Bundesliga young blood providing blueprint for Germany’s success

Germany’s blueprint for World Cup domination takes into consideration a variety of aspects, but the birth certificate does not belong in this dossier.

Being talented, ambitious, harbouring a strong mentality, with a positive work ethic and having team spirit are several key aptitudes sought in a top professional footballer. Of course, outstanding technique must be inherent, and the rest? Well it can be trained to perfection.

Being on one or the other side of 20 is not given any consideration, though. At least not in the Bundesliga, and certainly not when it comes to the Germany national team.

Down the years, blooding young talent has been one of the many aspects which has set the Bundesliga apart from other top leagues. Not only do Bundesliga coaches believe in their young prospects, they give them the chance to prove themselves. One man in particular rubbing his hands with glee at this thought is Germany coach Joachim Löw, who has benefited as a consequence by being able to rely on experienced campaigners for his squad selections – before they even hit their mid-20s.

Just look at some of the stars of the current Germany squad. Manuel Neuer made his national team debut aged 23 years and two months – with three seasons of Bundesliga experience already under his belt – or gloves.

Thomas Müller, who will be looking to add to his ten World Cup goals which rank him highest among active players on the all-time list of top World Cup goalscorers, was already showing what he can do for his country – and confusing Diego Maradona – when he was just 20 and a half. His Bundesliga debut had come two years previous, at the tender age of 18.

Julian Draxler was only 18 and eight months when he first pulled on a Germany shirt, but it was certainly no gamble since he had already played a season and a half in Germany’s top flight with Schalke, a club renowned the world over for their Knappenschmiede production line of talent which also accounted for the likes of Mesut Özil and Leon Goretzka – two other fine examples of precocious 17 and 18-year-old club debutants respectively, with the latter earning his first cap not long after his 19th birthday.

Timo Werner had just turned 21 when he took his Germany bow in 2017, but he had worked his way up through Germany’s youth selections since making his Bundesliga debut at the ripe old age of 17 years and five months for VfB Stuttgart. That was all vital experience gained for club and country.

What these examples clearly show is that Germany have a plan; an unwritten policy which states the earlier the better when it comes to getting talented players involved in key competitive games: first in the Bundesliga, then on the international stage.

It is a system the envy of the world, and one which has already delivered results with the 2014 World Cup title held aloft by the likes of Toni Kroos, four years after he debuted for Germany, having made his Bundesliga debut for Bayern at the age of 17, and both Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng: blooded at the age of 21 by their country after making their Bundesliga debuts aged 18.

Those who do slip through the initial net – and it is a rarity in such a structured system, shared by the clubs and, most importantly, their dynamic, forward-thinking coaches – do not just get lost on a talent waste heap, however. Playing in the Bundesliga can pave a path into the national team, even for those, like Marvin Plattenhardt, who just need a little longer to get there.

The Hertha Berlin defender picked up his first cap at the age of 25, seven years after cutting his teeth with Nuremberg. Kevin Trapp took six years from his debut with Kaiserlautern to his first cap, although with Neuer in his path, it was perhaps not so surprising he was made to wait.

Finally, Jonas Hector shows that a place in the Germany squad can be yours as soon as you have proven yourself in the Bundesliga – even immediately. His national team debut came less than three months after his first top-tier outing for Cologne, with Löw already convinced he was up to the task – and who would dare to doubt that.

Indeed, who would even start to doubt a blueprint for success, with Bundesliga clubs feeding finely developed players into Die Mannschaft, where they are honed into world dominators: a proven recipe for glory.

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