The search is on for a successor to Joachim Low after Germany's long-serving national team boss announced he would step down after Euro 2020.

Low will complete a 15-year tour of duty as head coach when he leads Die Mannschaft into this year's tournament, delayed a year by the COVID-19 crisis.

His contract had been due to run until after Germany's Qatar 2022 World Cup campaign, but 61-year-old Low has decided the time will be right to step aside before then.

That means the Germany Football Association (DFB) must spring into action and find the right coach to take over from Low, a World Cup winner in 2014.

DFB president Fritz Keller said: "The fact that he informed us about his decision at an early stage is very decent. He gives the DFB consequently the necessary time, calm and a sense of proportion to name his successor."

Germany is enjoying a golden era of producing world-class coaches, and here are five the DFB may consider.

Hansi Flick: Brilliant as Bayern boss, and Low's former right-hand man

Bayern have flourished under Flick's leadership over the past 18 months, having promoted him to the top job when Niko Kovac struggled to get the best from a talented group.

Club CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge has noisily shot down the prospect of Flick leaving to become Germany boss, saying the coach will remain at Bayern for next season.

However, Rummenigge himself will step down from his position at Bayern at the turn of the year as Oliver Kahn replaces him, and Flick may see the Germany job as offering greater long-term security.

He served as assistant to Low from 2006 to 2014 so knows the job as well as any contender.

Jurgen Klopp: Could Liverpool adventure be coming to an end?

Liverpool's steep decline in 2021 has led to the first rumblings about Klopp's Anfield future among supporters of the club.

At board level, there has been no indication Liverpool would be happy to lose the man who has led them to Champions League and Premier League title success.

It seems the former Mainz and Borussia Dortmund boss has enough goodwill in the bank to be trusted to turn around the team's fortunes, so if Klopp is to be a contender for the Germany job it would be on him to make a major career decision.

At the age of 53, could he take the methods that have served him so well in the club game onto the international stage?

Stefan Kuntz: Ready to step up?

As coach of the Germany Under-21 team, former national team midfielder Kuntz is already working in the DFB system.

To appoint him would seem an easy option, which is not to suggest it would be the wrong option.

Kuntz's young Germany team won the UEFA Under-21 Championship in 2017 and were runners-up two years later, with the likes of Thilo Kehrer, Luca Waldschmidt and Serge Gnabry all enjoying early international experience under his leadership.

Kuntz is highly regarded as a coach by his fellow Euro 96 winner Oliver Bierhoff, who is Germany's national team director, and that could be a significant factor.

Julian Nagelsmann: Too much, too young?

Nagelsmann, who does not turn 34 until July, seems a long shot for this job.

He has greatly impressed as head coach of Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig and his next calling point is likely to be a bigger club job, perhaps in Spain or England.

Nagelsmann distanced himself from the Germany job within minutes of Low's departure being announced, so it would take a change of heart for him to come into the equation.

If the DFB makes a determined play for him, however, Nagelsmann would have to decide whether he could refuse to serve his country.

Ralf Rangnick: Tactical master could be perfect pick

Veteran Rangnick looked set to join Milan last year, until the surprise element of Stefano Pioli turning the Rossoneri into a winning machine knocked that on the head.

The 62-year-old has been cited as a major influence on the generation that followed him into coaching, with Stuttgart, Hoffenheim, Schalke and Leipzig among the teams he has led.

His tactics typically lean on a high-intensity pressing game, with swift counter-attacking, and Rangnick would surely relish the prospect of leading Germany into a World Cup.

Whether being out of coaching for two seasons might be a hindrance would be a matter for the DFB, with Rangnick currently employed by Red Bull's sporting division.

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

Appointed in 2006, Low led Germany to global glory in 2014 when Mario Gotze's extra-time goal earned a 1-0 victory over Argentina in the final.

Germany consistently challenged at the business end of international tournaments during Low's reign, until the 2018 World Cup, when a group-stage exit raised the first major doubts about the coach's continuing hold on his job.

