Remember the summer of 2009? It was brilliant. The sun was in the sky and La Roux’s ‘Bulletproof’ had just dislodged Take That’s ‘Said It All’ off the top of the UK singles charts. Ok, maybe it wasn’t exactly a memorable time for music.
The same could be said for football as Stuart Pearce’s Under-21 side served us up another international tournament that we’d all rather forget after they were torn apart by a dominant Germany side in the European U-21 Championship final courtesy of a 4-0 scoreline. Ouch.
Not much else can burst your bubble like a beating at the hands of the old enemy. In fairness, though, that Germany side was absolutely stacked with talent that would go on to find glory at senior international level.
So, where are they now? Let’s take a look.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
Club: Bayern Munich
Senior international caps: 92
The former Schalke man has gone on to become one of the most consistent goalkeepers of the modern era.
Neuer, who moved to the Allianz Arena in 2011, has won 20 trophies at club level and the World Cup with Germany in 2014 – a stark contrast to England’s Scott Loach, who now plays in the National League with Barnet.
Right-back: Andreas Beck
International caps: 9
The most experienced player at U21 level before the tournament started with 22 caps to his name, Beck went on to have a solid career with Hoffenheim before moving to Besiktas for £1.3 million in the summer of 2015. The defender then returned to Germany in 2017 with VfB Stuttgart before joining Eupen in the German-speaking area of Belgium.
His ambition of becoming a regular for Germany’s senior side never really materialised, however, making just nine appearances since his debut vs. Norway in 2009 and not being capped since 2010.
Subscribe to Squawka’s Youtube channel here.
Centre-back: Benedikt Höwedes
Club: Lokomotiv Moscow
International caps: 44
Handed the Schalke captaincy at the relatively young age of 23, Höwedes has gone from strength to strength since the European Championships in Sweden.
The versatile defender made over 300 first-team appearances for his boyhood club before moving to Lokomotiv Moscow in 2018, as well as earning 44 senior caps for Germany. His career highlight will no doubt be winning the World Cup in Brazil, a tournament in which he played every single game for Die Mannschaft.
Centre-back: Jérôme Boateng
Club: Bayern Munich
International caps: 76
One of the six members of the starting XI from the final versus England that have since gone on to win a World Cup winners’ medal, Boateng has developed into one of the calmest defenders around.
The defender backed up an impressive display for Germany at the U-21 European Championships with a solid season for Hamburg, who just missed out on Europe. This triggered a move to mega-rich Manchester City where he failed to live up to make an impression on the first team.
After one shaky performance too many, Boateng soon found himself back in the Bundesliga and making a name for himself at a rejuvenated Bayern Munich side. The defender won a historic treble (Champions League, Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal) in 2012/13.
He is, however, among a clutch of players omitted by national team manager Joachim Low, who is trying to overhaul an ageing Germany squad. He hasn’t been capped since Germany’s 2018 World Cup disaster and can often be a decisive presence at Bayern.
Left-back: Sebastian Boenisch
Club: Floridsdorfer AC
International caps: 14 (for Poland)
A career crippled by niggling injuries, Boenisch was a dependable full-back on his day, although he now finds himself in the Austrian second tier with Floridsdorfer AC, effectively ending his spell as a go-to option for a budget full-back on Football Manager.
It’s not just clubs he’s swapped, though. The former Germany U-21 man switched allegiances to his country of birth, Poland, in 2010 and has earned 14 senior caps to date – his last coming in 2013.
Defensive midfield: Mats Hummels
Club: Borussia Dortmund
International caps: 70
Another member of this talented squad to become a World Cup winner just five years later.
Starting the final versus England in defensive midfield, he looked so comfortable on the ball but has moved back to the heart of Germany’s defence.
Hummels became one of the best defenders in the business during his time with Borussia Dortmund but won the third and fourth Bundesliga titles of his career with Bayern Munich having moved to the Allianz Arena in 2016.
Alongside Boateng, he too has now been omitted from the Germany set up but is rolling back the years back at Dortmund, who are pushing Bayern hard in the Bundesliga once again.
