A return for the three World Cup winners to the German national team is not out of the question, Joachim Löw has revealed. He has also spoken about his players' coronavirus fears prior to the defeat to Spain in November.
Speaking for the first time since Germany's 6-0 Nations League humiliation against Spain in November, German national team head coach Joachim Löw has not ruled out recalling Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng to his squad.
The three 2014 World Cup winners were axed in March 2020 as part of Löw's big revamp following the disappointing 2018 World Cup in Russia, as he placed his trust in a new generation of German talent.
But even the Nationalmannschaft hasn't been spared the effects of the pandemic and won only two competitive games in 2020, a poor Nations League campaign culminating in that devastating thrashing in Seville.
Now, with Germany returning to action in three World Cup qualifiers at the end of March, and the European Championships approaching in June, the 61-year-old Bundestrainer has said that "extraordinary circumstances could justify interrupting the rebuild."
Speaking to German football magazine Kicker and public broadcaster ARD, Löw still insisted that his revamp is the right thing to do but was full of praise for the three dropped veterans.
"Boateng is playing regularly and is good when he gets into a rhythm" and "Hummels has great organizational capabilities and can still play at the top level, I have no doubt about that," Löw said of the two 32-year-old defenders, currently of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, respectively.
Asked whether the return of such players could destabilize the hierarchy of a new team built around the likes of Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, Löw responded:
"The character of Hummels and Müller is that they don't supress others. In past generations, there were players who took on leadership roles alone and blocked out others, but Müller, for example, appreciates Kimmich as an engine, an energy provider and a motivator."
Nevertheless, Löw said he wouldn't interrupt his rebuild lightly and insisted that he still trusted his new generation.
"They are hungry and willing to learn and the future belongs to them," he said. "But we must give them space and time to develop and make mistakes. Müller, Boateng and Hummels also made mistakes prior to [the World Cup in] Brazil; they didn't become world champions overnight."
Löw singled out Premier League players Antonio Rüdiger (Chelsea) and Ilkay Gündogan (Manchester City) for special praise, but also mentioned Amin Younes, who has scored five goals and created two more for Eintracht Frankfurt in 2021 alone.
Otherwise, Löw pleaded for patience, especially with players coming back from injury such as Leroy Sane, who impressed for Bayern against Frankfurt and Lazio recently, and his teammate Niklas Süle, whom Löw described as "a player with enormous potential."
Throughout 2020, as German football battled with the effects of the pandemic, the national team took a step back, at least until the resumption of the Nations League in September. Löw and the German Football Association (DFB) said they were conscious that the players already had enough on their plates with their clubs, and Löw himself stopped attending matches in person.
However, with World Cup qualifiers against Iceland (March 25 in Duisburg), Romania (March 28 in Bucharest) and North Macedonia (March 31 in Duisburg) fast approaching, he has been spotted at games again since the turn of the year.
Nevertheless, Löw is well aware of the ways in which the pandemic has affected his players, revealing that several players had serious reservations around the games against Ukraine and Spain in November, especially after several Ukrainian players tested positive for COVID-19 after the match against Germany in Leipzig.
"Before the flight to Spain, some players said to me: 'Coach, it's a high-risk region; we don't want to go. We have pregnant girlfriends or parents who belong to risk groups.' I could absolutely understand that, and I have rarely experienced players in such discomfort. It lasted until kick-off in Seville."
At full-time in Seville, it was Löw who felt the most discomfort, cutting a defeated and broken figure following the 6-0 defeat. Three-and-a-half months later, the coach appears reenergized, leaving behind a "fresh, determined and convincing impression … combative, like in a dressing room team talk," according to Kicker editor Jörg Jakob.
"I was extremely frustrated, disappointed and angry after that game," admitted Löw. "I'm also just a human being, and the first few days after the Spain game were really hard. But the situation gave me new motivation and has reawakened my ambition. Sometimes, it's the low points which give you new impetus."
Whether that new lease of life will also be offered to Müller, Boateng and Hummels remains to be seen.