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."

Manchester City are reportedly considering a double swoop for Erling Haaland and Giovanni Reyna.

The Borussia Dortmund stars have been linked with moves, with Haaland in particular in high demand across Europe.

And high-flying City have their eyes on the duo.

 

TOP STORY – MAN CITY CONSIDER HAALAND, REYNA

Manchester City are considering moves for Dortmund stars Haaland and Reyna, according to 90min.

Haaland, 20, has scored 17 goals and provided three assists in 17 Bundesliga games this season.

Reyna, the 18-year-old American, has three goals and four assists in 21 league games.

ROUND-UP

- Manchester United continue to be linked with centre-backs. But the Daily Mail reports the Premier League club are unwilling to meet Sevilla defender Jules Kounde's £68million (€79m) release clause, although they remain interested in the 22-year-old.

- With Liverpool enduring a difficult season, Jurgen Klopp's future has become a talking point. Bild reports Klopp could take over as Germany coach after the 2022 World Cup despite having a contract with Liverpool until 2024.

- Another club linked with a move for Haaland are Chelsea. Metro reports Tammy Abraham, who has scored 12 goals this season and is out of contract in 2023, is unwilling to discuss a new deal with the club amid the Haaland rumours.

- Jesse Lingard is attracting interest after an impressive start to his West Ham career. The Daily Express reports Leicester City are prepared to challenge West Ham if they try to sign Lingard, who is on loan from Manchester United, permanently ahead of next season.

- Still without a club, it remains to be seen where Maurizio Sarri ends up next. CalcioMercato reports Fiorentina again met with the former Juventus and Chelsea boss, but a potential agreement remains complex.

Bayern Munich rising star Jamal Musiala has chosen to play for Germany instead of England at international level.

The 17-year-old could make his senior debut as early as next month, with Germany head coach Joachim Low expected to name a large squad for their three World Cup qualifiers against Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia.

Musiala was born in Germany but moved to England when he was seven when his mother began a degree at Southampton University. He spent eight years in Chelsea's academy and played at youth level for England and Germany before returning to Bayern in 2019.

The 17-year-old has since broken into Hansi Flick's first-team plans and has already made 25 appearances in all competitions this season, mostly as a substitute. He scored in Bayern's 4-1 Champions League last-16 first-leg win over Lazio on Tuesday to become the youngest English player to score in the competition and the second-youngest of any nationality to get a goal in the knockout phase.

Speaking to The Athletic about his deliberations over his international future, Musiala said: "I've thought about this question a lot. What is best for my future? Where do I have more chances to play?

"In the end, I just listened to the feeling that over a long period of time kept telling me that it was the right decision to play for Germany, the land I was born in. Still, it wasn't an easy decision for me.

"England is home for me. It is difficult to find words for what England means for me because I have so many memories connected to very positive emotions.

"They [Chelsea and England's Football Association] are family for me, and I am sure that I remain a member of the family, even though I'm no longer there. I wouldn't be where I am right now without the trust and support of Chelsea and the FA, throughout the hard times and fun times. It wasn't always easy, but they made me the player I am now."

Low, who met with Musiala in recent weeks along with national team director Oliver Bierhoff, said of the news: "Obviously, we cannot give him any guarantees at the moment. That wouldn't be right.

"I think we will call him up in March because we will have a bigger squad than usual due to having three games in quick succession. We will be able to get to know one another better during this time.

"I'm pleased that Jamal has decided to play for Germany in the future. I see a lot of potential in him."

Leon Goretzka is hopeful Bayern Munich team-mate Jamal Musiala will commit his international future to Germany following the midfielder's latest eye-catching display.

Musiala marked his second Champions League start with a long-range strike in Bayern's emphatic 4-1 win over Lazio in Tuesday's last-16 second leg.

At 17 years and 363 days, he is the youngest Englishman to score in the competition and the second-youngest player to net in the knockout stages after Bojan in 2007-08.

However, despite representing England twice at Under-21s level, reports suggest the youngster plans to pledge his allegiance to Germany at senior level.

