2018 hasn’t exactly been a vintage year for German football.
Their meek World Cup defence in the summer raised more questions than answers as well as threatening to bring down Joachim Löw’s stewardship.
In the end Löw, whose present deal expires in 2022, survived and will now be looking to ensure their escapades in Russia were only a mere blip.
For now, it’s evolution and not revolution. There have been a shortage of new faces since returning to competitive football (via UEFA’s Nations League) but that doesn’t mean it will remain that way.
Since their previous abysmal tournament performance (Euro 2000) the German FA made it a priority to be forward looking, and it’s been a genuine success; below the stratosphere are a gluttony of emerging players.
Here, as follows, are five such names to keep an eye on.
1. Christian Früchtl
Club: Bayern Munich
Manuel Neuer, who celebrates his 33rd birthday next March, is probably the best goalkeeper currently active in football. Given how goalies tend to age like fine wine it’s fair to say his best days could still be ahead of him. But the powers that be in Munich (and Frankfurt where the German FA sits) mustn’t fret as his long-term successor has already been found, and he trains alongside him. Früchtl, 14 years Neuer’s junior, is still to debut for Bayern but that surely won’t be long now. Already seen as a ‘keeping whiz kid, it’ll be interesting to see if he reaches the heights of the man he’s learning so much from.
2. Jann-Fiete Arp
There’s somewhat of a striking crisis in German football at the moment. Löw’s present squad includes Timo Werner (22) and uncapped Schalke 04 marksman Mark Uth (27) as their recognised centre-forwards with the flexible Thomas Müller (29) potentially doing a job there. Fortunately there are one or two emerging with Arp of Hamburg the most exciting. Given his potential, 18 goals across 19 matches for Germany’s U17s and the current striking situation, there’s no doubt he’ll be playing top division football sooner rather than later.
3. Kai Havertz
Club: Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Arguably the most talked about German up-and-comer, and for good reason it must be said. Havertz, who has already racked up 73 appearances for his boyhood club, is cut from the same cloth as his predecessors who made the number 10 position their own. Under the stewardship of Löw he’s being eased into the international fold and to date has collected one cap (albeit a blink and you’ll miss it two-minute cameo against Peru in September 2018).
4. Gian-Luca Itter
Club: VfL Wolfsburg
Yet to play any Bundesliga minutes this season there are still high hopes regarding Itter. If he can return and then establish himself in Bruno Labbadia’s Wolfsburg team then one can imagine it won’t be long before he gets the call to represent the senior national team. His competition at the moment comes in the guise of Jonas Hector (28) so the onus is on him to perform and make his positional rival sweat.
5. Felix Uduokhai
Club: VfL Wolfsburg
A talented centre-back with an intelligent reading of the game, Uduokhai was linked with Arsenal in the summer, but his short-term future lies with Wolfsburg and regular football could see a fast-track into Löw’s squad. That’s easier said than done as Uduokhai has only played six minutes of Bundesliga football so far this season. However, things can change so fast, and if he realises his potential then only good things will happen.