Thomas Müller's strong public response to Joachim Löw's decision to cull three senior players has stoked fierce debate. More will come, as the German FA and Löw flap in their attempts to handle it, says Jonathan Harding.
The problem Joachim Löw now has is that his decision to axe Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng from the Germany squad on a permanent basis isn't even about the sport anymore. A straightforward coaching decision has become the latest piece of damning evidence against the leadership of the DFB (German FA).
After Boateng posted on Instagram expressing his regret that he and his teammates hadn't been able to enjoy a different farewell, Müller released a video on Twitter the following day. In it, the 29-year-old laid into the DFB and Löw for delivering "pre-prepared statements" to the press, showing no class and delivering a decision with such finality.
Clearly the three players still consider themselves capable of delivering top-quality performances for their country. Which player wouldn't? Löw's decision is no longer about whether the players had any more to offer, but instead about the DFB's continued inability to navigate a change smoothly.
Poor PR decisions since World Cup
Since the debacle in Russia, Löw and the DFB have created waves of preventable and undesirable attention. Löw's prolonged disappearance after the World Cup added unnecessary mystery and, when it came, the promised World Cup analysis included the much-needed acknolwedgement of mistakes, but appeared as clear as Germany's game plan in Russia.
The handling of Mesut Özil was a disaster worthy of its own screenplay, and then Löw spent so much time seeking a new-look Germany that it didn't really take shape until the 2-2 draw with the Netherlands in November of last year. The very public axing of Hummels, Müller and Boateng is just the latest ball Löw and the DFB have dropped.
The questions for Löw and his bosses are numerous. Why now, and not straight after the World Cup when the decision might have been met with greater understanding after such a poor tournament? Why make such an announcement at all? Why not just leave them out of the next squad selection and gradually transition to a new team?
Power play that could backfire
Perhaps because this is Löw's power play, an attempt to remind the football world that this is still his team and he is still the right man to lead it. Ironically though, the power appears to be slipping through his fingers as his former players deliver their unfiltered responses to the world. The next generation of younger players cannot be inspired by this and may find it difficult to believe that they can blossom under such stewardship.
Whatever the feeling about Müller, Hummels and Boateng, the three have undeniably been cornerstones for the development of this Germany team over the last decade. For Löw and the DFB to feed the same stale lines of thanks to players who are not only too savvy to see through them but also deserve better, says a great deal about how ruthless Löw has become in what will be his final chapter in the job.
The change in personnel can be understood, but the change in manner cannot. In fact, far too many of the DFB and Löw's actions in the last few months are beyond comprehension - and the worst part for them is that the consequences are a long way from over. Remember, Mats Hummels and Uli Hoeness haven't said anything yet.