Asked about Musiala's international future following Bayern's win at the Stadio Olimpico, 29-cap Goretzka told Sky Sport Germany: "I hope he chooses Germany!"

Having already become Bayern's youngest-ever Bundesliga goalscorer in September, Musiala also now tops the same list in the Champions League with his fourth goal for the club.

The Stuttgart-born prodigy scored from his only shot against Lazio and Goretzka was impressed by what he saw.

"He was extremely happy to play from the start," he said. "We tried to make him play freely and not worry too much. Joshua [Kimmich] and I protected his back and he did well."

Musiala's strike came after Robert Lewandowski had opened the scoring for Bayern with his 72nd Champions League goal.

That moved the prolific striker ahead of Real Madrid great Raul in the competition's all-time list of scorers and behind only Lionel Messi (119) and Cristiano Ronaldo (134).

Leroy Sane then added a third and played a key part in Bayern's fourth, which was turned into his own net by Francesco Acerbi, before Joaquin Correa pulled one back.

Germany winger Sane played more key passes (two) than any Bayern player and also contested the most duels (17) of any player on the field.

It is the third game in a row Sane has been directly involved in a goal and he is glad to have found his feet following a big-money move from Manchester City last year.

"I'm an attacking player and want to set impulses upfront," he said. "I want to help the team. Today I think I did quite well, but I'm not getting carried away.

"We were there from the first minute. Hansi [Flick] and the coaching staff pointed out to us before the game that Lazio would make mistakes if you put them under pressure. That worked right away."

With his latest strike, Sane has now been directly involved in 10 goals in his last 10 Champions League appearances – seven goals and three assists.

Germany should only call up Bayern Munich sensation Jamal Musiala if he "really wants" to change allegiances, according to former captain Michael Ballack.

After making his debut in June 2020, Bayern teenager Musiala has become a regular fixture in the Bundesliga champions' first-team squad, featuring in 15 games and scoring three goals this season.

The 17-year-old switched from Chelsea's youth academy to Bayern in July 2019 - aged 16 - before becoming Bayern's youngest ever senior player and their youngest goalscorer. 

Born in Stuttgart to a German mother and an English-Nigerian father, Musiala moved to London aged seven and represented England from Under-15 to U21 levels, as well as Germany U16s.

Although he last played for England against Albania in November 2020, Musiala remains eligible for both nations and it has been reported that a tug-of-war has been ongoing for some time.

The highly rated youngster has reportedly been contacted by England manager Gareth Southgate and Germany head coach Joachim Low, but Ballack insisted Musiala should only play for Die Mannschaft if he is fully committed.

"We talk about the German national team. It should consist of players that meet the requirements and really want to play for this team," Ballack, who earned 98 caps for Germany, told Stats Perform News.

"It also needs to meet the rules and everything else needs to be decided from the national coach."

Hansi Flick is happy to see Jamal Musiala receive his first senior call-up for the German national team, but insists Bayern Munich and the DFB will have no sway in the player's decision.

Musiala, who was born in Stuttgart but moved to England at a young age, came through the ranks at Chelsea before switching to Bundesliga giants Bayern in 2019.

The 17-year-old has represented both Germany and England at youth level, and in November made his debut for the Three Lions' Under-21 side, subsequently scoring in his second appearance.

After making his Bundesliga debut in June last year, Musiala has enjoyed a breakthrough season at Bayern this term, scoring three goals from 14 league appearances, making two starts, while he has also played three times in the Champions League, as well as featuring in the DFB-Pokal and the DFL Supercup.

He has averaged a goal every 126 minutes in the Bundesliga, though has only created one chance so far.

Reports emerged this week suggesting Germany will hand Musiala a first senior cap in the upcoming March internationals, with Joachim Low's side taking on Iceland, Romania and North Macedonia in World Cup 2022 qualifying.

The reports were confirmed by Flick ahead of Bayern's home game with Hoffenheim, and he will offer his advice to the teenager if needed.

