England can learn from German football’s example

FOUR SIGHT: Polish striker Robert Lewandowski hit four goals for Borussia Dortmund in their 4-1 win in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid
FOUR SIGHT: Polish striker Robert Lewandowski hit four goals for Borussia Dortmund in their 4-1 win in last week's Champions League semi-final first leg against Real Madrid

The philosophical approach to Germany’s domestic and international evolution has been promising to scintillate for the best part of a decade now.

The prudent, heralding blueprints of yesteryear – that have since been structurally enhanced and continue to shape the infrastructure of German football – may have prohibited success on a European front for a perpetuated period but it was a sacrifice that is now reaping the benefits.

Financially shackled, the German sides gasped for breath beneath the suffocating dominance of rivals from Italy, Spain and England. BVB’s triumph in 1997 – the only German side to claim European honours in a 17 year stretch - was an indubitable consequence.

But those frugal constraints have had a magnanimous impact in terms of development with the emphasis on in-house strengthening and the enrichment of youth. And that strategy has grown in momentum, resulting in the ‘golden generation’ we’re witnessing today.

Reeling from the slump of the 1998 World Cup and a disastrous Euro 2000 campaign, the DFL – headed by Werner Hackmann - emerged as the preeminent figure in the country’s re-organisation. The DFL governed Germany’s two professional leagues – 1. and 2. Bundesliga – plus the innovative 50+1 Rule that provided a quaint business model where clubs were owned by members and run profitably, with the exception of few.

In addition, and most significantly, the pyramid along with improved academies – accelerated by the 50+1ruling - provided an elightened environment that fostered Germany’s burgeoning talent and helped them excel and jump on the country’s productive conveyer belt.

Philip Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski were early benefactors and eventually pushed in to an international side that had stagnated. In ’98 no less than 12 of Berti Vogts’s 22-man squad were over 30 while just two were under 25.

But then came the shake-up. The combination of Jurgen Klinsmann and assistant Joachim Low provided the ideal marriage for German football both domestically and internationally.

On home soil, in the 2006 World Cup, the pairing drafted 10 players aged 25 and under in to a squad which culminated the tournament in third position. Once Low usurped his one-time superior as head coach he continued to baptise his nation’s exciting prospects and the result has been a runner-up finish in Euro 2008, a third place finish at the 2010 World Cup plus a semi-final spot at last year’s Euros.

What’s been achieved in Germany has been a stark contrast to the horizontal integer of torpidity in England. While Germany’s top clubs kept faith in the home grown crop, English clubs maintained their infatuation with signing global stars that ultimately shunted the growth and hunger of younger players.

In South Africa, 12 of Low’s squad represented the nation’s top three clubs – Bayern Munich, Schalke and Werder Bremen. Just six of England’s squad represented the country’s elite trio.

That familiarity and consistency between club and country has undeniably helped Germany prosper. Munich and Dortmund’s exploits in the Champions League has been no surprise. In the first leg ties of the semi-final stages a total of 18 German natives were involved, 16 of them capped for the senior international side while 13 players were handed debuts by Low.

Germany has advanced from an efficient, methodical past, where a wave of up-and-coming youngsters has been historically serendipitous, and transformed in to a powerful, technically proficient, energetic and punishing unit. Their approach has been organic, indigenous and based on sustainable development.

German football is heading in one direction, now England has to respond and follow suit. English football needs an identity and the FFP regulations may provide the opportunity to do that.

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