No Thomas Müller, no Ilkay Gündogan and, of necessity, no Manuel Neuer either.
At the start of the rehabilitation program for the World Cup disaster in Qatar, Hansi Flick thinned out his 30+ group in the German national soccer team. When the national coach names his first squad on Friday afternoon on the way to the home European Championship in 2024 for the games against Peru on March 25 in Mainz and three days later in Cologne against Belgium, many will sit up and take notice: Oh, that one! Or even: Please, who?
Door for veterans remains open
Names are no longer relevant, merits anyway, they have to be acquired again first.
"By the summer it will also be about inviting a few new players and seeing how they behave in our group," Flick announced his strategy for rebuilding the DFB selection in an interview with the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" at the start of the week. There could even be players who are not regulars in their clubs. Only Flick's conviction counts.
The door for the pausing veterans Müller (33) and Gündogan (32) remains open. Goalkeeper Neuer (36) will have to prove himself again at Bayern after breaking his leg after a lengthy recovery. Flick will have to give Neuer's captain's armband until then - possibly to Joshua Kimmich in the long term?
The DFB wants the hearts of the fans back
Above all, there are these goals: winning back the hearts of the fans and - of course: finally playing a successful tournament again in 15 months with the European Championship final on July 14, 2024 in Berlin as a fixed point. "The most important thing is that we show good football, passionate football. If the fan notices that we give everything for Germany and play with heart, the mood can quickly change again," said Flick to the "kicker".
DFB director Rudi Völler made this clear recently during the World Cup report in the Bundestag sports committee: "It's important how the team performs on the pitch."
Strikers are in demand
But with whom does Flick start the reparation project? As always, there is speculation and a little fantasizing in the days before the squad is announced. A name that comes up more often is Mergim Berisha (24). Flick just saw the Augsburg striker again at 3: 5 in Munich. The massive Berisha advertised himself with a brace against FC Bayern. It was the seventh and eighth goals of the season for the U21 European champions.
The category of ice-cold snappers is back in vogue in the DFB team, since Bremen's Niclas Füllkrug (30) demonstrated at the World Cup with two goals in contrast to many colleagues, what is important. Flick diagnosed the exploitation of opportunities as a huge World Cup deficit. In any case, the filling jug can come back. He deserved that in Qatar. Since Timo Werner is back after his ligament injury shortly before the World Cup, Flick has options at the front. The injuries to Dortmund's Julian Brandt (26), Karim Adeyemi (21) and Youssoufa Moukoko (18) are still annoying.
Florian Wirtz is practically a newcomer to Flick. The highly talented 19-year-old played his last of only four international matches in October 2021 in North Macedonia (4-0). Flick still describes his World Cup failure due to a cruciate ligament tear as a hard blow. Together with Jamal Musiala (20), the Leverkusen player should become the face of the rebuilding.
Southampton's Armel Bella Kotchap (21), who took part in a taster course at the World Cup, also falls into this category. The central defender should put pressure on Niklas Süle (27) and Nico Schlotterbeck (23). Flick will not let the BVB pros fall after their poor World Cup performance for the time being.
Who could make their debut?
But who are other real newbies?
Vitaly Janelt (24) from English surprise team FC Brentford would be an option for defensive midfield. His club colleague Kevin Schade (21) has an offensive perspective, as does former Schalke central defender Malick Thiaw (21) from AC Milan and Gladbach's Luca Netz (19), who has a bonus as a left-back. The defensive wings are chronically weak. Philipp Max made a good start to the season in Frankfurt. In 2020 he played three more times under Flick predecessor Joachim Löw and has never returned. Maybe that will change.
The juniors Schade, Thiaw and Netz are on the threshold between U21 and A-Team. It is quite possible that they will commute between the teams. In the summer, the U21 defended their European Championship title. Success would give a boost for 2024. It is not for nothing that Flick is sitting on the media podium together with youth coach Antonio Di Salvo and Völler on Monday (11:00 a.m.) right at the start of the course on the Frankfurt DFB campus.
The signal to be sent is clear: together we are strong.