"We haven't been talking about it yet. I only found out about today, that Jamal will be invited to the national team in March," Flick told a news conference.

"Overall, I always am happy to see young talents that also play in Germany. Until now, the DFB always handled these situations similarly and let the player choose whether he'd like to join or not.

"Where he feels more comfortable, that is a decision that he'll take on his own and with his family. He will have to deal with that by himself.

"Therefore, if he has any questions, he knows he can always talk to me about it. So you have to respect his decision either way."

One Bayern youngster who has not had such a strong season is Joshua Zirkzee, with the 19-year-old reportedly set to join Serie A club Parma on loan with an option to buy, while Premier League side Everton havie also been linked.

Flick, though, suggested a potential move was not as far along as has been suggested.

"I can only read about it. Joshua was training with us today and I believe that he will still train with us after the deadline day," Flick added. 

"In all openness, there is nothing to be declared.'

Zirkzee has managed just one start in the league this season, playing 92 minutes in total across three appearances, and has not added to his tally of four Bayern goals, which he scored last season.

Mesut Ozil has ruled out coming out of international retirement after completing a "dream" move to Fenerbahce.

Midfielder Ozil joined the Istanbul giants last Sunday after seven-and-a-half years with Arsenal.

The 32-year-old playmaker fell out of favour at the London club and reached an agreement for an early termination of his contract, which was due to expire at the end of this season.

Ozil is relishing the opportunity to reignite his career in the Super Lig, but has no interest in making a Germany comeback after calling time on playing for his country in 2018.

He said during a press conference on Wednesday: "If I go on a road, I will never come back. So I will not play in the German national team anymore. I wish them success."

The former Real Madrid man also said a Bundesliga return is not on his agenda before he calls time on his career, frankly stating: "No, I haven't" when asked if he had thought about playing in the German top flight again.

Ozil joins a second-placed Fenerbahce side who are two points behind leaders Besiktas and the 2014 World Cup winner is determined to play a big part in helping his boyhood club qualify for the Champions League.

He said: "It was a dream for Fenerbahce and it was a dream for me. For both parties, it will be a wonderful connection. I will contribute to the team on the field with my talents and I hope we have a successful season.

"When I was a child, I remember being with someone who was supporting Besiktas and I was supporting Fenerbahce. I remember this and it will stay the same forever.

"I believe Fenerbahce are contenders to be champions every season and hopefully we'll do it as soon as possible. The dream is to play in the Champions League. I've been used to playing under pressure, and I know there will be pressure here too.

"The objective of all players is to represent your team not only in the national league but also in Europe. Hopefully, we will get to the Champions League and there's a lot of Turkish players that have been raised within the German infrastructure so hopefully this will help.

"I've played with big clubs but Fenerbahce is something else for me. I appreciate the club so much and hopefully everything will be beautiful."

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.

Finally, 2020 is history - there won't be many people who aren't happy to see the back of a difficult year.

While the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of making a swift exit, the turn of the year at least gives us the chance to look forward, and the same is true in the world of sport.

2020 saw many promising young players make the step up, some undoubtedly down to the absences caused by coronavirus or the packed schedule that the pandemic has led to.

We've picked out 21 under-21 players to keep an eye on in 2021 - and while you may already be familiar with some of them, there's good reason to give them your attention this year...

 

Illan Meslier, 20 - Leeds United

Few goalkeepers can come away from a 6-2 defeat having impressed, but Meslier did so against Manchester United recently. His eight saves prevented Leeds' crushing loss from getting even more embarrassing, while only three goalkeepers have produced more in a single Premier League match this term. His total of 63 is also the second most in the division – the France Under-21 talent, who joined on a permanent deal from Lorient last year, appears to have a big future ahead of him.

Kristoffer Klaesson, 20 - Valerenga

Goalkeepers tend to break through a little later than outfield players, but Norway youth international Klaesson has already been first-choice at Valerenga for the best part of 16 months – he only turned 20 in November. Coincidentally, he could have become a team-mate of Meslier's in 2020 as Leeds were reportedly interested, but he remains in Norway for the time being.

