Niklas Süle's injury could rule him out of Euro 2020, leaving Germany coach Joachim Löw with a conundrum. The coach needs to admit to a past mistake and recall Mats Hummels, writes DW's Janek Speight.
The duel between Niklas Süle and Florian Niederlechner looked innocuous enough. But as soon as the Bayern Munich defender screamed in agony and dropped like a pin, clutching his left knee, it was clear he'd be spending a prolonged period on the treatment table.
The confirmation of an anterior cruciate ligament rupture is devastating for player, club, and country. Süle suffered the same injury, in the same knee, almost five years ago. It's difficult enough coming back from one ACL.
Germany coach Joachim Löw in particular would have had reason to cringe at the sight. Germany's defense has crumbled in recent months and looks certain to disintegrate without their best center back to lead the line.
Euros ruled out
"Süle can forget the European Championship. It makes no sense, he should concentrate on the new season," Uli Hoeness said on Monday.
The Bayern president has good reason to rule out Süle's chances of a speedy recovery. ACL injuries are no longer career killers, but players usually struggle to rediscover previous form.
At a minimum, it takes six months to recover full fitness. In most cases, it's more like eight-plus. The mental recovery is just as important as the physical rehabilitation. Given this is Süle's second ACL in the same knee, the Euros look at best unlikely.
This leaves Germany in a conundrum. Süle has been their standout defender in the past year, one who looked like cementing his status among the world's best over the next season or two.
It leaves Löw with just one viable option – he must renege on his decision back in March to expel Mats Hummels from the national team setup.
Germany have struggled since Löw's decision to blacklist Hummels as well as Jerome Boateng. Against top-quality opposition, they've conceded one (Serbia), three (Netherlands), four (Netherlands), and two (Argentina) goals. Along with a lack of creativity in attack, Löw can't even boast a rock-solid back line.
Persistent injuries to Thilo Kehrer (foot) and Antonio Rudiger (groin) have admittedly robbed Löw of the opportunity to form his ideal central partnership, but the 59-year-old's refusal to recall Borussia Dortmund's rejuvenated center back borders on arrogance.
"There is currently no reason to select Hummels," Löw said during the international break."We want to give younger players room to develop."
Those rookies have been Robin Knoch, Niklas Stark, and Jonathan Tah, none of whom have convinced they can produce better performances than Hummels.
Planning for the future is necessary and Löw has form when it comes to promoting youth, but failing to admit a mistake and do what's best for the team would be simply irresponsible.
Hummels to the rescue?
At 30, Hummels has undoubtedly lost some of his speed and agility, but he's still one of the best defenders at reading the play in front of him and taking up intelligent positions.
His experience would be vital for Germany leading into Euro 2020, especially for the youngsters coming through. For rookies to grow and improve, they still need an old head to guide them along the way.
Per Mertesacker remained with the national team for the 2014 World Cup even as Hummels was developing a youthful partnership with Jerome Boateng.
With Süle's injury almost certainly ruling him out of next summer's tournament, it's time for Löw to swallow his pride and perform a humble backflip.