Joachim Low’s decision last March to drop Thomas Müller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng from the German National Team was met with harsh criticism. Following disastrous performance of Die Mannschaft at the 2018 World Cup 2018 and the UEFA Nations League that fall, the timing of the dismissal of the trio of veterans seemed to exacerbate an already tense mood surrounding Löw and the DFB.
In a recent interview with SPORT Buzzer, Löw said that following the 2018 World Cup, he knew he wanted to make changes to the squad, but he didn’t know exactly what that would look like, especially with regards to Müller, Hummels, and Boateng:
In the national team, you can’t just change everything from one day to the next. I wasn’t sure after the World Cup, because I knew that precisely these three players could still be world-class — and they can still be that today.
Prior to the Nations League, Löw said, he didn’t want to make any changes that would disrupt the balance of experienced players and younger players in the squad. At the time, with such a difficult group, they wanted to show everyone that they were still a world class team, despite their performance in Russia at the World Cup:
The Nations League came along, which we internally perhaps rated somewhat too highly. We thought, “It’s a competition; and moreover in a group with France and the Netherlands we need everyone, especially the experienced and established players, who wanted to show that we can do better.
Low explained that he decided to wait until a few weeks before the training camp ahead of Germany’s matches against Serbia (friendly) and the Netherlands (Euro 2020 qualifier) in March to let the trio of players know they were no longer going to be a part of the squad.
Bayern Munich’s leadership, however, was frustrated by the timing of Löw’s decision, since it came between two vital fixtures for Bayern; a league match against VfL Wolfsburg that had title implications and an all-important Champions League clash against Liverpool. Additionally, before the national team reassembled in March, Löw had ample time to announce his decision in between.
From Löw’s point of view, though, he wanted to see how they players were performing for Bayern after the winter-pause:
Now we have to start the transition. A new cycle is beginning with the Euro qualifications. But I deliberately wanted to wait out the preparations and see how the players came back from the winter break. Before the qualifications, we wanted to go through and decide which players with prospects we’d rely on. We knew the others are still good, even very good. But now it’s time for change.
Löw claims that his close personal, emotional bond with Müller, Hummels, and Boateng made it very hard to inform them of their fate, which he abruptly did on an unannounced visit to Munich:
It was a very difficult day. It took a lot of strength, because I have a very emotional connection to these three players in particular. A few years ago, they were the ones for whom I had to and wanted to make room on the national team.
The idea of removing other veterans from the national team was also floated, but Löw said they decided against making too many drastic changes at such a vital juncture when positive results were needed. Leaders can still be found on the squad among the older players that are still around, Löw said:
We discussed several scenarios... We wanted to make room for players who we are confident can become key figures on this team in the future. It was equally clear to me, though, that we still need experienced pillars. Now Neuer and Kroos, as well as Reus and Gündogan have this role.