William Saliba, 19 - Arsenal

Saliba is certainly one of the most recognisable names on this list – after all, he has been owned by Arsenal for getting on for two years. Unfortunately, he has not been afforded much of a chance by Mikel Arteta this term, which makes him an interesting prospect to watch in 2021. Either he'll eventually get an opportunity at the Gunners, or a loan move will provide him with a crack at first-team football. After a tricky 2020, he'll want to get his career back on track.

Perr Schuurs, 21 - Ajax

Given his appearance, playing style and the fact he has come through Ajax's academy, comparisons between Schuurs and Matthijs de Ligt were to be expected. He may not reach the Juventus star's level, but he has certainly shown real promise that is reportedly interesting Liverpool. Schuurs is one of the five youngest players to have featured for at least 500 minutes in this season's Champions League, while his 47 ball recoveries was the sixth highest of any player in the group stage.

Ethan Laird, 19 - Manchester United

Aaron Wan-Bissaka was supposed to fix Man United's issues at right-back, but this season his defensive positioning has been concerning and he appears to have become even less effective in attack – his chances created and open-play crosses per 90 minutes have decreased significantly. Laird has long been considered a fine prospect at United and boasts the technical abilities to be a threat in attack. If he can stay fit, chances could be in the offing.

Tariq Lamptey, 20 - Brighton and Hove Albion

Having joined Brighton last January from Chelsea, Lamptey has quickly made a name for himself as an exciting wing-back. Last year saw the diminutive talent enjoy something of a breakthrough, but in 2021 he'll be looking to truly establish himself and potentially break into the England squad. There are few more exhilarating full-backs in the Premier League – his 3.8 dribbles per game is the third most among defenders to have featured more than twice.

Nuno Mendes, 18 - Sporting CP

Sporting have a wealth of talent coming through at the moment and left-back Mendes is arguably chief among them. Blessed with fine technical abilities, the 18-year-old is apparently a target for Man United, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Already a regular having started 10 of the Primeira Liga leaders' 11 games this term, Mendes' 10 completed dribbles is the fourth-highest among defenders in the division, while his 28 interceptions is second only to team-mate Luis Neto.

Gabriel Menino, 20 - Palmeiras

An intriguing player with a well-rounded skillset, Menino has already transitioned from centre-back to defensive midfield to right-back despite his young age. It is in the latter position where he impressed enough to earn a first Brazil call-up last year and only two players have provided more than his five assists in the 2020 Brazilian Serie A.

Moises Caicedo, 19 - Independiente del Valle

The past month or so has seen Caicedo brought to the attention of a wider audience – or, more specifically, Manchester United fans. The all-action midfielder was the teenager with the most goals (four), shots attempted (24), chances created (19), successful passes (748) and dribbles completed (23) in Ecuador's top flight in 2020, while his passing accuracy of 90.1 per cent was the highest among players to attempt 500 or more.

Billy Gilmour, 19 - Chelsea

Scottish talent Gilmour had shown real promise during his 11 Chelsea appearances last season before a knee injury in July laid him low. He returned to action last month with a few cameos off the bench, and there will be plenty hoping he can return to his previous level quickly. A loan move might be on the cards, but Frank Lampard has high hopes for the crafty midfielder.

Yunus Musah, 18 - Valencia

Valencia are going through another difficult spell, with off-field matters often overshadowing on-pitch performances. Nevertheless, in United States international Musah, they appear to have a reason for optimism. Another tricky winger, Musah's 38 dribbles is the second most among Los Che players this term and he became their youngest LaLiga goalscorer (17 years, 338 days) this century when netting back in November. He's one that got away from Arsenal.

Ander Barrenetxea, 18 - Real Sociedad

A nimble right-footed left-winger, Barrenetxea broke into La Real's senior side last season with 17 appearances in LaLiga. His eight starts this term is already an increase of five on the entirety of 2019-20 and he has been using that extra time on the pitch to excite. He has attempted 41 dribbles in LaLiga, and his 56 per cent completion rate is bettered by only seven players – all of whom are much older – among those to have tried at least 40.

