Germany′s core of leaders is in place both for Russia and beyond | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 15.06.2018
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World Cup 2018

Germany's core of leaders is in place both for Russia and beyond

Beyond the established core of Germany's team lies the next generation of talent and leadership. The combination of the two suggests the potential for prolonged success, and Joshua Kimmich is at the heart of that.

According to Toni Kroos, his Germany teammate Joshua Kimmich is so focused that any of the children who walk onto the pitch with him ahead of a game will likely be left short of conversation.

"I don't know what Toni is talking about. I'm kind to the kids," Kimmich retorted in Friday's press conference.

While all in good humor, the uber-ambitious and extremely focused profile of Kimmich portrayed by Kroos isn't far from the truth. The 23-year-old is the kind of player who is likely left frustrated if a training game ends in defeat. But to reduce Kimmich and other young talents in this Germany squad to the stereotype of modern German footballers would be wrong. This is a special group, one Kimmich is set to lead in the future, and he and otheres are already a prominent part of the present.

This Germany team hasn’t dwelled on the departure of Bastian Schweinsteiger or Philipp Lahm. One of the major advantages of sustained guidance under head coach Joachim Löw is that the framework of this team has evolved gradually. The leadership and quality remains, even as some of the faces change.

"If I have something to say then I am prepared to speak to my teammates about it," Kimmich said on Friday, revealing the maturity beyond his 23 years. "I'm not shy about speaking up." 

This Germany team hasn't allowed itself to ponder past glories – and the rapid rise of players such as Kimmich are an example of that. Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels and Sami Khedira have all taken on the responsibility once shouldered by previous German greats. In Kimmich, the next step in this evolution is already in place.

WM 2018 - Trainingslager Deutschland - Merkel (picture-alliance/dpa/Bundesregierung/G. Bergmann)

Chancellor Angela Merkel (left) is a big fan of the national team

Technically sound, versatile, and able to digest complex systems – Kimmich does indeed retain many of the values of stereotypical modern German footballer. But it's his remarkable drive that sets him apart, even in a country known for its desire to consistently do things at a high standard. Kroos said on Thursday that Kimmich was on the way to becoming a world-class player. When told about it on Friday, Kimmich's response revealed everything.

"Praise is great, but it's also an incentive," he said.

Shortly after he arrived at Bayern from RB Leipzig at the start of the 2015-16 season, Kimmich declared that he was determined to become a starter. That didn’t take long. By the time Euro 2016 ended, he had also established himself as a starter for Germany. Now he's set to move from the European to the world stage.

"I have the chance to realize a childhood dream. I won't be lacking in motivation," Kimmich said of Sunday's game against Mexico, which will be his first World Cup appearance.

Kimmich deserves the most respect for his maturity handling the somewhat inevitable comparisons to former captain and all-time great, Philipp Lahm.

"I have talked about this a fair bit. It's difficult because Lahm moulded the position at Bayern and Germany... I'm 23 years old and it's clear that I can't fill that spot. I'm not there yet. I don't have the experience," Kimmich said on Friday, before adding his most revealing statement of all: "But I want to be Joshua Kimmich not a second Philipp Lahm."

In being himself he has not only undercut the Lahm comparisons, but he has also shown that Germany's current World Cup squad has future leaders ready to one day step into the boots of the current veterans. The next generation is already stepping up, and this leaves Germany's future - both for the next four weeks and beyond - full of potential.

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