Low was due to reach the end of his current contract following Germany's 2022 World Cup campaign.

A new face will be in charge for Qatar 2022, however.

Low said: "I take this step very consciously, full of pride and enormous gratitude, but at the same time I continue to be very motivated as far as the upcoming European Championship tournament is concerned.

"I am proud, because it is something very special and an honour for me to be involved with my country."

Low was previously assistant to Jurgen Klinsmann, who had two years in charge of Die Mannschaft before leaving his post after Germany's run to the semi-finals at their home World Cup in 2006.

Germany were runners-up to Spain at Euro 2008 and reached the semi-finals of Euro 2012 and Euro 2016, as well as advancing to the last four at the 2010 World Cup.

Low spoke of his joy at having the chance to lead Germany's elite players on the world stage.

In a statement issued by the German Football Association (DFB), he added: "I associate them with great triumphs and painful defeats, but above all many wonderful and magical moments - not just winning the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"I am and will remain grateful to the DFB, which has always prepared an ideal working environment for me and the team."

Low, who is 61, is eager to go out on a high.

A 6-0 defeat to Spain in the Nations League last November has prompted him to consider recalling Thomas Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, senior players that he exiled after the World Cup disappointment three years ago, and it could be there is a final flourish to come from Low.

"I still feel the unconditional will, great energy and ambition for the upcoming European Championship," he said. "I will do my best to make our fans happy and successful at this tournament. I also know that this applies to the entire team."

National teams director Oliver Bierhoff said: "Joachim Low and I have worked closely together for almost 17 years. We were able to experience so much together and also endure together.

"It is a special relationship that is characterised above all by absolute trust. Under Jogi, the national team once again stood for the joy of playing attractive and attacking football.

"This team and its players have developed incredibly with him. I regret that our professional paths will separate after the Euros.

"We will remain close on a personal level, but I'm not thinking about that now because I know that Jogi's full concentration and energy in the coming weeks and months will only be used to prepare for the European Championship. We will continue to have a big common goal in the summer."

The Euro 2020 finals, delayed by a year because of the COVID-19 crisis, will run from June 11 to July 11, with Germany in a tough first-round group that also includes France, Hungary and Portugal.

Joachim Low will step down as Germany head coach after Euro 2020, ending a 15-year stint in the role with the national team that included a World Cup triumph.

Thomas Muller has declared himself ready to return to international duty after Germany boss Joachim Low hinted at a recall for the Bayern Munich attacker ahead of Euro 2020.

Low said last week he is considering a U-turn that would see Muller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng return from the wilderness in time for the rescheduled tournament.

The World Cup-winning trio were told by Low in March 2019 that they would no longer be part of his plans, which left Muller – a regular up until that point – "dumbfounded".

However, with Low under pressure on the back of November's 6-0 thrashing against Spain, the long-serving coach has reiterated the door is once again open for the trio.

Speaking to Sky Sport Germany on Saturday, Low said: "The European Championship is a separate competition and our job is to bring the best players and the best team with us in order to guarantee the greatest possible success."

The three players have a combined 246 caps and have impressed at club level since last featuring for Germany, with Muller and Boateng helping Bayern to six major trophies since the start of last season.

Muller, who has a combined 50 goals and assists in the Bundesliga since the start of last season – only team-mate Robert Lewandowski (75) has more – would welcome the chance to represent his country again this year.

"I feel comfortable in the team. Standing on the pitch with the boys is fun, and there are a lot of national team players on the pitch," he said.

"I feel like chasing titles in the summer. We will see if it is the end for me after the Champions League final or whether I will play for the national team. I'm definitely ready."

Muller played 91 minutes of Bayern's 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund in Saturday's Der Klassiker, a game in which Boateng was forced off in the second half with a knee injury.

Boateng has had numerous setbacks in the past and Bayern boss Hansi Flick is awaiting news on the severity of this latest injury.

"We don't know exactly what he has done," Flick said. "He said he thought he twisted his knee a bit, but we have to wait for the diagnosis. He is having a scan."

