1. Commander in chief Boateng
It says everything about the growing authority of Jerome Boateng within the German camp that the Bayern centre-back saw fit to tell a few home truths to the side’s attackers in the wake of the disappointing goalless draw with Poland in Paris (” Offensively, we produced far too little. We have to improve in a hurry or run the risk of going home early. “)
Too quick, powerful and switched on for most strikers, Boateng is the man who holds the Nationalmannschaft back-line together and as long as he is around, the DFB brigade have to be contenders for their fourth continental title.
Only in one area is he deficient – still to break his goalscoring duck for his country after 62 appearances.
2. Shock horror. Germany qualify for the European Championship last-16 playing within themselves
Whenever German standards slip in the international arena, you can be sure of three outcomes: vitriolic barbs a plenty for the Bundestrainer, a hunt for on field scapegoats and last but by no means least, a media-fuelled debate about the shortage of authoritative voices in the team.
And the post-mortem which followed the anti-climactic Poland game contained all the usual knee-jerk elements, with ex-national team skipper turned ESPN analyst Michael Ballack only too pleased to plough the lack of leadership furrow.
Does the argument stand up, though? Indeed, some might argue the Germans are awash with officer material in keeper Manuel Neuer, centre-back Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, squad captain, Bastian Schweinsteiger and midfielder, Sami Khedira, who in a hard-hitting interview with Kicker magazine this week, described the Ballack thesis as “comedy”.
Good for Khedira.
3. Open season on Götze
These decidedly are worrying times for erstwhile Nationalmannschaft poster boy, Mario Götze. Just two years ago, the impish attacker was adroitly guiding home the winner in a World Cup final, a successful shot at immortality if ever there was one. Yet how quickly it has all turned sour, condemned by poor form and injury to a bit-part role at Bayern Munich and now struggling to justify coach Joachim Löw’s faith in him at Euro 2016.
Totally ineffective in the false nine role versus Ukraine and Poland and only slightly better on the left-side in the victory over Northern Ireland, his confidence clearly has taken a battering and in no mood for clemency, his critics in the media are having a field day.
An exercise in star-bashing exemplified by the open letter addressed to him by Focus news magazine. “You were once a really good footballer, ” wrote online editor Paul-Niklas Hinz. “You scored fabulous goals. You were a player who did special things. Today, though, it’s the other way round. You play like a 37-year-old in the body of a 24-year-old. Your accelerations are sluggish. Your finishing reminds me of my own ability. What you’ve become makes me sad. I don’t see a world-class player any more. ”
4. Jesus is just alright
Brazilian newspaper, Diario de Sao Paulo, suggest Bayern Munich are stepping up their pursuit of Palmeiras front-line prodigy, Gabriel Jesus, the 19-year-old dubbed ‘Mini Neymar’.
According to reporters on the ‘Paulista’ daily, Bayern technical director, Michael Reschke recently was in town to watch the boy wonder in action and also took the opportunity to meet the player’s representatives, who own 55 per cent of the teenager’s rights.
Agent, Cristiano Simoes, confirmed to Diario that Bayern already had made an offer, though by no means are the Bundesliga champions home free. The whizz-kid is an object of desire for more or less every leading club in Europe – with Manchester City and Juventus particularly keen – and it’s whispered that he holds a torch for Barcelona. This way to the luxury goods department.
Gabriel Jesus even comes with a mega club discount, his release clause falling from 40 million euros to 24 million for one of the chosen few (Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern, PSG and Manchester United).
5. Trial of strength at the Westfalenstadion
Don’t expect Borussia Dortmund midfield virtuoso, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, to resignedly trudge back to the work bench following his employers’ refusal to allow him to move to Manchester United.
The Armenian international, who only has one year to run on his contract with the Schwarz-Gelben, makes no secret of his enthusiasm to be part of the Mourinho makeover at Old Trafford and ever ready to unleash hell for one of his clients, top agent, Mino Raiola, is now busy playing the ‘irreconcilable differences’ card.
“Micki was told months ago by Dortmund management that he could leave this summer,” stormed Raiola in Bild. “Dortmund have received an official bid (of around 24 million euros from Manchester United). But now are frightened by what their fans might think. Dortmund let Mats Hummels go to their biggest enemy, Bayern. Yet Micki has to stay. This won’t do.”
Unstoppable force meets immovable object. Machiavellian Mino versus hard-nosed Dortmund CEO, Hans- Joachim Watzke.
“There never was a promise to let Mkhitaryan leave us early, ” insists Watzke. “A contract’s a contract. It goes for both sides.”