Bryan Gil, 19 - Eibar (on loan from Sevilla)

If Barrenetxea embodies the modern 'inverted winger' style, then Bryan is very much a wide midfielder of the classic variety. A direct touchline-hugger, the left-winger's aim is almost always to beat his man and get a cross into the box, and he is catching the eye on loan at Eibar this term. Only five wingers in LaLiga can better Bryan's 49 open-play deliveries, though his 22.5 per cent accuracy is better than all but one of those with more cross attempts. He's also tried 44 dribbles, his 52.3 per cent completion putting him close to Barrenetxea.

Jaminton Campaz, 20 - Deportes Tolima

Campaz may not be a household name yet, but a move to Europe or one of South America's leading leagues is surely not far away. The attacker, who can play wide or through the middle, is an explosive player but also productive. No younger player had more goal involvements (five goals and four assists) and chances created (32) in Colombia's top division than Campaz.

Amad Diallo, 18 - Manchester United

Although United splashed a reported £19million on Diallo, the young Ivorian remains something of an unknown quantity. A left-footed right-winger, he has only been given a handful of opportunities in Atalanta's senior side – though he has often caught the eye with his ability on the ball. Given United's lack of options on the right flank, he might just establish himself sooner than some expect – either way, he will be one to monitor.

Pedri, 18 - Barcelona

As each week passes, more and more Pedri looks to be settling into the role as Lionel Messi's heir at Barcelona, but whether he's ready to take up such a mantle as early as this year is another matter. Messi's contract ends in June and so he could well depart – taking on his creative burden would be an unenviable task for a teenager, though Pedri is proving effective. He is creating a chance every 45 minutes on average in the league this term, the third most frequent in the squad among those to have played at least five times.

Talles Magno, 18 - Vasco da Gama

Are you really a Brazilian 'wonderkid' if you've not been linked with every major European club? Talles Magno fits the bill there and it's easy to see why there's interest. His end product still needs work, but his ability to excite is considerable – the 18-year-old has completed more than twice as many dribbles (106) as any other teenager in Brazil's Serie A between 2019 and 2020.

 

Karim Adeyemi, 18 - Salzburg

There has been a buzz around Adeyemi for a few years now as has previously impressed scouts with Germany's youth sides and during a fruitful loan spell at Liefering. Now back at Salzburg, he looks destined to be another serious talent off the club's impressive conveyor belt. Adeyemi is the only player to have been involved in four goals in a single Austrian Bundesliga this term, scoring and getting a hat-trick of assists in the 8-2 victory over St. Polten, while he set up a goal on his league debut for the club in June. A thrilling talent with great vision and dribbling abilities, Adeyemi may get even greater responsibility in 2021 following the departure of Dominik Szoboszlai.

Marcos Leonardo, 17 - Santos

It's still early days for Marcos Leonardo, though Santos clearly rate him highly – the striker's release clause is €100m. He's already the underage player with the most minutes played (296) and goals (one) in Brazil's top division this season, while he became the sixth youngest player to net in the Copa Libertadores (17y, 173d) when scoring a winner against Defensa y Justicia.

Youssoufa Moukoko, 16 - Borussia Dortmund

There's not much that hasn't already been said about Moukoko. He became the Bundesliga's youngest ever player in November when making his debut a day after his 16th birthday, before then also setting a new record for the league's youngest goalscorer in December. New coach Edin Terzic has already given him two starts – his next target will be to break records on the international stage with Germany. He couldn't get into their Euros squad, could he?

Matias Arezo, 18 - River Plate (URU)

Stocky, technically gifted and already proving decisive in front of goal with seven goal involvements (five goals, two assists) in 15 league matches, Arezo has a lot going in his favour. Whether he has the mentality or focus to not let the 'new Luis Suarez' labels distract him remains to be seen, but he's already the youngest Uruguayan (17y, 349d) to ever score a brace in the Copa Sudamericana having done so against Atletico Nacional in November.

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