When you think of the German national team you think of players such as Manuel Neuer, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller – but often the ones that go under the radar perhaps play some of the best football in their leagues.
Perhaps a late-bloomer in the international setup in comparison to England, Spain and Italy, Germany only had their nationwide league established in 1963 – which has since provided fans with some of the greatest football.
The 2014 Brazil World Cup saw Germany win the tournament for the fourth time, whilst it didn’t come as a surprise given the focus at international level on youth academies.
While they’ve provided us with plenty of world class players, there’s many out there that perhaps go unnoticed, that could quite easily represent their nation on more occasions. Here’s a look at five of them.
#1 Sebastian Rudy
After joining TSG 1899 Hoffenheim in 2010, Sebastian Rudy has since gone on to play more than 200 games for the Sinsheim club – helping to establish them as a Bundesliga team since their promotion in 2009.
At just 27, the versatile midfielder is just entering his prime, with plenty of years ahead of him. Rudy has agreed to join Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich when his contract expires in the summer and whilst he may not see as much game time, he’ll certainly be an asset to Carlo Ancelotti’s squad.
This season has seen Rudy play in 23 out of 25 Bundesliga games, helping Julian Nagelsmann’s side to fourth in the table and in with a chance of qualifying for the Champions League.
#2 Benedikt Howedes
Perhaps the forgotten hero of Germany’s World Cup win in Brazil is Schalke’s Benedikt Howedes. Playing that tournament out of position at left-back, Joachim Low’s side looked destined for failure – but the sheer determination and concentration of Howedes helped him excel on the international stage.
At the club level, the now 29-year-old is a Schalke legend. With more than 310 games in all competitions for the Bundesliga side, Howedes has established himself as a club legend. Signing for Schalke’s famous Knappenschmiede (youth academy) at just 13, Howedes established himself as captain of the Royal Blues in 2011 whilst his defensive attributes almost led him to join Arsenal; who instead purchased Per Mertesacker.
It hasn’t been the best of campaigns for Schalke, though, who look set to miss out on a place in Europe next season but with Howedes playing in all but one of their league games, his experience is exactly what Markus Weinzierl needs in his team.
#3 Lars Stindl
Despite his 10 Bundesliga goals in the 2014/15 campaign, Lars Stindl was unable to prevent Hannover 96 from dropping to the second division. His goalscoring exploits were snapped up by Borussia Monchengladbach – whilst he would have been a great addition wherever he ended up.
With 14 goals in all competitions this season, he’s Dieter Hecking’s main protagonist. When missing, it’s extremely noticeable in what then looks like a poor Monchengladbach side – but with him there, Stindl and co. look capable of beating any team.
It’s a wonder how the 28-year-old has yet to earn his first cap for Joachim Low’s German side, but with so much up-and-coming talent in the national team, it’s hard to see where he fits in. Despite missing the previous four games through injury, Stindl could be a wildcard for Low should he continue his form at the beginning of next season.
#4 Gonzalo Castro
An arrival for Thomas Tuchel in 2015, Gonzalo Castro to Borussia Dortmund is a move that made sense. With the departures of Ilkay Gundogan and Henrikh Mkhitaryan this season, the now 29-year-old has had to step up – despite being a different type of player to those listed.
Spending 11 professional years with Bayer Leverkusen, there were question marks as to whether he would ever get his move to a ‘bigger’ European club – which eventually came. With 35 games in all competitions this season, Castro has provided Dortmund with an experienced head in a midfield that contains the likes of Julian Weigl and Ousmane Dembele.
#5 Benjamin Hübner
Definitely the least-known of the mentioned quintet, like Sebastian Rudy, Benjamin Hübner plays his football for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim. A summer signing from Ingolstadt, the 27-year-old has made his way into the starting XI assembled by Julian Nagelsmann.
Whoscored.com rate him as one of the Bundesliga’s best central defenders this season, and it’s easy to see why. Injury has kept him out of the side, but playing 19 league games in a back three, Hübner’s calm head on the ball has helped Hoffenheim climb the table.
With the departures of Niklas Sule and Rudy to Bayern Munich in the summer, it’s key that Hübner remains at the club – especially if they qualify for Europe.