of seven and has come through every youth team all the way to our first team. That makes him a great example for our boys at the Campus."

Aleksandar Pavlovic and Thomas Müller celebrate a goal for Bayern Munich
Thomas Müller has publically talked about being a fan of Pavlovic'sImage: Angelika Warmuth/dpa/picture alliance

Those qualities made Pavlovic attractive to Serbia, who will also be at EURO 2024, but the youngster has previously rejected a call up to their under-21s, indicating that his future lies with Germany.

He grew up in Munich playing for SC Fürstenfeldbruck, where fellow Bayern youngster Josip Stanisic also played. Stanisic, currently on loan at Bayer Leverkusen, also grew up in Munich but has opted to play his international football for Croatia, where his parents are from.

"I would like to expressly thank the Serbian association, who have also put a lot of effort into me. Two hearts beat in my chest, my mother is German and my father is Serbian," explained Pavlovic.

"Therefore, my decision should not be taken as against the Serbian national team, but rather for the German one. I was born and grew up in Munich, spent my entire footballing career at Bayern and am looking forward to the upcoming international matches with Germany."

International future set in stone?

Pavlovic could in theory still be eligible for Serbia even if he were to play in one of Germany's upcoming friendlies. Up until the age of 21, players can make three appearances for a national team and then switch later (assuming they already held the second nationality) unless those appearances were at the World Cup or a continental tournament like the EUROs. England's Declan Rice, for example, made three appearances for the Republic of Ireland before switching to England while Jamal Musiala played for several England age group teams before choosing to represent Germany.

"I think it's important the DFB [German Football Association] pursues talented youngsters who could play for other countries," elaborated Nagelsmann. "It's a very personal decision for the players and if they choose to play for Serbia or Turkey, it's absolutely fine. [Selecting Pavlovic] is not a political decision though. We'll see if it's enough for the EUROs."

The 19-year-old will have plenty of competition. Central midfield is an area of strength for Germany, with captain Ilkay Gündogan, Kimmich, Pascal Gross and the returning Toni Kroos among those competing for a starting berth.

But the same could have been said at Bayern, where Pavlovic has certainly made his mark. In January, he broke Harry Kane's run of Player of the Month awards before backing up in February. 

Pavlovic has said that "I grew up here, FC Bayern means everything to me."

Playing for Germany will soon mean plenty too.

Edited by: James Thorogood