“Back to life, back to reality” tinkled the jazz-inflected tones from the video screens as the glittering Mercedes dealership prepared to greet Joachim Löw. The Germany team that Löw took to the World Cup is not quite ready to face reality just yet. There is still a bit more to be squeezed from their golden, Brazilian summer.
The Esprit Arena here, where Germany face Argentina in a friendly just 52 days after beating them 1-0 in the World Cup final, once staged a One Direction concert, and there could scarcely have been less of a frenzy for the arrival of Löw’s players.
A crowd of some 45,000, more than are expected to watch England play Norway at Wembley, crammed into the stadium just to watch them train. The new Adidas shirt that features a fourth star, commemorating their fourth World Cup triumph, has already sold more than a half a million.
The highlight of the session came when Löw brought out the World Cup, passed it around to fans on the edge of the pitch to touch like a religious icon and then placed it on a pedestal. “The fourth star belongs to you, too,” he told them. Back in the city centre, the team hotel, the Hyatt, was under siege.
In the calmer surroundings of the Mercedes showroom, Löw was asked for his reaction to the news that his home town of Schönau, near the border with Switzerland, had named their little football stadium after him. He replied he had been so overwhelmed since returning from Brazil that he was still wading through his post.
The nine surviving Englishmen who know what it is like to win a World Cup would have been bemused by the frenzy. Once the parties died away in 1966, the Football League issued a statement hoping that England would not be calling on their players quite so much.
Löw spoke for 45 minutes, announcing that Bastian Schweinsteiger would replace the retired Philipp Lahm as Germany’s captain and warning the nation that the party, however swell, could not last, though he added that the men around Schweinsteiger – Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira, Thomas Müller and Mats Hummels – will provide the core of the squad for years to come.
“This will not be a seamless transition,” Löw said. “We can’t just wake up and put the World Cup behind us. Every player who was in Brazil needs a bit of time. This has been a huge, emotional experience and we need to work through it, and starting a new season so soon after the World Cup is strength-sapping.”
The international retirements of Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose meant there would be new blood, which, said Löw, was the best insurance against complacency. Injuries have also watered down the occasion. Lionel Messi will not be in Düsseldorf to show the world what he might have done in the final, while up to eight of Löw’s starting line-up in the Maracana will be missing. “For Argentina it is not a question of revenge,” said Löw. “Nothing they can do can take that title back.”
Toying with his espresso, he added: “New players are coming in and they can see what being a world champion is all about. They have the ambition, the [existing] players have the experience and it is that which will keep us on top. The European Championship final in Paris must be our goal. It has made us hungrier to have more experiences like this.”
Schweinsteiger is among the absentees, although given that his face was staring from the cover of several celebrity magazines, asking questions of his private life and that of Neuer, Hummels, Mesut Özil and Lukas Podolski, he might have other things on his mind.
That is the other price of fame. They are Hollywood now.