Germany head coach Joachim Low is considering a dramatic U-turn that would see Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels invited back to the national team.

With the delayed Euro 2020 finals coming up in June, Low wants Germany to be as strong as possible, and a 6-0 thrashing by Spain in November was a result that pointed to a need for a change in direction.

Low's own future has come in for scrutiny, and there have even been suggestions Bayern Munich's treble-winning boss Hansi Flick could replace him.

The 2014 World Cup-winning coach declared in March 2019 that it was time for Germany to move on from the old guard, stating that Muller, Hummels and Jerome Boateng – all world champions themselves – would no longer be part of his plans.

It was a decision that Muller at the time said left him "dumbfounded", and Bayern were also critical, with all three players belonging to the Bavarian giants at that time.

Hummels has since moved on to Borussia Dortmund where the 32-year-old defender remains one of German football's star performers. Only Arminia Bielefeld's towering striker Fabian Klos (146) has won more balls in the air this season than Hummels (118) and just two players have made more blocks than his 22, taking all competitions into account.

Bayern midfielder Muller is one of only two players from the Bundesliga to reach doubles figures for goals and assists in all competitions this term, posting 13 and 12 respectively, with Dortmund's Jadon Sancho the other.

"Special circumstances can justify an interruption in the upheaval," Low said in an interview with Kicker magazine.

On the specific matter of Hummels, Boateng and Muller, Low said: "That will be a difficult and important question, also for me

"The character of Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels is that they do not oppress others."

Jurgen Klopp out, Steven Gerrard in?

Klopp ended Liverpool's 30-year wait for league glory last season, but the German manager could be set for a return to his homeland.

His exit could see Gerrard return to Merseyside.

 

TOP STORY – GERRARD TO REPLACE KLOPP IN LIVERPOOL RETURN

Steven Gerrard may soon return to Anfield but as manager to replace Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp, according to The Mirror.

Liverpool reportedly expect Klopp to take up an opportunity with Germany in the near future amid doubts over long-time head coach Joachim Low.

As a result, Liverpool legend Gerrard has been sounded out as he has Rangers on a cusp of a drought-breaking league title in Scotland.

Gerrard, who made more than 700 appearances for Liverpool, took control of Rangers in 2018.

 

ROUND-UP

- Erling Haaland seems to be on every club's wish list but the Mirror reports Manchester City have joined the queue for the Borussia Dortmund star. City manager Pep Guardiola and Haaland's agent Mina Raiola have a testy relationship but the Premier League leaders will press ahead with an alleged £100million (€115m) deal. English pair Chelsea and Manchester United are also reportedly interested along with Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain.

- Fabrizio Romano says Chelsea want to keep veteran defender Thiago Silva beyond the 2020-21 season. Chelsea signed Silva on a free transfer following his PSG exit.

- LaLiga giants Barcelona are in the market for a young defender and have set their sights on Inter's 21-year-old Alessandro Bastoni, according to Calciomercato.

Arsenal are in the hunt for Wigan Athletic sensation Kyle Joseph, with the teenager scoring five goals in 14 appearances. The Mirror claims the Gunners have joined Celtic and Rangers in their interest in the London-born Scotland youth international whose current contract expires in June.

Liverpool and rivals United are eyeing Leicester City's Harvey Barnes, reports the Mirror. The 23-year-old has established himself as a key player for the Foxes.

- Eric Bailly is in talks with United over a new long-term contract, claims The Sun. The 26-year-old defender, who has been plagued by injuries at Old Trafford, is out of contract in 2022. It comes amid United's reported interest in Sevilla's Jules Kounde, Ibrahima Konate of RB Leipzig and Brighton and Hove Albion star Ben White.

Thomas Muller will be involved for Bayern Munich against Cologne, Hansi Flick has confirmed, as the reigning Bundesliga champions aim to get their title defence back on track.

Muller tested positive for COVID-19 while away with the squad at the Club World Cup but is now clear of the virus, allowing him to resume training at the club's headquarters on Thursday.

