Monday, February 6, 2023

Germany will need stars with spirit of Argentina dynamo Enzo Fernandez, says Leipzig chief

SoccerNews in Bundesliga 1 Jan 2023

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Enzo Fernandez is the epitome of the type of footballer Germany must look to produce, according to RB Leipzig sporting director Max Eberl.

Benfica midfielder Fernandez had an outstanding World Cup for Argentina and has since been linked with a host of major European clubs, prompting speculation of a move in the January transfer window.

The 21-year-old was an all-action figure in the team that carried off the trophy, and Eberl said Fernandez and Rodrigo de Paul were players whose industry caught the eye.

Eberl, previously sporting director at Borussia Monchengladbach for 14 years, is considered one of German football’s smartest thinkers.

He wants to see leaders produced and believes that character trait can be as significant as skill.

“We should have this heart for the cause more into focus again. We have recently moved away a bit from the German virtues such as robustness and assertiveness,” Eberl said.

In an interview with Kicker magazine, Eberl spoke of the players who are approaching the end of their international careers.

With Germany hosting Euro 2024, this is a moment where the pressure is on to deliver a winning team, and the World Cup group-stage exit suggests coach Hansi Flick is a long way off establishing such a group.

Eberl said: “I think we have outstanding football players in Germany, but we also know that we will lose very important players like Manuel Neuer, Thomas Muller and Ilkay Gundogan.

“We need players like Enzo Fernandez or Rodrigo de Paul with the Argentines. Good footballers who act with total dedication and the ability to work as part of a team. We’ve lost a bit of that greed to win every single duel.”

Among players from teams who reached the World Cup knockout stage and contested at least 60 duels, only Croatia’s Mateo Kovacic in the select group of 16 bettered Fernandez’s 59 per cent success rate (40 of 68 duels won).

Germany goalkeeper Neuer broke his leg in a skiing accident after the World Cup and will be sidelined for the rest of the season. He is 36, while his Bayern Munich team-mate Muller is 33 and Manchester City midfielder Gundogan is 32. They are in the twilight of their international careers, and the new generation has yet to show it can deliver the success Germany expects.

Eberl added: “Time is clearly against us, because we will only see in the next 10 to 15 years what we have missed.

“We have to get more boys into football again. And one question would be: does it make sense to have youth academies up to under-eight or should we leave the boys in their clubs and start with the junior academies later?”

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