Niclas Füllkrug is having a serious career renaissance. The 29-year-old SV Werder Bremen striker has eight goals in the opening ten Bundesliga games of this season and is — among others — forcing his way into contention with Hansi Flick's Germany men's national team roster for the upcoming 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
“What he does has a lot of merit,” said Flick, told Bundesliga.com. “He’s having a very good run now and I think he’s doing really well and may bring an element to our team that we don’t have in our current form. We see a few players in this position in the Bundesliga who could possibly strengthen us in the 26-man squad... He’s a candidate.”
Bayern Munich, as it turns out, aren't the only team wracked with questions of how to play without a conventional number 9. Unlike Julian Nagelsmann, however, Flick can immediately call up anyone he chooses from the pool, should he decide Chelsea FC’s Kai Havertz, RB Leipzig’s Timo Werner, and VfL Wolfsburg’s Lukas Nmecha aren’t quality or conventional or in-form enough.
And since there aren't any options at Bayern (for the moment), Flick is turning his eye elsewhere.
Flick was on hand in Hoffenheim last Friday to watch Füllkrug take home MOTM honors, scoring and assisting for Werder over TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. And last Saturday, Flick was watching Der Klassiker with keen interest — and not merely for the sizable Bavarian contingent in his Germany squad.
20-year-old Karim Adeyemi had already broken into the senior national team. He earned call-ups but scant playing time Germany's Nations League campaign this summer, and moved in the transfer window as well from RB Salzburg to Borussia Dortmund — charting the same path as Erling Haaland (now at Manchester City) before him.
And after Adeyemi was brought on against Bayern in the second half, he proved way too much for any of Bayern’s left-sided defenders to handle. Kingsley Coman would end up with two yellow cards and a suspension for his troubles, while Josip Stanišić could only watch as Adeyemi blew by and delivered an inch-perfect cross for Manuel Neuer to improbably save.
Unsurprisingly, Adeyemi started in the following Champions League midweek match against Sevilla, a 1-1 draw.
Neuer, of course, didn’t manage to save everything that game. And the first BVB goal that got through came courtesy of another Dortmund prodigy — Youssoufa Moukoko, a home-grown Dortmund talent who is potentially Haaland’s heir apparent and still just 17 years of age.
Moukoko didn’t back down from the occasion, either, barreling into Neuer after scoring and knocking his potential national team squad-mate over. Unlike Adeyemi, who is perhaps a winger-forward hybrid, Moukoko fits more in the center and has long been identified as a potential salve for Germany’s striker drought.
Yet perhaps it’s not in the next generation, but in the uncovered gems of the current, where the answer really lies. Füllkrug, for his part, is brushing off the hype.
“It’s a team game,” he said simply (via Bundesliga.com). “A lot of things are working are working out for me right now, and I’m happy about that because I’ve been working hard for it.”
There isn’t much more time before the pedal hits the metal in Qatar. For Hansi Flick, decisions loom — both in squad selection and tactics — as he contemplates the timeless and familiar No. 9 question currently plaguing both his country and its top club.