Speaking to the media, Flick confirmed Muller is to be included in the squad for Saturday's game at the Allianz Arena, with the pressure firmly on after two games without a win in the league.

Ahead of the 100th all-time meeting with Cologne, Bayern have already lost twice as many games (two) in Bundesliga action in 2021 as they did across the entire previous year, with RB Leipzig now just two points behind the leaders in the table.

"He will definitely be part of the squad," Flick said of Muller on Friday. "Things went really quickly with him. 

"Yesterday he had a quick session. Obviously he trained at home, as much as he was able and allowed to do. He's the kind of player who has a good foundation, so he will definitely be a part of that [the matchday squad]. 

"I don't know if it will be possible for him to start or come off the bench, we haven't decided that yet." 

After a surprise 3-3 draw at home with Arminia Bielefeld following their return from clinching Club World Cup success in Qatar, Bayern went down 2-1 at Eintracht Frankfurt last weekend.

They were impressive in midweek, however, thrashing Lazio 4-1 in Rome in the first leg of their Champions League last-16 tie. 

"Against Bielefeld and Frankfurt, there were certain scenes we saw that indicated that better things were to come, but we had missed players and had done a lot of travelling," said Flick, who revealed Tanguy Nianzou is expected to be back after the international break in March. "I don't want to use that as an excuse, though.

"It was important for us to play in the Champions League against an opponent we respected. We followed our plan with great discipline, that's what I also expect tomorrow against Cologne.  

"I expect the team to show great willpower and a great willingness to win that game. We want to continue and play the way we did against Lazio, that's our job."

Jamal Musiala scored in the rout of Lazio before announcing his intention to represent Germany, rather than England, at international level. It now remains to be seen if Die Mannschaft coach Joachim Low calls up the teenage forward for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in March.

"It's his decision," Flick said of the choice made by Musiala, who turned 18 on Friday. "Obviously I'm a bit biased towards German football, so I think it's a good decision for German football.

"I always said there is enough good talent in this country, you don't have to worry about that. You have to make sure they develop well. 

"Now it's up to the coaches of the Germany team. If he's invited to join the national team, then we accept that. I do think that is going to give him a push. On the other hand, we have a lot of internationals in our squad who can offer support to him, so I don't think it will be a problem."

Bayern Munich winger Leroy Sane says he has been unfairly put in the "bling-bling drawer" and will take criticism as an incentive to realise his potential.

Sane was unable to hit the ground running at Bayern after joining the European champions on a five-year deal from Manchester City in July for a fee of €49million, which could rise to €60m.

The winger missed almost the entire 2019-20 season with City due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament before returning to his homeland.

Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge last month warned Sane must show more desire and says Bayern will be prepared to "kick his butt" if needed to get the best out of their big-money signing.

Sane has since taken his goal tally to seven for the season, while also providing five assists in 21 games, and Rummenigge this week rubbished suggestions the Bundesliga leaders could sell the 25-year-old this year.

Bayern and Germany great Lothar Matthaus stated the Bavarian giants should have signed Timo Werner rather than Sane before the Germany forward moved to Chelsea.

Sane insists people have got the wrong impression of him. 

"You are welcome to come to my house and see if there are really diamonds, gold chains and stuff like that lying around. I don't own any of these. Still, people put me in this bling-bling drawer." he said in an interview with Der Spiegel.

He added: "I have the feeling that people look at me differently than others. Apparently I provide people with material like this, even though I don't want to. So of course I have to question myself."

Sane took note of Rummenigge's criticism and has vowed to repay the faith Bayern have shown in him.

"I'm working very hard to get there [back to his best]." the former Schalke man said. "I just have to really prove myself at Bayern. 

"I know that the club is behind me, otherwise they wouldn't have taken me. I also take this criticism as an incentive."

Sane also said he has no problem with Germany coach Joachim Low after he was overlooked for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, although he described the snub as a "hard blow" to take.

"The national coach had his reasons and I always had a good relationship with him. After the World Cup he came to me and said that I should continue like this. That he believes in me. That was the end of the topic for me." Sane added.

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