Youthful Bayern Munich attacker Paul Wanner has been attracting a lot of attention lately with his rapid rise to the first team and record breaking debut. Much like his friend and idol Jamal Musiala, he is highly sought after by two national sides — Germany and Austria. While it seems like he is leaning towards Germany the decision is not yet final and both organizations are rolling out the welcome wagon to convince the youngster.
Wanner was born in Germany, but his mother is Austrian and he feels a strong connection to her country. Wanner feels so strongly about that heritage, that he has taken out his Austrian citizenship to become a dual citizen of both nations. While Wanner has played for the Germany U-17 team in the past, he has now apparently withdrawn from that program while he decides about the next step in his international career.
Wanner has expressed great ambition and has talked about his desire to win the World Cup, a goal much more likely to be fulfilled playing for Germany. This, hwoever, has not stopped him and his parents from having meetings and calls with officials from the Austrian Football Federation (OFB) while he considers his options.
In addition to DFB head Oliver Bierhoff speaking with the young man, Austria’s national sporting director, Peter Schottel, has been meeting with the Wanner family and trying to woo him.
Apparently the competition has remained courteous and transparent, with the two national team leaders speaking on the phone about the young player.
Bierhoff has recently made some comments to the media about the chase to get Wanner to commit to a national team program confirming the calls and pursuit. “I spoke to Peter Schöttel (ÖFB sporting director) on the phone. What he said was fair — he said: ‘Look. He has Austrian roots. It would be wrong if we didn’t work on this topic.’”
While Bierhoff thinks the stir around Wanner is good, he remains traditionally “relaxed.”
So if Germany offers the better chance at a World Cup trophy what are the Austrians countering with? Opportunity.
The Austrian program will treat the young man like a rising star while the German program has suggested that they will develop him step-by-step in a gradual fashion. Bierhoff went out of his way to suggest “we can’t already speak of a comparison with Jamal Musiala.”
The two national team coaches are also involved in the pursuit, in very different ways. Flick has apparently assessed the situation and has made it clear that he has no plans to call up Wanner prior to the World Cup in Qatar or for the World Cup. Flick has suggested the best course is for Wanner to play with the U-21s to continue to develop.
On the other hand Franco Foda has offered to call Wanner up in March. Austria will be playing their critical World Cup qualifiers against Wales and Scotland or Ukraine in March and Foda has offered Wanner a spot on that squad. Wanner has further been told that if the squad makes it to Qatar he would taken there as well. Considering Foda’s reluctance to use young players one has to surmise that the OFB has put significant pressure on the coach to make those commitments.
The scenario pans out like the classic “marshmallow” delayed gratification experiment. Will Wanner jump into international action now in the hope of playing at the World Cup this year, or is he willing to wait four more years for a shot at a World Cup appearance with a better chance of winning it? Most 16-year-olds view four years as something close to an eternity. The first clues to his decision will be revealed in March when we see if he pulls on the Austrian jersey or not.