It has been one of the worst-kept secrets in German football, but the cat is finally out of the bag: Joachim Löw is set to recall Thomas Müller to the national team for this year’s European Championships, according to reports.
Müller was kicked out of the Germany squad in March 2019 along with fellow 2014 World Cup winners Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, as part of Löw’s much-heralded overhaul of the national team set-up in the wake of the debacle of Russia 2018.
But while Germany have sunk to further lows, winning only two games in 2020 and crashing out of their Nations League group, Müller has gone on to hit some of the best form of his career, scoring 14 goals and assisting 24 more as Bayern won an historic sextuple in 2020.
And beyond the stats, the empty stadiums during the pandemic have revealed another, less quantifiable aspect of Müller’s game: his incessant talking, shouting and cajoling on the pitch.
Earlier this year, Löw opened the door for a potential return for Müller, Hummels and Boateng, telling Kicker magazine that “extraordinary circumstances could justify interrupting the rebuild.”
With the pandemic having disrupted his plans and Löw himself announcing that the rescheduled Euro 2020 will be his final tournament in charge, it would appear that those circumstances are now in place.
German tabloid BILD reported this month that Löw has already telephoned Müller to inform him of his plan to recall him, following up this week with the news that the decision has been made.
For former Bayern and Germany midfielder Michael Ballack, it’s a “brave” decision by the 61-year-old Bundestrainer. Others might suggest that Löw now has nothing to lose, having seen his rebuild fail and having announced his departure.
“In terms of his quality, Müller belongs on the pitch for me,” Ballack told Kicker. “But even if he doesn’t play all the time, he is the sort of player who can lead in a difficult situation with his experience and his personality.”
Thomas Müller and Marco Reus could both be in line for comebacks
Löw is set to officially unveil his 26-man squad on Wednesday. And while the majority of the players pick themselves, there may yet be room for further surprises.
Calling Marco Reus a surprise may seem strange but the Borussia Dortmund captain’s decade in and around the national team has been unspectacular so far, the majority of his 44 appearances for Germany coming in friendlies or minor qualifiers, the last of which was in 2019.
But his return to form this year (five goals and seven assists under interim coach Edin Terzic since December) has been a key factor in Dortmund’s German Cup triumph and their improbable qualification for the Champions League.
Whether axed central defenders Hummels and Boateng also rejoin Müller in being recalled remains to be seen, with the former considered more likely than the latter.
At the other end of the age scale, Löw may also consider calling up at least one of Jamal Musiala or Florian Wirtz (both 18). Both have impressed in break-out seasons for Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen respectively.
In goal, Manuel Neuer retains the number one spot but Bernd Leno (Arsenal) and Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt) could be set to fill the two reserve positions in the absence of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who announced on Monday that he would be undergoing knee surgery this summer.