Whether from defense or midfield, Bayern Munich midfielder Joshua Kimmich heads Germany's next generation. The group has sights on the Euro 2020 crown, the only outcome Kimmich will consider a success.
Comparisons are rife in sports. They can act as a reference point but more often they influence expectation and rob the individual of their personality. As Germany begin another major tournament, the conversation around where Joshua Kimmich will play returns, and with it the inevitable comparisons to legendary captain Philipp Lahm.
There are similarities, but Kimmich is clearly a different character from Lahm, as well as most other players on this Germany squad.
He might not be wearing the armband, but, like Bastian Schweinsteiger was, Kimmich is the heartbeat of this team. No leadership style is better than another, but it feels like his terrierlike approach is what this team needs right now.
When he first played for Germany back in 2016, he was an instant hit and was named in UEFA's Team of the Euros. Five years later, after endless club glory and a seamless transition from world-class right back to one of the best holding midfielders around, Kimmich is now at the top of Germany's hierarchy. Regardless of what happens in Löw's final hurrah, he will be the man to lead this team forward.
Kimmich exudes a ruthless streak of someone who is all business. The young player who Pep Guardiola once so animatedly spoke to after a game is now the one delivering the speeches. His shirt is always tucked in, even in training. His focus is always visible. His desperation to get started is so great that he likely has been driven mad by the fact Germany is the last team to play at the tournament.
Everyone knows it, too, even his teammates. He called Leroy Sane out for not tracking back in the friendly against Denmark. He has spoken to the press about where this Germany side really is, recently telling the Athletic: "We don't have to hide behind anyone in terms of the players we have, but we haven't really shown it enough for over a year now.”
Before Germany's World Cup triumph in 2014, Lahm and Schweinsteiger were also burdened with the label of being the generation that never delivered a trophy. Kimmich saw that and was there for the debacle three years ago in Russia. He knows at some point this team has to deliver.
That's why winning Euro 2020 is the only outcome he sees as being successful. "Every other outcome sees us going home with a defeat, which would be a disappointment," Kimmich told reporters in during Germany's training camp in Seefeld, Austria, earlier this month.
Much has been made of the team's unity, and many have acknowledged the difference between this group and that of 2018, Kimmich included. "There's a great mix of experience, quality, potential and mentality," he said.
Kimmich is all of those things. Wherever the 26-year-old plays, his performance has the greatest impact on how Germany perform.
The truly great players separate themselves from comparisons all on their own. They become incomparable. Kimmich's achievements at club level have done that, but tangible success in a Germany shirt would solidify his place as one of the greats.