Right midfield: Fabian Johnson
Club: Borussia Monchengladbach
International caps: 57 (for USA)
Having already played for 1860 Munich, Wolfsburg and Hoffenheim, Johnson made a permanent switch to Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2014 after an impressive display during the World Cup that summer.
However, it wasn’t Germany that he represented on the biggest stage of all – rather the USA. The versatile defender/midfielder pledged his allegiance to his father’s homeland in 2011 and has gone on to earn 57 senior caps.
Given the competition for places in the current Germany setup, it looks like it was a wise choice for the sake of his international career.
Central midfield: Sami Khedira
International caps: 77
One of the few players from this squad to represent Germany at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, Khedira was arguably the biggest name in the U-21 squad at the time of the final, alongside Mesut Özil.
He stuck around at Stuttgart for one more season following the 2009 success, using the World Cup in South Africa as a springboard for his move to Real Madrid.
Despite having a jam-packed trophy room including La Liga, Bundesliga, Serie A and Champions League winners’ medals, Khedira has always been injury prone and that trait has hampered the now Juventus midfielder’s chances of being regarded as one of the best in the world.
Central midfield: Gonzalo Castro
Club: VfB Stuttgart
International caps: 5
Having already won five senior caps for Germany at the time of the tournament held in Sweden, you would have thought Castro was destined for the top of the game.
He finished the competition with two goals after scoring the opener in the final against England in the 23rd minute. However, despite having been an integral member of the Bayer Leverkusen squad for some 11 seasons, the now Stuttgart midfielder hasn’t made a single appearance for Germany’s senior side since 2007.
Left midfield: Mesut Özil
International caps: 92
Then with Werder Bremen, Özil was the star of the show in the final. His man of the match display spurred him on to have the best season of his career for the Bundesliga side – a campaign that earned him an illustrious move to Real Madrid.
After three impressive seasons at Real, the playmaker signed for Arsenal in the summer of 2013 for a club-record fee of £42.4m.
Although his performances have come under scrutiny during his time at the Emirates, Özil is undoubtedly a world-class talent with the ability to unlock any defence.
Oh yeah, and don’t forget the little old thing of winning the 2014 World Cup.
Ozil retired from international duty after the 2018 World Cup after being scapegoated for Germany’s group-stage exit and coming under fire following posing for a picture with Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Striker: Sandro Wagner
Club: Tianjin Teda
International caps: 8
The striker scored two goals in the final versus England and impressed so much so that Werder Bremen snapped him up just six months later.
It was a move that turned sour, though, as the former Bayern Munich man found himself constantly switching between the senior and reserve sides, leaving the club having scored just five goals for the first team.
The 6ft 4in striker looked to be heading for the fringes of the German game a few years back, however, he enjoyed arguably the most successful spell of his career with Hoffenheim. That earned him another move back to Bayern Munich, scoring 10 goals in 30 games before heading to China with Tianjin Teda.
Five goals in eight senior caps is a record not to be sniffed at, although three of those came during a 7-0 win over San Marino in June 2017, while the other two came against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.
Club: PSV Eindhoven
International caps: 0
Schwaab replaced Johnson in midfield during the final but despite a long career in the Bundesliga with the likes of Freiburg, Leverkusen and Stuttgart, he now finds himself at PSV Eindhoven as a centre-back.
Now 31, he won the 2017/18 Eredivisie title with the Dutch giants.
Club: Free agent
International caps: 12
Coming on late in the game for Hummels, Aogo is another who spent more time during his club career as a defender, primarily as a left-back.
After making 133 league appearances for Hamburg, he went on to represent FC Schalke and VfB Stuttgart before a short spell with Hannover, although his contract was terminated in January.
Club: Borussia Dortmund
International caps: 16
By far the most successful of the German substitutes from this match, Schmelzer is an icon at Borussia Dortmund, where he has spent his entire career to date, winning two Bundesliga titles, two DFB-Pokal crowns and three DFL-Supercups, as well as reaching the 2013 Champions League final.
Such has been the talent level in Germany, Schmelzer only managed 16 senior caps between 2010 and 2014 but can still look back on his career with pride.