With some of his players out on the pitch, national team coach Joachim Löw will be watching the Champions League final very closely this Sunday, as German double-winners FC Bayern Munich take on Paris Saint-Germain in Lisbon (21:00 CEST). Löw spoke to DFB.de about the final, his plans for the upcoming Germany squad, and the players’ workload.
DFB.de: Judging by recent results in the UEFA Champions League, Mr. Löw, German football looks to be in great shape right now. RB Leipzig beat Atlético Madrid to reach the semifinals, whilst FC Bayern knocked out Olympique Lyon and will face Thomas Tuchel’s star-studded PSG side in the final. Of all people, it could be Hansi Flick, your former assistant manager with the national team, who lifts the biggest prize that European club football has to offer. What is your opinion on all this?
Joachim Löw: Firstly, I am absolutely delighted for RB Leipzig and Julian Nagelsmann, FC Bayern and Hansi. This is the first time that we have seen two German teams in the semifinals since 2013 - that is a really good sign for German football. Last season’s Champions League was won by a German coach, Jürgen Klopp, and this year there will be another German manager lifting the trophy. That is obviously very satisfying. I will be especially happy if Hansi’s Bayern side win the competition – I’m sure Thomas Tuchel will forgive me for saying this, as it is due to the special friendship that I have with Hansi. But Thomas Tuchel would be a worthy winner too; he has built a very versatile PSG team who always play really attractive football. This match is a 50-50, I think. If both teams play at their best, showing their attacking power and tactical nous, then we will have an unbelievable contest on Sunday.
DFB.de: Both teams are packed with stars who can decide matches on their own.
Löw: Absolutely, both teams have huge individual quality. You can’t pick out just one player, as both teams have top players in every part of the pitch. Both managers have an embarrassment of riches to choose from.
DFB.de: Looking forward to the start of the new international season, you must be busy tinkering with your plans for the squad. On 3rd September, Germany will face Spain in Stuttgart before travelling to Basel on 6th September to play against Switzerland. Can you shed any light on your plans for these upcoming UEFA Nations League matches?
Löw: We are deliberately waiting until after the Champions League final to announce the squad – we will do so next Tuesday. We are giving the final, and the teams playing in it, the respect they deserve. In my opinion this competition and these teams deserve everybody’s full attention. Focus will shift to the national team in September.
DFB.de: What are your plans for this round of fixtures?
Löw: It’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of the players or staff. Personally, I can’t wait to be back out there on the pitch working with the players. But during the pandemic there have been, and still are, more important things than football – we are well aware of this. In this respect we are grateful to all the politicians and scientists who have made it possible to play football again. The way that I am approaching my plans is as such: players who have been overexerted by the resumption of the Bundesliga will not be chosen for September’s squad, and nor will those who have taken part in the Champions League tournament in Lisbon. We want to give them the necessary time to recover. So there will certainly be no place for Manuel Neuer, Joshua Kimmich, Serge Gnabry or Leon Goretzka from FC Bayern, or Marcel Halstenberg and Lukas Klostermann from RB Leipzig. The situation may be a little different for Julian Draxler and Thilo Kehrer, both playing for PSG, and for Leroy Sané and Niklas Süle. All of them have worked through injuries and they have all had spells where they were not playing regularly. They need to find their rhythm again, both in training and in matches.
DFB.de: What is the reasoning behind this decision?
Löw: With one eye on the European Championships next summer, I think it’s important that the players can chill out and recover properly, both physically and mentally, before starting the new season with their clubs. These players should switch off for a few days and find some peace and quiet. This coming season will be even longer and tougher than normal. The demands on top players are pretty extreme at the moment, and the Euros, the highlight of our season, come right at the end. We will need players who are still in top condition, ready to perform at the highest level.
DFB.de: Does that mean that you are willing to risk a poor start to the Nations League campaign in order to spare a few players some rest? Your Spanish counterpart Luis Enrique has already named RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo and FC Bayern’s Thiago amongst his squad.
Löw: I have made this decision as I have a responsibility to look after my players. This is one of my highest priorities. With the national team I have always had to strike the right balance between challenging my players and not working them too hard. This is nothing new – the players’ health has always mattered. We have always taken into consideration the demands that we place on individual players, and this hasn’t changed. The players who are chosen to play in September will be given our full attention. Maybe they will grab their chance and open the door for more regular playing time. We said after the 2018 World Cup that we wanted to create room for younger players, so that they can join us and develop further. We are sticking to this plan and not throwing it away anytime soon. We have put our faith in the young players, they can rely on us. We have big plans for the future, but we are currently in the middle of a rebuild, and building a new team is a slow process. You have to think outside the box when you’re planning and developing a whole new team. Looking forwards, we have three huge opportunities ahead of us, beginning with the European Championships next year, followed by the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and then the 2024 Euros on home soil. From a footballing perspective, the future is bright for our young players.