World Cup winners Thomas Mueller, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng have extra motivation for Bayern Munich’s home match against VfL Wolfsburg on Saturday, the champions’ coach Niko Kovac has said.
The trio of Mueller, Hummels and Boateng have been told they would no longer play for Germany
The Bavarians are in stellar form, having won 11 of their last 12 league matches.
They have cut leaders Borussia Dortmund’s advantage from seven points to a two-goal goal difference in recent weeks.
Germany coach Joachim Loew had said on Tuesday he wanted to give the team a new face and the trio would not feature in his plans any longer.
They were key players in their 2014 FIFA World Cup victory in Brazil and have 246 caps among them.
All three were also part of Germany’s disappointing first round exit at last year’s FIFA World Cup in Germany.
“I know that my players were surprised by Loew’s decision,” Kovac told reporters. “But they are real pros and they know how to handle this situation in a serious way.
“I even expect, especially in the coming weeks, a response from them to show and prove that they are still part of the best.”
The players were, indeed, surprised by the announcement with Mueller saying he was left puzzled by ‘the suggested finality’ of his international career at age 29.
The 30-year-old Jerome Boateng was equally taken aback and `would have wished a different departure’.
Their club questioned Loew’s timing, a week before their UEFA Champions League Round of 16 second leg and as the Bundesliga title race heats up.
“We consider the timing and circumstances of the decision’s announcement as questionable,” Bayern Munich’s CEO Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said in a statement.
“We are irritated by the fact that players and the public were informed right before the key match in the title race against VfL Wolfsburg and only a few days before the UEFA Champions League return leg against Liverpool on Wednesday.
“Furthermore, we are surprised that this happened after an unannounced visit to Bayern Munich.”
The Bavarians will need to quickly refocus with Wolfsburg on a five-game unbeaten run that has lifted them to seventh and in contention for a European spot.
Leaders Borussia Dortmund, who crashed out of the UEFA Champions League in midweek to Tottenham Hotspur, now have only the league title left to fight for.
The season looked different for them just four weeks back, but their German Cup elimination and implosion in the league means only a win will do against VfB Stuttgart on Saturday.