Hummels ready to 'lead the way' after painful Germany exile

By Sports Desk May 31, 2021

Mats Hummels revealed his exile from the Germany team "felt like a personal defeat" as he vowed to make up for lost time at Euro 2020.

The 70-cap defender was ousted from the national squad after the 2018 World Cup when head coach Joachim Low decided Hummels, Thomas Muller and Jerome Boateng belonged to Germany's past.

Low said the time had come for "a new beginning", but he performed a U-turn this year when asking Hummels and Muller to return to Die Mannschaft.

Now Hummels and Muller, former Bayern Munich team-mates, could have big roles to play in what will be Low's final tournament in charge.

Germany have upcoming friendlies against Denmark and Latvia before they begin their Euro 2020 quest with a titanic group-stage clash against France on June 15 in Munich.

"I want to be fully involved on the sporting side, but also as a man," Hummels said in a news conference. "I hope that I can take the role on the pitch. As a spokesman and leader, especially when things don't go well, I want to lead the way.

"In the last six months there have been phone calls and messages about what we think about it. Ultimately, it only became concrete in the last two weeks before the squad announcement. Jogi [Low] believes that I can give the team a lot for the tournament. I want to."

Speaking about his time in the international wilderness, Hummels said: "It felt like a personal defeat, it hurt. I have always been proud to play for the national team.

"It was my goal to come back. It's an honour to play for Germany. It is a nice confirmation of the work we have done over the past few years.

"It was nice [to return], I saw many familiar faces again. I was a little nervous and excited upon my arrival and felt a certain tingling sensation. I was looking forward to the day."

No defender won more aerial challenges (129) or made more interceptions (73) than Hummels achieved for Borussia Dortmund in the 2020-21 Bundesliga, and nobody scored more than his five goals among players in his position.

He was top 10 among defenders for duels won, clean sheets, tackles, blocks and headed clearances, and Low could not continue to ignore a player with such high numbers.

Hummels won the DFB-Pokal with Dortmund too, while Muller was a driving force behind Bayern's Bundesliga success.

Of all defenders who entered 150-plus duels in the Bundesliga, only Hummels (68.77) and Borussia Monchengladbach's Matthias Ginter (68.22) – another who features in Low's 26-man squad – had a success rate of above 65 per cent.

Opta defines a duel as a "50-50 contest between two players of opposing sides".

Hungary and Portugal also feature in Germany's group, a testing start to the tournament, but Hummels predicted: "If we bring our quality to the pitch, we will prevail in the group."

He also dispelled any suggestion of possible conflict as the old guard, with their leadership qualities, return to join a squad who had been attuned to their absence.

"We won't take anything away from them; we will act together," Hummels said. "It's about having a competitive spirit in training. Muller and I bring that in, but we're not the only ones."

There is the possibility of Hummels being paired with Antonio Rudiger, a Champions League winner with Chelsea, in Germany's backline.

"We have a lot of good central defenders. Toni has shown that he can be outstanding," Hummels said. "You can even use the word 'world-class' with him."

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